Kids sleeping in cars, offices: Foster care plan draws criticism in Hillsborough Co.

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – For months, 8 On Your Side documented foster children sleeping in cars at a local gas station, or in offices when they could not be placed in a permanent foster home.

Some of the foster children did not go to school, know where they would sleep the next night, or have access to showers.

Eckerd Connects is the local agency that contracts with the Florida Department of Children and Families to place the children into foster care. Child advocate Robin Rosenberg has long been critical at the job Eckerd Connects is doing.

“Eckerd is incapable of providing appropriate placement for all of the children that it contracted to serve,” Rosenberg said.

A new report by Hillsborough Juvenile Justice Advisory Board is suggesting a new law that would force placement of the children or lock them up into juvenile justice facilities.

“The report has identified about 20 children they think are a problem and they want to spend 3 or 4 million dollars on facility and staff to lock up children,” Rosenberg said, adding that the plan would be harmful to children who are very vulnerable because of their circumstances.

“You cannot build trust with someone that you are locking up,” Rosenberg said.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman has long advocated for foster children. She says the suggested plan has the potential to make the situation worse for the children who are locked up.

“The report that came out, I have many issues with. You can not lock up kids that are being taken out of their homes,” Murman said.

Murman believes there is an easier, most cost-effective solution. She would like to see the county hire professional foster parents who are trained to deal with children under the most difficult circumstances.

“You can’t lock em up because that’s going to add to their problem.”

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