The Tampa Bay foster care system has continued to grow over the past year creating unique challenges and opportunities in caring for nearly 7,000 children and families each day. Eckerd Connects recognizes these challenges and is committed to a perpetual improvement process that continually evaluates the needs of the community to ensure that proper resources are deployed and utilized. Many of the challenges experienced have stemmed around system capacity and community engagement creating a need and opportunity to add additional capacity to our leadership structure.
As such, we are excited to announce Dr. Chris Card will join Eckerd Connects on May 14, 2018 as the Chief of Community Based Care. Known as a strong leader in the child welfare and child advocacy arena, Chris has extensive experience in social services including five years as a child welfare case manager and supervisor in Houston, five years managing an inpatient treatment center for children and adolescents, five years as a statewide advocate and association director for the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, and nearly a decade as a community-based care lead agency executive director.
Chris was a founder and primary architect of Florida’s community-based child welfare reform and was appointed by Governors Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush to a variety of positions of state leadership for children and families. Dr. Card is a longstanding resident of Hillsborough County with deep ties in the community including having previously served as the Executive Director of the community-based care lead agency in Hillsborough County.
Dr. Card most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer at Lutheran Services Florida. “Chris will be deeply missed at Lutheran Services Florida. Over the past 5 years, he has worked to bring new programs to LSF and played a pivotal role in helping our organization be the best place for our clients. Chris’ true passion is in child welfare and as one of the early pioneers of community-based care, I am happy to see him return to his roots. I look forward to continuing working with Chris through our partnership with Eckerd Connects,” said Sam Sipes CEO of Lutheran Services Florida.
Dr. Card brings a wealth of experience to the Tampa Bay foster care system including strong evaluation and assessment, strategic planning, grant writing, and planning and implementation skills that will benefit the 7,000 children and families impacted by the foster care system in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties. “He is a proven problem-solver and enjoys excellent relationships in the community that will serve him well in his mission to improve outcomes for children and families,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard.
Chris holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Oakland University. He received his Master’s in Social Work from Wayne State University and his Doctor of Social Work at the University of South Florida.
Lorita Shirley has worked in Florida’s Child Welfare System for over 26 years. She has held many leadership roles and has worked with both the Department of Children and Families and the private child welfare sector to strategically support reform efforts for children and families involved in the child welfare system. As a result of Lorita’s expertise in this area, she will be transitioning to the role of Chief of Performance and Quality overseeing Eckerd Connects’ quality division across the country. As we all know, Lorita is one of the driving forces behind our perpetual performance improvement plan and always seeks to find ways to improve outcomes for children and families. This role will allow her the opportunity to enhance the quality of our direct service programs as well as improve the outcomes that we seek to achieve within our two lead agencies.