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Eckerd Connects will close 3 Tampa Bay area locations by year's end

Its locations in Largo, Dade City and Trinity will be permanently closed on Dec. 31.

LARGO, Fla. — Amid a criminal investigation into child abuse and neglect allegations, Eckerd Connects says it will shut down three of its locations. 

The company has been the primary agency for child welfare and foster services in three Tampa Bay area counties.

The announcement also comes as the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) says it is ending contracts with the company in the Bay area within the next year. 

About 231 employees across the three centers in Largo, Dade City and Trinity will be affected by the closure.

Letters sent to each facility say the locations will close on Dec. 31 "as a result of unforeseeable circumstances." The letters say the circumstances of the closure were "not reasonably foreseeable" until DCF said it would not be renewing its contracts in the area. 

The contracts in Pinellas and Pasco counties end in December 2021. In Hillsborough County, Eckerd's contract ends on June 30, 2022.

Eckerd has maintained it was discontinuing services because it was not getting sufficient funding from DCF. However, DCF said "repeated failures" by Eckerd were the reason the contracts were being terminated.

The DCF says it is getting underway with an emergency bidding process to find another foster agency to pick up child welfare responsibilities in Pinellas and Pasco counties. 

Last week, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced it had launched a criminal investigation into allegations of child abuse and neglect involving kids under the care of Eckerd Connects Community Alternatives.

"The conditions in which these children have been living at Eckerd’s offices, frankly, is disgusting and deplorable," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said last week, adding that the conditions kids are in at the office are just as bad or worse than the homes they were removed from.  

Eckerd Connects has been the Tampa Bay region's lead agency for child welfare and foster care services. But, the agency's contracts for Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties will be terminated once they expire.

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