(Largo, FL – Feb. 9, 2024) State and community leaders, the executive team of Family Support Services, FSS staff and others gathered at the agency’s newly-renovated Suncoast headquarters in Largo on Friday, Feb. 9, for a ribbon cutting and annual report to the community.

“When FSS became the lead agency for child welfare services in Pasco and Pinellas counties on Jan. 1, 2022, the system was in crisis. … We knew … that rebuilding the system of care would take time,” said Jenn Petion, FSS’ President and CEO, during her opening address and overview of the agency’s gains in the community during 2023.

“I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of the partners, system stakeholders, and community members who welcomed us with open arms and dared to dream with us about a better future for our community,” Petion said. “Two years in, those dreams are now becoming our reality.”

Among FSS’ highlights since entering the Suncoast system of care in January 2022, Petion noted:

  • A 35 percent reduction in the number of children in out-of-home care since January 2022 — down to 1,715 children from 2,670
  • For each of the last 15 months, more children have exited the system of care to permanency than have entered the child welfare system — and Circuit 6 has lead the state in exits to permanency since July 1, 2023
  • Nearly 270 adoptions in the past 6 months, and
  • A robust recruitment campaign including social media ads, virtual Foster Care Information Sessions, billboards and more, contributing to an increase in licensed foster homes

Shevaun Harris, Secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families, commended FSS’ leadership in Circuit 6, who recalled approaching Petion with the opportunity to serve in Circuit 6 as a ” ‘cannot fail’ mission.”

“I remember the day that I reached out to Jenn and said ‘You are a leader in our state, you have some of the strongest policies and programs to serve kids — we want that and we need that in Circuit 6. And she — ultimately — said yes,” said Harris.

“When I think back on the past two years, I am … so grateful to our partners, our team members and our community leaders who trusted us with this endeavor,” Petion said. “Every single partner brought their best and linked arms with us to make the system of care stronger … Today is not about celebrating FSS’ success. It is about celebrating the work that can only be made possible by the community coming together. That is the spirit of community-based care.”

After the blue ribbon was cut to officially open the new facility, Will Wetzel, manager of Community Development for the Tampa Bay Rays; Kate Williams, DCF; Chris Latvala, Pinellas County Commission; Sprowls and other Suncoast community leaders joined FSS staff for a reception inside the administrative building, plus staff-guided tours of the facilities including updated staff office space, innovation rooms, and wellness stations with stationary bike work stations sponsored by Florida Blue.

For more photos from the event, see the posts on FSS Suncoast Facebook and Family Support Services on LinkedIn.

To see the latest annual report, click here (scroll down on the page).

Learn more about foster care and adoption with FSS on our website, familysupport.org.