Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the launch of the Continue the Mission initiative, which will recruit veterans, military spouses and former law enforcement officers to be child protective investigators and Department of Children and Families (DCF) case managers, as well as mentors to children in need, new case managers and child protective investigators. Through DCF and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs (FDVA), the initiative will serve as a call to action for veterans, military spouses and former law enforcement officers who still have a desire to serve their communities.
“Our veterans, military spouses and former law enforcement officers are a group of men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving our country and keeping our communities safe,” said First Lady DeSantis. “I am excited there is a new pathway for these heroes to ‘Continue the Mission’ through rewarding career and mentorship opportunities protecting Florida’s children. We are not only helping children across the state, but also helping veterans and retired law enforcement with their mental and emotional well-being who may feel as though they’ve lost their purpose once they’ve left active duty or have retired.”
This initiative is a collaborative effort led by DCF and FDVA with other state partners, local veterans’ organizations and community groups. Together, the agencies will actively recruit veterans, military spouses and former law enforcement officers for flexible career opportunities in the child and family well-being system. They will also identify candidates to serve as mentors for children in need, new case managers and child protective investigators.
“We know that working in this field can be a rewarding yet demanding career path,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris. “By recruiting candidates and mentors who have already succeeded in high-stress positions, we can build resiliency within our existing workforce, increase job retention and enhance the caliber of services provided to the children and families of Florida.”
“Continue the Mission is an extraordinary opportunity for our former military members and their spouses to serve with pride again,” said Retired Marine Corps Major General James S. “Hammer” Hartsell, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “Serving our most vulnerable neighbors to assist them finding a pathway to prosperity is a noble undertaking. Making a difference in the lives of children and families is not only professionally and personally rewarding, but it’s the right thing to do. We thank First Lady Casey DeSantis and the Department of Children and Families for recognizing our Veterans and their spouses as ideal candidates for serving our state’s children and families.”
DCF and FDVA will partner with local veterans groups in Tallahassee to host the initial recruitment event for veterans, their spouses and former law enforcement officers at Career Source in July.
“I’ve seen firsthand the impact that veterans can make on a team. Their steady leadership and grace under pressure make them an integral component of our operations,” said Mike Watkins, Chief Executive Office of Northwest Florida Health Network.
“I’m excited that our first lady is including veterans, military spouses and law enforcement agents to help benefit Florida’s families,” said Angela Nandin, Military Spouse. “I cannot think of a better sustained group of individuals to provide support to the families of Florida who are under stress. Thank you for loving our families and thank you for creating and strengthening programs that benefit our community.”
DCF and FDVA also plan to expand recruiting efforts to Escambia (NAS Pensacola) and Okaloosa (Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field & Duke Field) counties by hosting Career Fairs in late July and early August.
“I am really appreciative of your spearheading of this initiative and I think that we’re really doing great things here today,” said Erica Mitchell, Child Protective Investigator, Walton County Sheriff’s Office. “Our law enforcement have a very important role in child protection. They spend the time that’s needed looking at the criminal element but in child protection, we develop a deeper relationship with the families. We talk with everybody in the family, we get a sense of what’s going on in the family dynamic and look at the stressors and the drivers of what’s happening. So I’m thankful that I have the attention to detail that’s drilled into me as a law enforcement officer as I work as an investigator.”
“I want to talk about the transition process and how it’s difficult for so many veterans to find a place where they fit,” said Cliff Richardson, Army Veteran, Special Forces. “Programs like this are so important because they serve two things. One, they protect what I consider our most valuable asset in the state, which is our children and families. When a child and family are exploited, there’s an opportunity cost associated with that. You potentially lose the next general, the next first lady, the next secretary and you don’t get those back. But by providing veterans the opportunity to use their skills and reducing the barrier that they have to entry into a program like this, you create a win-win situation.”