CEO & Founder
Carolanne Patriaco founded Families Connect after recognizing a need for early detection of mental health symptoms in children and the need to educate families and link them to resources that provide access to medical, social, educational, and mental health treatment.
Carolanne also founded Families First of Florida (familiesfirstfl.com) on July 26, 2000 after recognizing a growing need for children’s mental health services in the Tampa area. Her love for helping children with mental and behavioral challenges stems from years of working with Florida’s Child Welfare System of Care. This was the catalyst to expand navigation services to the underserved at risk youth and change the trajectory of children who have demonstrated the onset of mental health symptoms.
Carolanne’ s vision for Families First of Florida was to break down the negative stigmas that surround mental and behavioral challenges by providing children with the coping mechanisms necessary to work through trauma and allow them to have a happy and successful life. She also aimed to help the families by providing parenting skills necessary to create a supportive environment to help their children foster a brighter future as well as linking the families to the needed services within in their community.
Prior to founding Families First of Florida, Carolanne Patriaco served as Chief Financial Officer and later as Vice President of Operations and Fiscal Management for a provider of children’s foster care services in Florida. During this time she was introduced to the foster care system and the services it provides for at-risk children and children of neglect or abuse. She learned the intricacies of the system, and the necessity of counseling services for these foster families and children in order to create a solid foundation for a productive future. This discovery is what lead Carolanne to found Families First of Florida – to ensure that these children and families who have experienced trauma receive the help and counseling services they so desperately need.
Prior to her experience with Florida’s Child Welfare System of Care, Carolanne Patriaco worked as Senior Accountant of National Medical Care, Inc. and as an accountant at The Saving Bank of Rockland County. She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting and Business Administration from Dominican College of Blauvelt, NY.
Jennifer possess the expertise, leadership, training, and motivation necessary to successfully carry out the mission of Families Connect. With over 25 years of diverse experience in child welfare, substance abuse, and mental health serving vulnerable populations, she brings diverse operational perspectives from Colorado, North Carolina, and Florida’s system of care. In the years spent building her expertise, Jennifer has focused on maintaining compassion and understanding and not allowing outside influences to sway her perspective of a situation. As a Child Protective Investigator, the need for early intervention for mental health services became clear and she found much success in providing intensive services as early as possible. Working with Families Connect will allow even earlier interventions without the need for child welfare intervention or concern for funding the initial services.
Jennifer’s experience in child welfare as a dependency case manager and child protective investigator provides knowledge and compassion for the underserved and vulnerable as well as the ability to case manage and coordinate care. As a Children’s Mental Health Specialist with the Florida Department of Children and Families as well as the Director of Clinical Operations and Placement Services, she was able to coordinate numerous agencies and family/friends to serve children and youth who were not successful in traditional settings with traditional care.
Jennifer also held positions of auditor and Supervisor of Quality Assurance with the Department of Children and Families and later the Director of QA with a private mental health agency. These positions provided her with in-depth knowledge and understanding of the importance of quality program procedures, measurements, analytics, and outcomes. Working in Quality Assurance and Contracts, Jennifer will bring focus and in-depth information to the desired outcomes, setting benchmarks to review progress and reevaluate goals and processes.
Currently, Jennifer oversees operations of a foster care and mental health agency working with the Medicaid population providing oversight of contracts, credentialing, policies and procedures, accreditation, quality assurance, outcome reporting, client and stakeholder input, and many other areas. She was the lead in CARF accreditation this past year which gives me in-depth knowledge on program development and shows my strong project management skills.
Jennifer has experience in collaborating with families and stakeholders to organize and pool resources so that the needs of children and their families can be met. This experience comes from numerous positions throughout her career and the ability to be able facilitate and navigate resources for families in need is often the difference between failure and success.
Vice President of Support Services
Paula has over 38 years of corporate experience working for several fortune 500 companies, various insurance companies and over 16 years working with Families First of Florida. Her professional career demonstrates her ability to work and partner with an extensive range of people with an emphasis on human resources, marketing, communication, and facilities.
Mutual of Omaha afforded Paula advancement opportunities within a company that employed over 6,000 full time employees in their home office. She was one of the youngest in a department of 50 employee to be promoted to a team lead with an advancement rate of 93%.
Paula’s experience working with Gulf Council was very diverse working with members appointed by the Governor of the five Gulf States (FL, LA, AL, MS, TX), Executive Directors of the individual State’s Fishery Commissions and Marine Science facilities as well as PhD experts, local fishermen, and fish houses.
In her role with Suncoast Administrators, Paula worked with approximately 40 insurance brokers processing and overseeing the issuance of new individual and group life insurance policies.
Joining WellCare HMO expanded her marketing and fundraising experience with the coordination of health fairs for families to receive free health screenings and her work with women and their children residing in local abuse shelters.
Paula joined Families First to market and recruit therapeutic foster parents as well as work with existing foster parents within the agency. She was responsible for organizing open house events at various venues to market for new foster homes. In 2001, Paula established the Families First of Florida annual Christmas gift drive for foster children placed in our licensed foster homes. Paula was successful in soliciting corporate vendors, working with BayCare Healthcare, and individuals to donate gifts for foster children. We just celebrated our 19thannual gift drive which included gifts for over 150 children.
In 2006 as the Director of Administration/ Marketing, she successfully opened six new offices throughout Northern and Central Florida securing office locations and negotiating the leases, contracting, and working with vendors to install internet and phone systems, as well as working with furniture vendors to furnish the offices.
Paula’s marketing efforts included creating brochures, flyers and power point presentations and maintaining all social media (i.e., webpage, FB, blogs etc.). She restructured internal marketing efforts for staff hiring/retention and decrease advertising expenses by 75% with a new hire rate up by 10% and staff retention at an all-time high.
Paula also contributed to the 2020 management team that worked on CARF accreditation for Families First of Florida. She was responsible for the Disaster, IT and Emergency Procedure Handbooks as well as the HR New Hire Orientations and Policy and Procedures and was subsequently promoted to Vice President of Corporate Services with oversight of marketing, human resources, administration, and information technology.
Paula’s experience comes from numerous positions throughout her career and the ability to facilitate and navigate resources. Families Connect will allow her to utilize strong communication and marketing skills for Families Connect.