For Jacksonville to be an economically, culturally, and socially vibrant city for everyone, we must do all that we can to ensure that our children are able to reach their full potential. We have a shared responsibility to build the health and well-being of our next generation and secure a better future for our city. Healthy, nurturing, and supportive environments and experiences in childhood lay a stable foundation for lifelong health and development.
Our Mission, Vision and Values
Our mission is to be the leader in providing safety, stability, and quality of life for all children by working with the community to strengthen the family unit.
Our vision is that children grow up connected to their own families, supported by families and embraced by the community; that children have the opportunity to achieve in school and to learn to be productive citizens; and that citizens of Duval and Nassau counties, organizations and agencies recognize that child protection is a community responsibility and represents the best interests of all county residents.
Community-based care and why it works
The concept is simple. The more we invest in preventing abuse, preserving families, and reunifying families so that kids are not growing up in foster care, the more we succeed in helping our community thrive.
Community-based care is the result of a redesign of Florida’s Child Welfare System under the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)––an initiative that allows nonprofit agencies to provide child welfare services within their local community. It combines the outsourcing of foster care and related services to competent service agencies with an increased local community ownership of service delivery and design. This statewide reform increases accountability, resource development, and system performance. Currently, there are 17 lead agencies serving Florida’s 67 counties.
The transition to community-based care began in 1996, initiated by Governor Jeb Bush and the Legislature. By December 2005, all regions in Florida using the Lead Agency design, had implemented the community-based care model through a competitive procurement process.
Because every county is unique, they have their unique challenges. Serving children and families in their communities through individualized services, and strong community collaboration can yield better outcomes.
- Local supports can respond quickly and are more knowledgeable of a child’s needs in their own community
- Local resources allow for better leverage
- There’s more flexibility and autonomy to implement innovative solutions to respond to changing care demands
- Local case management organizations, CEOs and boards of directors have more staying power and commitment than that of centralized state-based care
As the number of children in care continues to drop, the more it proves that community-based care works.
Case Management Organizations
As the lead agency in Northeast Florida, FSS is responsible for administering, outsourcing and managing its services to the community, both directly and indirectly, in partnership with other local case management organizations (CMOs).
We collaborate with Daniel Kids, Jewish Family & Community Services and the National Youth Advocate Program to provide services that impact hundreds of at-risk children and their families every day. Our Nassau service center provides direct services to children and families in Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Hilliard, Callahan, Yulee, Bryceville and surrounding areas.
Together, we provide a comprehensive system of care to keep children safely in their homes. We mobilize to stabilize families without the need of intrusive and costly interventions.
Our Guiding Principles
1) We believe children grow and thrive best in their own families and do everything in our power to maintain children safely in their homes.
2) When children must be removed, our first focus is to provide an appropriate healing placement, prioritizing kin settings whenever possible.
3) We believe children should experience permanency as quickly as possible and no child should grow up in foster care.
4) We collaborate with partners to ensure the best outcomes for our community.
5) We believe that when we put the best interests of children and their families first, everything else will fall in place.
Partnership: At FSS, a belief that we are better together is core to who we are. Partnership is an essential component of a health system of care. Our team is committed to a respectful, open-minded, collaborative approach to co-creating solutions with the community. This extends to the children and families we serve as well.
Excellence: FSS challenges us to always strive for better on behalf of those we serve. We foster innovating practices, encourage continuous quality improvement, and engage in strategic planning with our partners to achieve the highest possible outcomes for children, families, and the community.
Accountability: FSS recognizes our leadership role within the system of care and strives to be accountable to the community by being trustworthy partners. FSS is committed to ethical and transparent practices, and to operating with integrity as we pursue positive outcomes.
Compassion: We recognize that we often meet families at their most challenging moment and people are more than the sum of their circumstances. We provide trauma-sensitive care for the children and families in our system to reach their full potential. We embrace a service leadership approach and commit to finding the strengths in everyone we encounter while we foster resiliency.
Equity: Equity goes beyond the fair treatment of all people. For FSS, equity is the commitment to recognize the social justice issues intrinsic to our work with marginalized communities. We strive to amplify the voices of individuals and families impacted by poverty, racism and discrimination in any form. We obligate ourselves to be a belief that none of these factors should be a predictor of child welfare involvement or outcomes.
FSS Executive Team
Jenn Petion, President and Chief Executive Officer
Brian Zaletel, Chief Financial Officer
Chris Compton, Vice President Technology and Operating Services
Precious Hill, Vice President Human Resources
Jennifer Pendergraph, Vice President Case Management Services
Tory Wilson, Vice President Placement Resources
Kenneth Barton, General Counsel
Jada Hunter, Executive Director of Community Reinvestment
Carlos Cruz, Chief of Staff
FSS Board of Directors
Josh Nixon, Board Chair, Grant Thornton
Kisha Shabazz, Board Vice Chair, Macquarie Group
Suzanne Legg, Board Vice Chair, Dayspring Academy
Dr. Akilah Pope, Florida Department of Health (Duval)
Dr. LaTonya Summers, Jacksonville University
Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
Rev. Ronald Cooney, Calvary Church
Susan Gottesmann-Jarzyna, Story & Song Bookstore/Bistro
Asst. Chief Brian Kee, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
Jeff LaConte, Medical Microinstruments, Inc.
Andrew Park, Park & Eleazer Construction
Shannon Sprowls, Business Consultant
*George Armstrong, Retired Pediatric Cardiologist
*Dennis Lafer, Retired
Frequently asked career questions
- Are there any requirements to work at FSS?
Potential candidates are required to submit to a drug screening, a local background screening, and a Level II screening, which includes criminal background checks.
- What are the work hours?
Office hours are 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern Time, with a 30-minute lunch break. Individual schedules may be adjusted according to departmental requirements and employee preference, when possible.
- When can I enroll for benefits?
You are eligible for benefits the first of the month after being employed for 60 days.
- Do you offer a wellness program?
FSS is committed to supporting health and well-being. Programs and events such as Health and Wellness Lunch & Learns, on-site flu vaccinations and biometric screenings, a Weight Loss Challenge, a Health and Wellness Fair, and monthly newsletters are offered throughout the year at minimal or no cost to employees.
- How will I be paid?
The main form of payment is direct deposit. However, if an employee fails to complete the direct deposit information in the Paycom portal, a paper check or pay card will be sent to the employee’s home address on file.
- What is the holiday schedule?
We are closed on the following days for the 2024 calendar year.
Date Observed Holiday Monday, January 1, 2024 New Year’s Day (Observed) Monday, January 15 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday, May 27 Memorial Day Wednesday, June 19 Juneteenth Thursday, July 4 Independence Day Monday, September 2 Labor Day Monday, November 11 Veterans Day (Observed) Thursday, November 28 and Friday, November 29 Thanksgiving and day after Thanksgiving Tuesday, December 24 and Wednesday, December 25 Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Date selected by employee Floating holiday
- Is there a cost for parking?
Employees receive their initial parking pass at no cost.
- What is the dress code?
We adhere to a relaxed dress code. Employees are expected to maintain good personal cleanliness, attire, and hygiene. Employees should present a neat, professional appearance at all times and be well-groomed and dressed appropriately when in the office or traveling on Agency business.
- Is tuition reimbursement offered?
Yes, full-time employees with at least one year of service can participate in our tuition reimbursement program and receive up to $5,250 per year.
Please review our open positions and apply to join our team and our work to be advocates for children and families on the First Coast.
FSS is an affirmative action and equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, veteran status, or genetic information. FSS is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities in employment, its services, programs, and activities. If you require a reasonable accommodation in completing an application, interviewing, completing any pre-employment testing, or otherwise participating in the employee selection process, please call 904-265-8105