2 agencies in contention to take over foster care

By Melanie Ave, Times Staff Writer
Published February 20, 2008

TAMPA - Two nonprofit agencies have applied to take over foster care programs in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

A 12-member evaluation committee met for the first time Tuesday to evaluate the proposals from Eckerd Youth Alternatives, a 40-year-old, Clearwater-based organization that works with troubled youths, and Camelot Community Care, a Clearwater-based agency that provides mental health and juvenile services locally.

The committee expects to make its selection by April. The winning bidder would take over for Sarasota Family YMCA beginning July 1.

In November, the Department of Children and Families decided not to renew its $49-million contract with the Sarasota YMCA on the heels of a scathing report about the agency's performance.

The state report said Pinellas County caseworkers were suffering from high caseloads and high turnover, and that frontline staff members felt they were "running in crisis mode all the time." Pasco County workers, in contrast, were considered in good shape.

The two counties have 2,500 children in foster care.

The selection committee is: Robin Rosenberg, Florida's Children First; Jeanine Evoli, Pinellas Juvenile Welfare Board; Tom Teel, Calvary Chapel; Elwood McElhaney, DCF comptroller; Dennise Parker, DCF budget director; Armetha Williams, a retired regional DCF budget and finance director; David Chamberlin, Pasco County Alliance; Dave Farquharson, Pasco County Sheriff's Office; Patsy Buker, Help a Child; Nancy Sackett, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office; Bernie McCabe, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney; and Stacey Schroeder, Public Defender Bob Dillinger's office.