They're alleging children were kept in a conference room for days at a time because foster homes weren't available, something DCF and its contractor strongly deny.
Florida’s Children First President Howard Talenfeld got angrier and angrier as he read the lawsuit accusing the Department of Children and Families of housing children in a conference room because it couldn’t find foster care for them.
"It’s shameful, it’s just shameful what the state’s doing to these children,” says Talenfeld.
The lawsuit alleges DCF kept as many as 10 children a night in a conference room at an office building in Tallahassee. Court documents say the children had to fight over a single air mattress to sleep on, a babysitter was sometimes the only supervisor, and there were no regular meals or shower facilities.
But the contractor who oversees placement of foster children for DCF here says the lawsuit is out of left field. He denies any children have slept in a conference room for days on end.
Mike Watkins with Big Bend Community Based Care says in a couple of emergency situations, a single child was kept at the office until a home was found. And Watkins flatly denies the conference room allegations.
"There’s been no situation where we’ve had multiple children in administrative offices overnight,” Watkins says.
Attorneys don’t buy it. Howard Talenfeld says DCF has a long history of putting kids in offices and hotels instead of ensuring it has safe, appropriate foster care available.
“They denied it in Broward when they were using illegal shelter facilities and we caught them on tape,” adds Talenfeld.
A judge will ultimately decide if DCF is guilty this time too.
Gov. Jeb Bush says he also doubts the allegations that DCF kept several foster children in a conference room, but he says he’s looking into it.