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Youth agency tells its side of story

Linda Foy of Childhood Development Services (CDS), an agency based in Marion County, responded to a letter submitted by Marc Yacht and asserts several things, including that Youth and Family Alternatives is misrepresenting the facts to Dr. Yacht.

Yes, Dr. Yacht has approached YFA, and I suspect others, with questions and concerns about Pasco-Hernando Early Learning Coalition activities. We have also raised questions with him. Dr. Yacht is the well-respected director of the Pasco Health Department and a longtime advocate for kids. YFA has been committed to improving the lives of children in Pasco since 1970. Each has the right to raise questions about services directed by the coalition, given the history of coalition decision-making, and concerns over accountability.

We believe the questions about services in east Pasco are legitimate given the coalition's decision last year to eliminate an excellent prekindergarten program in 17 schools for 300 of Pasco's poorest children, many from east Pasco. That decision to this day hurts Pasco families. The coalition then sat on the funds for almost a year with no plan for their use.

Ms. Foy states, "YFA was serving 799 children in east Pasco on June 30, the last day of our contract, and on July 30, one month into the new CDS contract, CDS was serving 848 children." These numbers may be correct, yet most of the children are obviously from open cases carried over from YFA. At the time, YFA had three full-time staff in Dade City who addressed these cases with numerous needs. Ms. Foy indicated to the coalition board that CDS has one person who spends only two days a week in east Pasco. We wonder how this individual can possibly handle all the needs of this caseload, not to mention new families who may qualify. We wonder about the ability of CDS to respond quickly and the quality of services that they are able to provide. We also wonder whether two days a week by one individual offers full access to all families on the east side of Pasco County? Does the coalition wonder about these issues as well?

Ms. Foy states, "CDS was awarded the Pasco contract for services through a competitive bid process." Ironically, YFA spent 11 years building up these services with very high levels of satisfaction reported from parents and child care providers who responded to quarterly surveys, and the highest ratings in the state by an independent monitor for some services. We wonder if the coalition board is receiving feedback on a regular basis from parents, child care providers and other agencies in the community who do business with or receive services from the coalition and CDS?

Ms. Foy also states, "YFA filed a bid protest when they lost that cost the Coalition $14,000 and CDS $10,000, time and resources that could have gone to Pasco children and providers." What Ms. Foy didn't say is that YFA found a major error in scoring that may have reversed the scores. We filed a protest and requested an informal meeting with the coalition to present our finding. We were certain that upon seeing the facts, the coalition would respond appropriately and attorney's fees would be reduced significantly. The coalition refused such a meeting. We moved forward with the protest. Later it became clear the process is tilted. We learned the coalition, not an independent judge, would make the final decision. Since we had no confidence the coalition would be interested in the facts, we withdrew the protest. We wonder if CDS in the past has exercised its right to appeal or would if it believed the selection process was mismanaged or unfair?

Ms. Foy states, "Eventually, YFA must acknowledge that they lost the bid and move on." What Ms. Foy may not understand is that we let go of the services on June 30, but we still care deeply about the children. So we intend to continue to serve our community in a child advocacy role. We will work to help improve the quality of life for area children and families as we have always done, and we will continue to raise questions that need to be asked.

George Magrill, President/CEO, Youth and Family Alternatives

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