The Executive Council approved an $82,000 contract with a Florida-based company to review alleged child abuse and neglect cases that weren’t fully vetted before being closed last year, but only after peppering top DHHS officials with questions about the company's track record in other states, the cost of the contract and the scope of the review.
Days before the council’s vote, the Concord Monitor published a story noting that Eckerd Kids, the company hired by the state to review the premature closure of DCYF cases last year, has been embroiled in controversies of its own over its handling of child protection services in Florida.
Councilors from both parties, including Democrat Andy Volinsky, took issue with the fact that they learned of Eckerd Kids’ high-profile mistakes in other states not from the DHHS officials who selected the company, but from the local newspaper.
"I don’t like the idea of having to depend on the Concord Monitor, no offense to the Monitor, to learn this about contractors," Volinsky told DHHS officials at the council meeting.
DHHS Commissioner Jeff Meyers said he was unaware of Eckerd’s past issues before reading about them in the Monitor, but he’s since spoken with senior level officials at the company and remains confident in their ability to handle the DCYF review.
“They’ve been very forthcoming, they’ve been very up front about the issues they’ve dealt with, and I want to be really clear about that," Meyers said. "They’re not trying to hide anything here."
The review will look at only a small portion of the more than 1,500 DCYF cases that were prematurely closed out last year, but Meyers said the agency could expand the scope if needed.