Jane Harper, president and CEO of Family Resources, Inc., will step down from her position in early 2013 after 32 years with the organization.
PINELLAS PARK – Since 1970, Family Resources Inc. has built a reputation for itself by providing stellar services to and support for children and teens. With a reach that goes far outside the boundaries of Pinellas County, the Pinellas Park-based organization has had a positive effect on families around the state.
As its position in the community has grown over the years, one person has become synonymous with the achievements of Family Resources: its longtime president and CEO Jane Harper. Now, Harper, who has worked for the organization for 32 years, announced last month that she would be stepping down from her position, but plans to lead the group through its transition.
“I’ve been here for a long time,” she said. “I just started thinking it’s time to explore other opportunities. I’ll guide the organization through the next few months and plan to be here into the next year. That gives them some time to plan ahead and to look for a replacement.”
She added, “I’ve had a wonderful experience here over the years. I’ve learned so much and met so many wonderful people on the staff, board and in the community.”
Once she retires from Family Resources, in addition to spending more time travelling, down the road Harper plans on working as a part-time consultant and grant writer for other groups. “After this much time at Family Resources, I have a lot of expertise to share with to help other organizations on a short-term basis,” she said. “I’m not interested in leaving the field. I’m just looking for more flexibility.” She’ll also be focusing on her other passions, including her interest in environmental issues, and her work with groups like the League of Women Voters and Business and Professional Women.
Harper attended the University of South Florida, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in the late 1960s. “I’ve always had an interest in people, how their minds worked and how they behaved,” she said. She went on to receive a master’s degree in counseling from USF in 1972 while she was working at CASA, a Pinellas County-based organization that works with domestic violence victims.
She joined Family Resources in 1980, and was promoted to CEO and president by 1988. Harper said she had always been drawn to working with runaway and homeless children. “I jumped at the opportunity to join Family Resources,” she said. “I was hopeful that these young people would have the opportunity to overcome the disadvantages in their lives and that I could help families resolve their problems.”
Throughout the more than three decades she’s spent with Family Resources, Harper said they’ve accomplished a lot. Working with advocates around the state, the organization has worked to set up shelters and to provide short-term residencies for at-risk youth between 10 and 17. “We got the legislation passed to allow these shelters, these safety nets for kids,” Harper said. In the late 1980s, 10 of these shelters existed, she said. Today, there are 28 around the state.
She was pivotal in aligning the group with National Safe Place in 1991. This group helps organize easily recognizable, local Safe Place sites for children and teens in crisis, designating schools, libraries, fire stations and youth-friendly business as resources to turn to for immediate help and safety. This program continues to rank in the top 10 nationally for Safe Place referrals and presentations.
Family Resources also instituted a Street Safe Outreach program designed to identify and to aid homeless youth. “There are as many as 600 homeless kids living on the streets or couch surfing,” Harper said. “And they need our help.”
And there’s the Youth Arts Corps, an arts-based after-school program that started up about seven years ago. Students take free classes there after school to learn about everything from painting to world dance and cooking.
Even now, as Harper prepares to leave Family Resources, she continues to work tirelessly on new programs. Last month, the organization received a pregnancy prevention grant that allowed them to create a new Teen Outreach Program.
There’s no word yet on who will take the helm when Harper officially steps down. But those on the Family Resources board and staff who have worked with her over the years are quick to praise her work.
Don Gilmore, Family Resources board chairman and COO at Amerigroup speaks highly of Harper’s leadership. “We’re celebrating Jane Harper’s 32 years of commitment and service to Family Resources,” he said in a press release. “Thousands of children and families have benefitted from Jane’s selfless leadership.”
And Stacy Gromatski, president and CEO of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services added, “Largely due to Jane’s work, we have a system of care in Florida for runaways, homeless and other troubled youth that serves as a model for other states. While her legacy will continue to impact thousands of young people’s lives each year, her grace and insight will be sorely missed.”