Foster Provider under Scrutiny; DCF Says Clay and Baker Contractor Couldn't Account for How $90,000 Was Spent

By Tseng, Nin-Hai | The Florida Times Union, January 27, 2005 | Go to article overview

Foster Provider under Scrutiny; DCF Says Clay and Baker Contractor Couldn't Account for How $90,000 Was Spent


Tseng, Nin-Hai, The Florida Times Union


Byline: NIN-HAI TSENG, The Times-Union

ORANGE PARK -- A foster care provider for Clay and Baker counties couldn't show state auditors how it spent $90,389.82 in public money, according to an annual evaluation by the state Department of Children and Families.

Now Clay-Baker Kids Net has until Monday to properly document the expenses made over a three-month period, including restaurant gift certificates and checks administrators signed to themselves.

Any disputed expenses must be paid back to the state by Feb. 28.

Kids Net also must show reference and criminal background checks of employees are consistent with state policies, the department said.

The state's evaluation came weeks before the Kids Net board let go its chief executive officer, Gail Atchison, in December. Atchison also lost her job the same month heading Kids Net's sister agency, Clay County Behavioral Health, which specializes in mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment.

Atchison, whose phone number is unlisted, was not available for comment. She did not respond to a Times-Union message left during a visit to her Neptune Beach home.

Beth Linder, president of the 14-member board that voted not to renew Atchison's contracts for both positions, declined to say if the state's evaluation influenced the board's decision. A request to review Atchison's personnel file was denied by Kids Net, but the state agency said she received an annual $120,175 salary.

Kids Net, which Atchison launched in December 2003, has about three years left in its five-year contract with the Department of Children and Families. The non-profit group's near $30 million agreement was one of many statewide to privatize foster care and improve the child welfare system.

Atchison headed Clay Behavioral Health for about three years before she started Kids Net. In February 2004 she established the Institute of Growth and Development, an umbrella organization over the two agencies.

Kids Net serves 395 children and has 53 foster homes in Clay and Baker counties.

The state found Kids Net did not follow its own policies and procedures when keeping track of how it spent public money through the agency's credit cards. Part of its report included an audit, which randomly reviewed charges made from March to June. …

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