TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Foster families said they had hoped and prayed for change with the Children’s Network of Hillsborough after the state recently ended a long-time contract with troubled foster care provider, Eckerd Connects.

Now, families are facing more problems with the new provider.

Eckerd Connects left foster care in Hillsborough County in rough shape, leaving the Children’s Network to take over nearly 3,000 foster kids in July.

When 8 On Your Side crews arrived at the Children’s Network listed address, they weren’t there, so we went looking for answers.

Five-month-old Maddie has been in the foster system her entire life.

“When you take them away from their families, they’re coming from neglect and abuse; our responsibility as foster families and from the state, is to provide for these children and make sure that their needs are met, everything, it’s not just about money,” said Stacy Thompson.

Thompson is a foster mom for Maddie and three other kids through the Children’s Network.

“I was praying that with this new agency we would be better, but it’s not,” said Thompson.

The Florida Department of Children and Families chose the Children’s Network to take over in July from Eckerd Connects. Eckerd faced investigations and complaints over treatment of children in their care.

“Lack of communication, still no one answer[s] the phones for us, no one answer[s] the calls, the payment, we were supposed to get a clothing voucher, no one knows what’s going on,” said Thompson.

In a note from Nadereh Salim, the Chief Executive Director of the Children’s Network, the network was supposed to send out checks to foster families in the first week of August, ahead of the school year. The families should have received $300 for clothing allowance per child and $200 to help pay for daycare and their monthly stipend. Thompson said she hasn’t seen any of that money.

“We fight every day for that at the end of the day, it should be the state helping us fight for these children,” said Thompson.

The Children’s Network sent WFLA this statement:

Our efforts to ensure a seamless transition as we became the community-based care lead agency for Hillsborough County (Circuit 13) began even in advance of the start of our contract on July 1, 2022. Multiple communications were sent to foster parents and others who received monthly disbursements from Eckerd Connects, the previous lead agency, to verify their payment information.

However, we were unable to obtain Eckerd’s database of electronic payment information, which meant that some foster parents who would typically receive an electronic payment were instead mailed checks. The checks for the August payments were sent on August 1, 2022, and where possible electronic payments were sent on August 4. Children’s Network of Hillsborough has received some reports of parents not receiving checks, and our team is working quickly to ensure that all records are updated and payments made.

We apologize for the inconvenience to those who have not yet received their payment, and we hope to build a strong relationship with them moving forward. Children’s Network of Hillsborough is continuously monitoring the situation and working to resolve it successfully.

The Children’s Network

Anyone with a question or concern about payment is asked to contact us at (656) 400-2600 or info@cnhc.org.