Shevaun Harris has served as Secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) since February 2021. She brought with her an innovative vision and a commitment to improving Florida’s approach in supporting vulnerable children and families. Her leadership is marked by a belief in empowering Floridians to thrive independently and harnessing the power of partnership to support strong and resilient families.
Secretary Harris began her career as a social worker, which led to her true passion - policy and administration in the field of health and human services. She spent nearly two decades at the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), where she excelled and served in key roles, including Acting Secretary. The majority of her tenure at AHCA was focused on the administration of the multi-billion dollar Florida Medicaid program, impacting millions of Floridians through implementation of sound policy and quality improvement efforts.
Her pursuit of excellence continued at DCF. She immediately began seeking opportunities for improvement, asking hard questions, and challenging the status quo, with a specific focus on programmatic and cross-agency integration. The result has been significant people-focused changes that have elevated DCF’s work and improved outcomes for Florida’s children and families.
Under her leadership, DCF has sought to capitalize on each encounter to ensure that families’ needs are addressed holistically and to create pathways for success rooted in prevention and integrating systems. Crowning achievements include the launch of Hope Florida – A Pathway to Prosperity, spearheaded by First Lady Casey DeSantis, which supports individuals in becoming economically self-sufficient; the launch of Coordinated Opioid Recovery (CORE), a vital tool in Florida’s fight against the opioid epidemic; and the establishment of the child welfare accountability system, created to drive performance improvement.
She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in social work from the Florida State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Quinnipiac University. She has two daughters, and her experience as a mom serves as a guidepost in her role as DCF Secretary.
Chief of Staff
Molly McKinstry joined the Department of Children and Families after ten years as Deputy Secretary for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. At the Agency, she was responsible for regulation of over 42,000 heath care providers, including acute and psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health agencies and managed care organizations; the Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency; and Medicaid Program Integrity.
Mrs. McKinstry has worked for over twenty-five years in health care policy in both regulatory and Medicaid roles, leading regulatory reforms, initiating technology systems for licensing and regulation, and advancing the state's health information exchange, health care provider emergency response, and multi-agency enterprise systems.
Casey Penn currently serves as the Deputy Secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families. Previous to this role, he served as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Economic Self Sufficiency where he oversaw the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid determinations, Refugee Services, and the Office of Homelessness. Prior to joining the Department, Casey worked in workforce development, overseeing the administration of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, Casey holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics from Florida State University and currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife and two children. After graduating from college, Casey worked in the private sector for 10 years before returning to the public sector in 2017.
Assistant Secretary for Quality and Innovation
DCF's Assistant Secretary for Quality and Innovation, Sharron Washington, began her career as an Abuse Registry Counselor in 1999 at the Florida Abuse Hotline and has served the Department for over 20 years. During that time, she has held several leadership roles, including Assistant Secretary of Operations, Operations Manager for the Family Safety Program, Director of Economic Self Sufficiency for the Central Region, as well as Regional Managing Director for the Central Region. Ms. Washington's plays a critical role in leading the work on identifying ways to engage families through strategic partnerships and community collaboration. Her leadership approach is to constantly learn and improve policy and process to more efficiently serve the citizens of the state of Florida. Ms. Washington enjoys spending time with family and traveling during her spare time. She holds a bachelor's degree in criminology from Florida State University. She is a Certified Public Manager and previously served as a Sterling Examiner.
Assistant Secretary for Administration
Prior to joining the Department, Tony Lloyd served the Florida House of Representatives as Budget Chief for the Justice Appropriations committee as well as Higher Education Appropriations committee where he ushered a collective $12 billion budget directly impacting Florida's criminal justice, higher education, and vocational rehabilitation agencies.
Understanding how public services benefit local communities is a lesson Mr. Lloyd learned early in his professional career. For ten years, he worked in local government managing city and county operations in four Georgia communities. Mr. Lloyd is an experienced leader in overseeing operations for complex organizations at both the state and local levels.
As the former Chief Financial Officer for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, he managed a large division responsible for multiple facilities, monitoring Federal workforce and unemployment programs, and providing human resources and programmatic financial support for employees.
As a member of the armed forces, Mr. Lloyd served in several leadership roles with the Georgia Army National Guard and Joint Detention Operations Group in Cuba. He earned his bachelor's degree in political science and master's degree in public administration from Georgia Southern University.
Assistant Secretary for Economic Self-Sufficiency
Jason McCandless serves as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Economic Self Sufficiency and is responsible for a 4,000-person team delivering self-sufficiency programs to support Floridians including, Hope Florida – A Pathway to Prosperity, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid determinations, refugee, and homelessness services.
Prior to joining the Department, served as the Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Division of Workforce Services at the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). He received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree in business administration from Touro International University, and a master's degree in military arts and science from Air University. Jason has been married to his wife Becky for more than 20 years and they have three daughters.
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Services
Jess Tharpe serves on the executive leadership team at the Florida Department of Children and Families as the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Community Services, which is responsible for building a continuum of care that focuses on holistic services and ensuring improved long-term outcomes for some of Florida’s most vulnerable children, adults, and families. Services include Hope Florida, independent living, continuing care, adult protection, and homelessness services, along with protecting special populations including victims of human trafficking and domestic violence survivors.
Before stepping into her current role, Tharpe served as the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Child and Family Well-Being and led a transformational shift from a traditional child welfare system to one that values lived experiences, holistic and family-centered services, and integrated programming. Mrs. Tharpe also previously served as the Director of Innovation and Project Management in the Department’s Office of Economic Self-Sufficiency and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Child Welfare. In these roles, she led several strategic initiatives to enhance the customer experience including the launch of MyFloridaMyFamily, Florida’s Foster Information Center, and the Office of Continuing Care. Before coming to the Department, she served in various leadership roles within the non-profit industry, higher education, and the private sector, where she led program development, contract and grant management, business development, administration, and continuous quality improvement. She lives in Tallahassee with her husband and two children and is active in her church.
Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Erica Floyd Thomas joined the Department of Children and Families in April 2021 after 20 years of serving the State of Florida at the Agency for Health Care Administration in various leadership roles. As the Assistant Secretary for Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Mrs. Thomas is responsible for ensuring that individuals with substance use disorders and/or behavioral health needs can access services needed.
In her previous roles, Mrs. Thomas directed the implementation of the Medicaid Housing Assistance Pilot program. This program was established to provide evidence-based community supports and services for Medicaid-eligible individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and have serious mental illnesses or a substance use disorder. Additionally, she aided in the implementation of a multidisciplinary team approach for applied behavioral analysis services for children to ensure access to care and managed the deployment of open access for medication assisted treatment to sustain recovery and aid in the prevention of overdoses. During her tenure with the Agency for Health Care Administration, she and her team promoted and optimized the use of telemedicine in various health care settings, including those with a primary behavioral health focus.
Mrs. Thomas holds two degrees from Florida State University; a Bachelor of Science in Family and Child Science and Master of Social Work.
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Child and Family Well-Being
Kathryn “Kate” Williams is the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Child and Family Well-Being. Kate began her career with the Department as a Child Protective Investigator, and she still maintains her CPI Certification today. With almost two decades of experience, Kate brings frontline experience, a vast expertise in child welfare, and innovation to the role. Mrs. Williams previously served as the Deputy Secretary for the Office of Child and Family Well-Being where she oversaw operations. During her time with the Department, Kate has lent her knowledge and insight to several statewide initiatives that are transforming our system of care including her role in spearheading an effort on frontline-focused initiatives through best practice identification, standardization, and implementation. She has a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of North Florida. Kate now resides in Tallahassee with her husband and two children.