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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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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