Phone: 813-290-8560

Leadership Team

Carolanne Patriaco Founder of Families First of Florida

Carolanne Patriaco founded Families First of Florida on July 26, 2000 after recognizing a growing need for children’s mental health services in the Tampa area. Her commitment to helping children with mental and behavioral challenges stems from years of working with Florida’s Child Welfare System of Care.

Carolanne’s goal for Families First of Florida is 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 aims 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 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 W.R. Grace and Co.'s Subsidiary, 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.

Miranda Johns, MA, LMHC VP of Clinical Services

Miranda received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Central Florida and her master’s degree in counseling from the University of South Florida. Miranda is a Certified Child Welfare Professional as well as a Certified Adoption Competent Clinician. Miranda has a wealth of knowledge in child welfare and mental health field. Miranda has worked in the child welfare system for approximately 12 years holding numerous management positions providing oversight of numerous mental health programs within the community. Miranda currently oversees all of the clinical services provided by Families First of Florida. She provides clinical supervision to staff as well as programmatic oversight to ensure compliance with all funders and contracts. Miranda has developed several programs within our service delivery system to enhance the quality of services provided to our clients. Miranda is very passionate about providing quality services to the children and families within our community.

Jennifer Brown, BSW VP Operations

After receiving her BSW, she began her career supervising therapeutic foster homes and the children in those homes. She then moved on to working within the child welfare system for several years as both a Child Protective Investigator and Child Welfare Case Manager. With her knowledge, she was able to move into positions which allowed her to have oversight of Children’s Mental Health programs to ensure compliance with state contracts, Medicaid guidelines, and state and federal laws. After doing this for several years, Jennifer became the Director of License Care for a Community Base Care and was responsible for the placement, care, and mental health of the children removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. Jennifer has served at a management level in Quality Management for several agencies both within Florida and Colorado at improving the quality of care for families and children. Jennifer brings over 20 years of experience with her to Families First of Florida and works at ensuring FFF meets the highest standards in meeting our client’s needs.

Sharon Penley, SPHR Director of Human Resources

As the Director of Human Resources, Sharon is responsible for the development and execution of all Human Capital related strategies, policies, and procedures for the organization. She partners with senior management to provide leadership and guidance on HR functions to include staffing, talent development and learning, compensation and benefits, employee relations, and HR services.

Sharon brings over twenty years of previous Human Resource Management experience in the fast-paced telecommunications and financial services industries. She has a track record of making positive changes in aligning Human Resources and Payroll with business goals, including recruiting and workforce planning, culture development, performance management, leadership development, change management, retention and succession planning, HR project management, and HR analytics.

Sharon graduated summa cum laude from Colorado Technical Institute with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management. She is Certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources. She is a national and local member of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Paula Booth Director of Administration & Facilities

Paula began her career working with various life and health insurance companies in Nebraska and Florida. She specialized working with several local Medicaid HMO’s licensed under the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). After 20-years of the insurance industry, she joined Families First in January 2001 as the Office Administrator. Over the last 12-years she has also acted as our Licensing Specialist , Program Services Administrator , Placement Services Administrator, and Director of Administration & HR Management and her current role is the Director of Administration and Facilities. She brings to Families First over 35 years of corporate experience.

Peri Gibbons Director of Client Information Mgt. & Systems

Peri has over 16 years’ experience working in Release of Information and Medical Records. She started her Medical Record career as a Billable Release Specialist working for a release company that was contracted to handle records release at a large acute care facility in Tampa, eventually becoming the Site Supervisor. After 12 years working at the acute care facility Peri was hired as the Supervisor of Records for a Pinellas based Outpatient Mental Health Agency. In 2014 she joined Families First of Florida (FFF) as the Records Manager and has since been promoted to Director of Client Information Management and Systems. She is passionate about securing and protecting the health information of our clients therefore reducing the risk to our clients and the agency.

Priscilla Kunkel, LCSW Director of Quality Assurance & Credentialing
Katrina Oliver, MS Director of Licensed Care

Katrina brings to Families First over 15 years of experience working with families and youth in the child welfare system. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Florida where she attained a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Development. She also holds a Master’s degree in Counseling and Psychology from Troy University. Katrina is responsible for the management and oversight of the Specialized Therapeutic Foster Care (STFC) clinical program and licensed therapeutic foster homes including, but not limited to: program development and management, policies and procedures, department monitoring, and contract compliance. She acts as a liaison to the CBC agency, DCF, and the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA)/ Medicaid. She is a Certified Child Protection Licensing Supervisor (The Florida Certification Board); a Certified MAPP & Professional Parenting Trainer (State of Florida); and a Certified County Mediator (Florida Supreme Court). Katrina has strong ties to the Tampa Bay community where she is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Greater Tampa Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

Kristen Staron-La Cagnina, MSW CBHA Program Director

As CBHA Program Director, Kristen is responsible for the oversight of the CBHA process within Families First of Florida, LLC. She is responsible for ensuring quality and compliance with Medicaid guidelines and acts as a liaison with Community Based Care agencies statewide. She partners with Human Resources to contract with new CBHA assessors. She also partners with the billing department to assist in resolving any billing matters.

Kristen has worked within the child welfare system in the state of Florida for 9 years and has worked with CBHAs for 7 years. She has experience completing audits with the Department of Children and Families in partnership with the Agency for Healthcare Administration. She has a history of working in partnership and as a liaison with several agencies and helping to develop agency relationships.

Kristen graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of the Arts in English and Psychology and graduated from the University of South Florida with a Master of Social Work. She is a Registered Clinical Social Work Intern and working on attaining licensure in the area of Social Work.

Tori Telfer, PhD Regional Director
Karen Bebnowski, MSW Director of Marketing & Program Development

Karen brings to Families First over 25 years of working with children and families with severe and persistent mental health problems and has a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

She began her career with the Department of Children and Families in their substance abuse and mental health office managing district mental health services. She has also acted as the Medicaid Utilization Manager auditing mental health and substance abuse agencies to confirm services are being rendered accordingly per Medicaid guidelines. She has served as Director of a therapeutic foster care agency with their outpatient treatment program and psychiatric services, ensuring all mental health program needs for the clients were being met. As the Central Regional Director for Families First of Florida she certifies program services are being provided appropriately to our clients as well as a provides therapy to children and families as an independent contractor

Karen has also fostered therapeutic children 9 years and adopted 2 special needs children. She is Adoption Competency trained the trainer and has also completed the trainings for Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Combined Parent-Child Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.

In addition, Karen has also volunteered as a Guardian Ad Litem advocating for children. She is passionate about providing services to children and families so they can have the best chance at positive outcome.

Impacting Lives, Strengthening Families

Traumatic experiences make a significant impact on how people cope, learn and interact with others. Families First of Florida’s experienced mental health clinicians provide best practice mental health services with the goal of helping those in our care grow and develop, despite their obstacles.