8 INVESTIGATES: Hillsborough to allow Eckerd foster kids to stay at facility

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Hillsborough County Commission is stepping in to provide additional shelter for foster children after commissioners heard reports of children sleeping in office buildings.

8 On Your Side was the first to report that foster kids had been sleeping in offices. The reports emerged in June. Children who were taken from their homes due to abuse and neglect, had to sleep in offices because Department of Children and Families contractor Eckerd Kids didn’t have appropriate placements for the children.

Eckerd Kids reported that 38 kids slept in offices between April and June of 2016. They also reported that 43 children have slept in offices since July of 2015, due to a lack of placements for the children.

“First off I want to make sure all of our kids have an opportunity and are always taken care of,” said Governor Rick Scott on Wednesday.

“Mike Carroll who runs our department of children and families cares about this. Whenever we hear something like this, we know DCF will hold them accountable. It’s the right thing to hold anyone who is responsible for any of our children, that the state has any responsibility for accountable and Mike Carroll will,” said Scott.

Commissioner Sandy Murman heard about the situation and was perplexed. “I was mortified actually,” Murman said about the situation.

On Wednesday, Hillsborough County Commissioners voted to approve the use of a county facility by Eckerd Youth Alternatives, Inc to house foster care youth. EYA will pay the county the cost of utilities. The provision will last into 2017. Hillsborough County will continue to be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the buildings.

Eckerd Youth Alternatives is paid more than $71 million in tax dollars to handle the placement of children taken from homes. And now Hillsborough County is stepping in to help provide housing that Eckerd has been paid tens of millions to provide.

“Anybody that does the wrong thing, they’ll be held accountable,” said Governor Scott.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll sent a statement to News Channel Eight in July saying “Eckerd’s inappropriate placement of these children, and other failure to report these incidents, is inexcusable and absolutely unacceptable. DCF is committed to the well-being of every child under our care and has deployed an oversight team to conduct daily monitoring and onsite visits of Eckerd Kids to ensure the provider is complying with their internal improvement plan so that this does not happen again.”RELATED-

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