Directions for Living, a non-profit based in Clearwater, is ending their foster care contract in Hillsborough County.
The non-profit says case workers are overworked and under-paid. This comes after the DCF sub-contractor was removed from more than 500 cases in Pinellas County in August after the death of an 11-year-old boy.
In a statement, CEO April Lott said case workers are asked to undertake double, or even triple, the amount of appropriate amount of cases.
"Despite repeated requests for more funding, oversight, advocacy, and support, the child welfare system remains in crisis. Directions for Living has made the decision to exit the Circuit 13 contract, but remains committed to a safe transition over the next 90 days which focuses on the well-being of the children in care," the statement said in part.
The non-profit also came under fire last year after the death of 2-year-old Jordan Belleveau.
Directions for Living full statement:
Directions for Living is a 37-year-old non-profit agency which has been providing top-rated, trauma-informed behavioral health (mental health and substance abuse) services in Pinellas County since 1982. In light of the clear nexus between those services and the welfare of the children in our community, DFL made the commitment to serve as a provider of child welfare case management nearly 15 years ago in Pinellas County. This endeavor was undertaken with great enthusiasm, passion, and expertise. In 2018, Directions for Living was asked to provide child welfare case management services in Hillsborough County as well, and took on another CMO (case management organization) contract. Eckerd Connects is contracted with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) to be the Lead Agency to provide funding and support to the CMOs in both these circuits.
Unfortunately, our continued involvement in the delivery of child welfare case management has become largely untenable, and DFL has since made the decision to terminate our Circuit 13 (Hillsborough County) contract. This is due to many factors, most of which stem from the consistent gross underfunding of these programs intended to promote the safety of children. The most frustrating result of the underfunding is asking our committed case managers to undertake double or even triple the appropriate amount of cases – which is neither safe nor sustainable. The system is so underfunded, Directions for Living provides hundreds of thousands of dollars of our own limited agency resources annually to support the areas of the contract which aren’t otherwise funded. Despite repeated requests for more funding, oversight, advocacy, and support, the child welfare system remains in crisis. Directions for Living has made the decision to exit the Circuit 13 contract, but remains committed to a safe transition over the next 90 days which focuses on the well-being of the children in care.