John Cooper Honored with Leadership Award from Florida Coalition for Children

John Cooper, Chief Executive Officer of Kids Central, was honored with the Jim Strayer Leadership Award from the Florida Coalition for Children (FCC). The award was presented during the FCC’s 2015 conference and awards luncheon, where over 500 child welfare professionals, providers, legislators and advocates gathered recently in Orlando.

Every year the FCC honors an individual who exhibits the characteristics of Jim Strayer, an impassioned advocate for children throughout the state and acknowledged as the architect of programs and services provided by Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches. Strayer proved very instrumental in developing and implementing the standards of care still in practice today. The Jim Stayer award is bestowed on an advocate who demonstrates the characteristics of Jim Strayer, specifically a commitment to his excellence, vision, gentle leadership style, and the love and compassion for troubled children and adults.

“I am grateful for the recognition, but I truly believe this is just a continuation of the great year Kids Central has had and a true reflection of the organization,” said Cooper. “I’m blessed to lead a talented group of professionals!”

Cooper’s involvement in child welfare with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) began over 20 years ago. He advanced through the ranks to Regional Administrator, where he maintained the #1 Region ranking for four consecutive years. Cooper’s considerable knowledge combined with proven dedication and leadership prompted his appointment as Assistant Secretary of DCF, where he directed statewide operations. He also acted as Director of the Child Protection Transformation Project and the Statewide Project Officer for a national demonstration project administered by the Quality Improvement Center on the Privatization of Child Welfare.

Selected as Kids Central’s CEO in 2012, Cooper transitioned from the public sector to the private. Kids Central is the lead nonprofit agency charged with caring for the abused, neglected and abandoned children in Circuit 5 – Marion, Citrus, Hernando, Lake, and Sumter Counties. Under Cooper’s leadership, Kids Central was recently named a Governor’s Sterling Award winner and was the first human service agency to receive such an honor.

“Those who provide critical services to children and families must always push for organizational excellence and continuous quality improvement by benchmarking performance and outcomes,” said Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll. “I applaud Kids Central for taking this step to become stronger as an organization and to ensure they are providing the most effective services to help at-risk children and families recover and heal.”

Cooper continuously seeks to better care for the vulnerable children and families served by Kids Central. For example, almost immediately after joining Kids Central, Cooper launched an initiative to redesign and reengineer the Diversion Programming by installing on a continuum of evidence-based interventions offered by a trained contingent of providers. The new programming allowed for consistency in practice and aligned the “right” service with a family’s identified needs.

In addition to Cooper’s responsibilities at Kids Central, he serves on the FCC Board of Directors and is the Board Chairman of the Marion County Children’s Alliance.  He has served his local community and the State of Florida for over 30 years, putting him alongside the most knowledgeable child welfare professionals in the state.  He has worked in virtually every aspect of child welfare leaving his fingerprint on many programs and services that DCF continues to rely upon him as an invaluable, comprehensive resource.