Florida's Children First

Hillsborough County’s foster care provider: More than 2 dozen kids sleep in unlicensed facilities

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For years, 8 On Your Side has reported on local foster kids sleeping in offices without a bed to lay their heads.

Critics said those same problems persist as a new state contractor, the Children’s Network of Hillsborough takes the reins of foster care from Eckerd Connects.

Information provided by the Children’s Network showed at least two dozen local foster kids are going to bed at night without a bed to call their own.

8 On Your Side has been exposing office placements since 2018 under Eckerd. Sources said the problem persists despite a new organization and new leadership.

“I’m not aware,” said Nadereh Salim, CEO, when asked about kids sleeping in unlicensed offices.

Reporter Brittany Muller confronted Salim about the issue at the children’s board meeting last week.

“We really frown on children staying in unlicensed facilities, so there are occasions when we’re not able to place a child in a licensed facility or a child will not go to a placement that has been identified, but as a practice, we absolutely do not want our children sleeping in offices or cars,” Salim said.

Salim claimed kids that are not placed with a foster family or relative are placed in group homes.

In response to our request, the organization’s attorney provided public records showing there were 27 kids who stayed in overnight unlicensed settings in July.

“Sad to say I’m not surprised because this has been an ongoing problem in Hillsborough County for many years, but be clear just because it’s happening does not mean it’s OK,” said Robin Rosenberg, the deputy director of Florida’s Children First. “No one should sleep in an office — especially not children who been abused and neglected.”

Florida’s Children First is an organization founded by child advocate attorneys fighting for at-risk kids throughout the state.

“The transition job is very difficult,” said Rosenberg. “There are a lot of moving parts. It would be unfair to expect that everything would be magically taken care of when a new provider came in – that would be unfair and unrealistic. But kids sleeping in offices is a court problem that was known prior to the new provider taking over it should be a top priority.”


by: Brittany Muller

Posted: Aug 15, 2022 / 06:32 PM EDT

Updated: Aug 15, 2022 / 06:32 PM EDT


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