Dispute between state and social service agency could leave abus - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Dispute between state and social service agency could leave abused kids caught in the middle

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A battle between the state and a Louisville-based social service agency threatens to leave abused children caught in the middle.

Lawmakers want to cancel a multi-million dollar contract with Seven Counties Services.

It's all about money. Seven Counties filed bankruptcy and left the troubled state pension system, saying it was just too expensive -- but the state says Seven Counties still owes millions of dollars.

Life has certainly been no game for Sacora Sorensen and her two sons. Her husband was abusive and, even after she left him, the family was in pieces. In fact, Sacora briefly lost her children until Heather, a counselor in Seven Counties Services' Family Preservation Program helped put things back together.

"She was able to give me assistance I needed, the guidance and training I needed, and the support I needed," she said.

Seven Counties funds the program through a $3.5 million contract with the state. The agency has provided the service for more than 25 years, and claims a 90-percent success rate.

"The ultimate goal is to keep children with their families, to keep them out of hospitals, keep them out of residential facilities. And that's what we do. And we do it very well," said David Weathersby, VP for Children and Families at Seven Counties.

But a legislative committee has recommended that the Seven Counties contract not be renewed.

The reason? Lawmakers say when the agency left the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, it also left the state on the hook for $90-million to cover current retirees.

"They had an obligation for $90-million. They're not living up to that obligation. Do we continue to do business with, whether it's Seven Counties or some other company, someone that hasn't lived up to past obligations to the state?" said Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville.)

Seven Counties disputes the $90-million figure and calls the decision to cancel the contract "punitive."

Lawmakers say other agencies could perform the same service, and Seven Counties admits that's true. But the agency says during the transition, some children might fall through the cracks.

"There's no question that there's politics...involved here. Our hope is that we can work this out so that we can avoid these children having service disruption," said Weathersby.

Politics aside, Sacora Sorensen knows what the program has meant for her. 

"They've given me my life back," she said.

A bankruptcy judge could decide what, if anything, Seven Counties owes.

Gov. Steve Beshear may, ultimately, decide the fate of the contract.

Meantime, Seven Counties has launched a Facebook petition campaign to try and keep it.

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