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Child welfare agency changes leadership A for-profit management firm is brought in to study ways to improve management of Family Continuity Programs.

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Old January 26th 04, 07:49 PM
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Default Child welfare agency changes leadership A for-profit management firm is brought in to study ways to improve management of Family Continuity Programs.

Child welfare agency changes leadership A for-profit management firm
is brought in to study ways to improve management of Family Continuity
By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer Published January 3, 2004
ST. PETERSBURG - The non-profit company that oversees foster care and
other child welfare programs in Pinellas and Pasco counties has
replaced its executive director with a for-profit management firm that
could ultimately take over the organization.
Jeff Richard, who was executive director of Family Continuity
Programs, "went on vacation on Dec. 24 and will not be returning to
FCP," the company's communications director wrote in an e-mail this
week to other social service agencies.
Meanwhile, Family Continuity's non-profit parent corporation has
brought in the Arizona-based Providence Service Corp., which will
conduct a study of ways to improve the Pinellas-Pasco agency's
Family Continuity has been criticized in state reviews. The Department
of Children and Families denied asking for a management change, but in
a news release Friday said it "welcomes a renewed effort to strengthen
community based care."
Although foster care, adoptions and other social services generally
are provided by government or nonprofits, Providence Service is a
for-profit company traded on the Nasdaq that specializes in managing
and providing social service programs. Its CEO predicted a growth rate
for the company of 40 percent or more this year.
The new company's first act on Monday will be installing Lisa Tackus
of Tampa as interim CEO. Tackus spent four years as executive director
of a similar agency in Hillsborough County, Camelot Care, and now is a
vice president of Providence.
Asking profit-making companies to dive into the often-underfunded
world of social services mystifies child advocates such as Jack
Levine, a well-known Tallahassee human services consultant.
"I just can't believe that there's ever going to be profit to be made
in the troubled-family business," Levine said Friday.
But Tackus said "it's not uncommon for any organization, for-profit or
not-for-profit, to hire management companies."
The new management arrangement, which is to last at least three
months, "could potentially culminate with the acquisition of
FCP-Florida by Providence Service Corporation," according to the
e-mail memo.
But officials on Friday downplayed that possibility. "The question has
been raised, but that's all . . . there's no decision made," said
James Souza, president of Family Continuity's parent company, Care
Development, based in Maine.
Family Continuity is the main government-funded agency that works with
children in Pinellas and Pasco counties who are considered abused or
neglected. State government hired Family Continuity in July 2000 on a
five-year, roughly $118-million contract to take over work that had
previously been handled by the state Department of Children and
Families, formerly called HRS.
Family Continuity now works with about 4,400 children considered
victims of abuse or neglect, and supervises 470 foster homes.
The agency's performance periodically has been called into question.
An early report by DCF officials in 2002 said FCP's caseloads had
swelled so high many workers were "consistently working 50- to 60-hour
weeks." Later that year an agency that partnered with Family
Continuity was sued by two former workers who said employees were told
to keep quiet about Family Continuity shortcomings that allegedly
included falsification of records.
The Department of Children and Families recently prepared a review
that cited a "fundamental lack of supervisory oversight" at FCP. It
said Family Continuity needed far better documentation of how it is
working to help the children under its supervision, and that it "must
significantly improve the consistency of supervisory oversight, review
of case work and mentoring of staff if it is to ensure child safety,
well-being and permanency."
It also pointed to other concerns: Brothers and sisters were kept
together in foster care in only 55 percent of the cases reviewers
looked at; only two-thirds of the separated siblings got documented
monthly visits together.
In a sample of 47 children taken out of their homes and placed in some
sort of foster care, 22 (47 percent) were moved from one location to
another. In 36 percent of the cases, parents were not notified of the
changes. In a sample of 2,127 children, nearly one in four had been
moved three or more times, which can increase trauma for already
fragile children.
Next week, Family Continuity and DCF officials are scheduled to appear
for one hour before Pinellas County's Juvenile Welfare Board.
DCF spokesman Doug Tobin said the state had not asked for a new
manager at Family Continuity. That statement was echoed Friday by
Souza, of Family Continuity's parent company. He said Richard, the
former executive director, would be offered another position within
Care Development. Richard could not be reached Friday for comment.


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