The head of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice says the state will no longer contract with a private provider operating several programs throughout Florida. The issue came up during the recent legislative session.
On Wednesday, DJJ Secretary Christy Daly announced plans to end a state contract with Youth Services International, or YSI.
The private firm had come under scrutiny in several areas from sexual abuse allegations to multiple escapes at the seven juvenile detention facilities it operated.
During her initial confirmation hearing before a legislative committee, a bipartisan group of lawmakers questioned Daly about how she’s addressing the continual problems associated with YSI.
“Do you feel like you have the tools at your disposal, whether they be legislative or administrative to put down the hammer on a provider—whether they be YSI—in this particular situation or any other situation to make sure that if they can’t do the job, then we move onto somebody else,” asked Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island).”
“I do believe we do, yes,” Daly replied.
Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) had similar concerns as well, saying he wanted the contract terminated.
“When you have a provider like YSI, that has repeatedly failed and repeatedly failed to do the things that they need to do in order to protect children: Duval, Palm Beach county, I don’t want to go down the whole list. But, it’s a long term problem that goes back to the 1990s from when YSI began failing to protect the children in their care,” he said.
At the time, Daly expressed some reservations to immediately terminating the contract, because she said it could cause the 100 percent privatized system to “implode on a lot of levels.”
But, at another confirmation stop, Daly sought to allay lawmakers’ concerns during her speech.
“Florida is now at the lowest number of juvenile arrests in more than 30 years—something that we should all be very proud of,” she'd said, at the time. “That being said, we still have a lot of work to do. I’m committed to…better decide how we make the best decisions for Florida’s at-risk children and families. It is also my top priority that we hold our providers accountable and address challenges head on.”
In a statement, Daly says she’s currently working on making sure there’s a smooth transition from YSI to the new providers and that there is no interruption of services. She also hopes to have new providers in place by the end of August.
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