PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - The myriad of toys riddling the Wittman family's Largo home is testament that four children live in the house.
David Wittman and his wife have two biological children. They are also court appointed caregivers for their two nephews, ages four and 14. The boys moved in with the couple back in December.
"Very stressful," said Wittman when asked how he is struggling financially. "I have to worry about how I am going to feed all the kids before I go and pay a bill."
Wittman, who spent time in foster care as a child, couldn't fathom his nephews living with a stranger. He said it was out of the goodness of his heart that he took the boys into his home.
Wittman told ABC Action News he immediately applied for state funding through the Department of Children and Families. He was also assigned a caseworker.
He was stunned to learn he was deemed ineligible for state funding because the former caretaker of the boys broke the law. She had 10 days to alert the state the boys were no longer living her her home and did not.
She ended up receiving funds for December and January.
Meanwhile, Wittman and his wife, who both work full-time jobs, are struggling to pay for the kids. They estimate they have already put out $1,800 for food and clothing.
"He [the four-year-old] came here with just ten pairs of underwear and ten pairs of socks," Wittman explained.
The family began relying on donations from family and friends. Most of the food they have is from neighbors and other family members are sending them checks.
DCF workers said the Wittmans' case is complex and rare.
"The way our system is set up it protects anyone from getting duplicate benefits by letting us know we cannot approve benefits because the child is receiving benefits in a different case," explained Terry Field, a DCF worker.
Frustrated and told he would have to wait 45 days for funding, Wittman turned to ABC Action News for help.
We brought the case to the attention of DCF workers on Monday. By Wednesday, the case was closed and a $600 cash card is en route to the Wittmans.
"I don't know where it stood at the point you notified us. We would have gotten that information but your doing so helped us expedite and get it all taken care of," Field said.
Field said despite the Wittmans' filing for state funds in December, processing the request would have taken between 20 and 30 days. It would be unlikely the family would have received help in January, he explained.
As for the previous caretaker, Field said she has been alerted she must back the money back she received.
If she fails to pay the money back, it could result in criminal charges.