Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foster Care Providers, DCF Spar; State's 'Model Contract' Viewed as Move to Grab Power Back

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foster Care Providers, DCF Spar; State's 'Model Contract' Viewed as Move to Grab Power Back

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | After meeting with Department of Children and Families officials Tuesday, Lee Kaywork drove back to Jacksonville disappointed.

His organization, Family Support Services of North Florida, handles most foster care issues in the Nassau and Duval counties for the state. The nonprofit is one of 18 "Community Based Care" providers across the state that handle foster services across the state.

The state outsourced the work more than a decade ago in hopes that local communities could handle the services better than one centralized department. The move came after a host of scandals.

"Yeah, I would say the meeting didn't go that well," he said.

His organization, along with the one that serves Brevard County, are renegotiating contracts with the state. After originally hammering out deals, DCF pulled away from those agreements and proposed new "model contracts" that would be the same for every Community Based Provider.

Language in the new contracts allowed the department to have say over the hiring and firing of the provider's executives and approval process over training material, among other things. The providers viewed the changes as a power grab.

"It's really indicative of the centralized mind-set the state wanted to go back to," said Kaywork, the CEO of the group, which oversees the Duval and Nassau County regions.

The contract has prompted state Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, to send a letter to DCF Secretary David Wilkins concerned about the new direction.

"When the Legislature created the CBC model, it was the intent to have local communities run the child welfare system, since the state of Florida had failed many at-risk children," he wrote.

Wilkins met with providers Friday to hear their concerns face-to-face.

Bean had worked as a consultant for Family Support Services of North Florida prior to being elected to the state Senate in 2012.

"I did things like training and teaching them how to lobby lawmakers, but I no longer do that," he said.

Kaywork said the model contracts don't make sense because each region is different. …

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