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Family Support Services of North Florida will take over foster care in Pinellas, Pasco in 2022

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Family Support Services of North Florida has already started work. The agency is meeting with Eckerd’s current staff members and community leaders to firm up plans.

The move follows the Florida Department of Children and Families’ decision to end its contract with Clearwater non-profit Eckerd Connects.

Family Support Services of North Florida has already begun its huge task of taking over foster care in Pinellas and Pasco Counties.

The agency begins its new contract January 1, 2022. The move follows the Florida Department of Children and Families’ decision to end its contract with Clearwater nonprofit Eckerd Connects.

Jenn Petion, CEO and president of Family Support Services of North Florida, said her team has already started work--meeting with Eckerd’s staff members and community leaders to firm up plans.

The team has one month to pull off the transition.

"We are working through that process right now and just starting our meetings with Eckerds' staff to assess what those opportunities are going to be," she said.

Eckerd Connects notified more than 230 employees that their contracts would be terminated by the end of the year when the agency's contract ends. The nonprofit also announced it is also walking away from a contract in Hillsborough County.

Petion said she expects to know more about how many current staff members will stay on, and how many vacancies there will be after this week. The agency’s first step is making sure the district will have a solid workforce in place.

"Those frontline positions are absolutely critical and we know that there are quite a few vacancies right now, she said. “So, ensuring that we have a workforce that is fully staffed and filling those holes is going to be our first focus.”

Bailey LeFever is a reporter focusing on education and health in the greater Tampa Bay region.