Hillsborough Guardian Ad Litem shocked by foster care failures uncovered by 8 On Your Side investigation

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County’s Guardian Ad Litem Director tells 8 on Your Side she’s shocked by some of the foster care failures we first exposed last week in our “Rides to Nowhere” investigation.

We documented foster kids killing time day after day for weeks on end, sitting in caseworkers’ cars in a Wawa parking lot on Waters Avenue in Tampa instead of spending time in school, therapy or foster homes.

“I definitely think the whole thing has opened the eyes of really the entire community,” said Tabitha Lambert.

Lambert started acting quickly after we first alerted her last week to make sure those kids at the Wawa station and others that were turned loose in the community without school or supervision have guardians appointed to make sure they receive necessary services in the foster care system.

Last week, the lead foster care agency, Eckerd Connects, fired Hillsborough’s largest foster care provider, Youth and Family Alternatives.

Now Lambert is on the search team looking for a replacement provider to oversee foster care for more than 1700 foster kids starting in May.

Lambert also hopes to share her concerns with a DCF team of child welfare experts heading this way for a top to bottom review of Hillsborough’s foster care system.

“I’m hopeful it will take a view of the entire system here in Hillsborough County and through their interviews and the information they gather, there will be a lot of positive changes,” Lambert said.

Lambert tells us she can’t yet judge whether Eckerd should lose its role as the lead foster care agency in Hillsborough County because all of the problems, but she insists there needs to be serious reform.

“Our kids deserve better,” Lambert said.

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