CEO Message for September 18, 2020
Today I had the opportunity to join one of our member agencies, Hands of Mercy Everywhere, as they dedicated their new residential facility, Grace House. The new facility is Hands of Mercy Everywhere’s newest group home and the third of its campuses, tucked into a modest residential neighborhood on the east side of Belleview in Marion County, Florida. Grace House will be a residential sanctuary for up to six girls, ages 12 to 17, who may have emotional or behavioral issues.
Hands of Mercy Everywhere was founded by CEO Diane Schofield 17 years ago, and 1,040 girls have already successfully gone through the program. Read more.
We were joined by a variety of elected officials, other FCC leaders, including board chair John Cooper, CEO of Kids Central, and various other stakeholders. Everyone remarked on the work that is being done by our #communityofcare and how investments like this are a testament to the value our community-based service providers add to communities around the state.
Standing alongside child welfare leaders, lawmakers and other stakeholders, I was reminded once again of the good work FCC members are doing every day. While we can get caught up in thinking about policy, funding challenges and negative media stories, days like today are a good reminder of our true purpose and focus as we stand shoulder to shoulder, in our communities, opening doors that will provide safety, permanency, and well-being to children and youth in crisis.
This week brought some additional challenges to some of our agencies in the Panhandle as they weathered the impacts for Hurricane Sally. FCC is working diligently to engage and support our member agencies — Families First Network of Lakeview and Big Bend Community Based Care — as the communities they serve are dealing with the impacts of yet another storm.
While thankfully, neither agency sustained major damage, the images of the flooding are devastating, and the children and families they serve have been impacted. If you have the ability to provide funding or resources that may help these communities rebuild quickly, please reach out to FCC or feel free to make a donation to FCC and designate the donation for “hurricane response & relief.”
A Collective Commitment to Improved Outcomes & Innovation
FCC and our members continued our work with the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and various other stakeholders on our performance improvement plan. I want to thank Larry Rein, CEO of ChildNet, for continuing to lead those efforts. We will continue to keep FCC members updated on this important work and ways that your agencies can contribute.
As part of this effort, I had the opportunity this week to participate in a roundtable discussion with Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau, Jerry Milner, DCF Secretary Chad Poppell, and Dependency Court Judge Katherine Essrig of Hillsborough County about the challenges facing the system and also the collaborations and partnerships that have fueled Florida’s system of success. Included in the discussion was the dynamic and adaptive response to COVID-19 that has resulted in little to no interruption in programs and services being provided to children and families in our system of care. These discussions continue to center around our collective commitment to continually improving outcomes and innovating in Florida’s system of care and how our model can help drive positive changes in child welfare systems around the country.