Tucson social-services firm exits Texas foster contract

2014-08-06T00:00:00Z 2014-08-06T13:02:21Z Tucson social-services firm exits Texas foster contractBy David Wichner Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Tucson-based Providence Service Corp. has voluntarily ended its contract to manage a pilot foster-care system in west Texas, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said.

Providence was providing services for about 1,100 foster children under state care under a five-year, $30 million contract signed last February.

The contract move comes amid an investigation of the drowning deaths of two foster children who were placed by a Providence agency serving the Austin area under a separate state contract.

The Texas agency said it had notified Providence of several performance issues on the west Texas contract, which a company official blamed partly on inaccurate data provided by the state.

“Our actual circumstances as we moved into this contract proved to be a lot more complicated than the projections and assumptions we used to formulate the agreement,” said Mike Fidgeon, chief operating officer of Providence Human Services.

Fidgeon cited the lack of an existing foster-home network in the expansive, 60-county contract area, higher than expected transportation costs and variations in required care for higher-need children.

With no more funding available under the law that created the revamped foster-care program, Providence felt it didn’t have the resources needed to succeed, he said. Even so, Providence placed about 1,100 of 1,200 children in the program, Fidgeon said.

The state will now directly deal with the contractors Providence managed, and foster-care services will be unaffected, John Specia, commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services, said in a statement.

“We have learned a great deal through this initial contract and will build upon that in our ongoing redesign efforts,” Specia said. “Providence made a good-faith effort, but progress was slow, and we believe this change will enable the state to step back and re-evaluate how we proceed on foster care redesign in this area of the state.”

The program serves 60 counties in west Texas, including Midland-Odessa, Abilene, San Angelo, Wichita Falls and hundreds of smaller communities. The region was selected in 2012 as the first area to undergo a redesign of the foster-care system, the state agency noted.

The Texas agency said it had notified Providence of several performance issues, including missing performance targets on key goals such as placing siblings together and keeping children close to home; failing to develop the staff and a network of providers needed to quickly place children; and an inability to develop a full array of needed services.

A second redesign contract started July 1 with a Fort Worth company remains in effect, the state agency said.

Texas has moved to revamp and privatize its foster care placement efforts in the last few years. But the 17,000-child statewide foster care system has been under scrutiny since seven foster children died of abuse or neglect in fiscal year 2013.

Another foster child died this year, and two siblings in foster care, ages 4 and 6, drowned last month in a lake near Austin in a case still under investigation.

Providence Kids, which had placed the children who drowned, has had its placements suspended pending the state probe.

The company’s termination of the west Texas contract is entirely unrelated to the investigation of the Austin-area drownings, Fidgeon said, adding that the company continues to provide other social services under contracts with Texas.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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