Since state privatized child welfare, pay for top executives has climbed
April 2, 2011- Florida's privatization of child welfare services was supposed to be good for kids and taxpayers.
But in the decade since the state began making private agencies responsible for the care of abused and neglected children, one cost has soared — the salaries of top employees.
Child welfare executives throughout Florida are now making six-figure salaries, with some topping $200,000 — double what state employees used to be paid to do the same work.
"They should not under any circumstances be paid these sorts of outrageous salaries,'' said state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico and chairwoman of the Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs. "If you get your money from taxpayer funds, you should not be paid more than the governor.''
Agency leaders say that children are safer and better off under the private system, but Storms and others say the pay is out of control.
"They're doing a government function, but they're paying themselves an exorbitant salary,'' said Christina Spudeas, executive director of Florida's Children First Inc., a nonprofit advocacy group for foster children.
The state's highest-paid private child welfare administrator, according to tax returns, is Frances Allegra, CEO of Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe Inc. Allegra makes $182,000 and last year received an $18,000 bonus on top of her salary.
In charge of child welfare for two counties, Allegra's salary is higher than the secretary of the state's Department of Children & Families ($140,000). The governor's job pays $130,000, although Gov. Rick Scott has forgone a salary.
Besides Allegra, seven other executives at Our Kids make six figures, including the chief information officer, who is paid $193,000 and last year got a bonus of $28,000.