CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — A facility that the state paid $80 million to offer secure foster properties for youngsters is below a legal investigation after kids had been discovered residing in “disgusting and deplorable” situations, a Florida sheriff mentioned.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri mentioned he is investigating Eckerd Connects after kids had been discovered to be sleeping on cots and below desks, some in soiled garments and with out entry to toiletries, towels or scorching meals.
“The situations are as unhealthy or worse than the residing situations from which the kids had been eliminated,” Gualtieri mentioned.
He’s additionally involved a couple of sequence of current accidents and incidents that increase questions in regards to the kids’s care, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Last week, a toddler fell off a ladder and lower open his abdomen whereas making an attempt to climb onto the roof, Gualtieri mentioned.
He supplied different examples: A baby was hospitalized after overdosing on one other kid’s medicine; a employee of an unlicensed care facility was driving a 14-year-old youngster when a gun fell onto the car’s floorboard.
Dozens of kids have been cycled by way of unlicensed services, together with one whose director was being investigated for conspiring to distribute hydrocodone, Gualtieri mentioned.
The Clearwater-based nonprofit has run foster care in Pinellas and Pasco counties since 2008.
The sheriff mentioned throughout a news convention on Thursday that he is launching two separate investigations: One centered on the safety of kids below the company’s care; the opposite a legal investigation into the nonprofit and its high-level staff.
The sheriff mentioned case managers and different decrease degree staff are “between a rock and a tough place” and will not be charged with wrongdoing.
“It’s not truthful to carry these low-level people who find themselves making a couple of bucks an hour (accountable) who’re making an attempt to do the perfect they’ll,” he mentioned.
The Florida Department of Children and Families introduced Monday that it will not renew the company’s annual contract to offer youngster welfare providers.
Eckerd launched an announcement Thursday promising full cooperation with the probes because it cares for youngsters below its present contract.
“Eckerd Connects’ mission is to help the well being and wellbeing of kids and households in want within the Tampa Bay space, and we won’t tolerate any acts of neglect or abuse by any of our workers or subcontracted companies,” the assertion mentioned.
The company had beforehand blamed care points on insufficient state funding. The sheriff mentioned Thursday that funding isn’t any excuse.
”We all obtained cash issues,” he mentioned, “however we make it occur.”
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