David Dennis has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Eckerd Kids since 2007. Under his leadership, Eckerd Kids has undergone a major transformation and it is now thriving as a $207M diverse national human services leader. In 2007, Eckerd Kids started a transformative journey and soon set a goal to serve 20,020 children by the year 2020. In 2016, Eckerd Kids reached that goal by serving over 25,000. Eckerd Kids provides more than 108 programs and services that assist vulnerable children and families in child welfare, juvenile justice, workforce development and behavioral health. Eckerd Kids’ story of courage to embrace change and transform into the national human services leaders of today has earned a published chapter in Alliance for Children and Families’ latest book entitled, Making Strategy Count in the Health and Human Services Sector.
In addition, under his leadership, Eckerd Kids is now an experienced partner in helping states transform public systems of care. In fact, in Florida alone, the organization’s community-based lead agencies act as the child welfare system manager for a system that is larger than 14 states and the District of Columbia. When ranked along with other state systems, Eckerd Kids is 4th in the country on the federal Child and Family Services Review standards and Florida is 37th in the nation for child welfare funding. Eckerd Kids has also been working with several states to roll out their nationally recognized Eckerd Rapid Safety Feedback®, an analytical tool and process that helps quickly identify cases with issues that pose the greatest risks to children.
Recognizing the importance of diversification of services and revenue, David has built strategic partnerships that led to the merger of three organizations into Eckerd Kids. In Eckerd Kids’ nearly 50 year history, these are the first business transactions of this kind. David is passionate about these ventures moving the dial in merging missions to scale success and increase impact.
David has more than two decades of leadership experience in virtually every segment of social services, behavioral health, juvenile justice and child welfare, ranging from private and public juvenile justice providers in Oklahoma and Texas to child welfare, developmental disability and behavioral health organizations in Florida and California.
In 2003, he was appointed by Florida Department of Children and Families to serve as District Administrator in Central Florida, where he reduced over 9,000 backlogged child abuse investigation cases by 96.8%, and implemented the Community-Based Care Initiative to transfer child welfare services to private providers.
David was also appointed in 1997 to the newly-established Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs where he served as Director of the Oklahoma Department of Juvenile Justice and Deputy Director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA). Under his leadership, this organization established itself as a successful standalone agency and recidivism dropped from 55% to about 28% with numerous community collaborations and partnerships established including the first privatized juvenile treatment institution.
David is certified as a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Licensed Childcare Administrator and holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling from Southwestern Baptist Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in religion from Oklahoma Baptist University.
In addition to David’s professional experience, he brings personal passion to his work, born out of his childhood journey that included being removed from his alcoholic mother’s care by Oklahoma Child Protective Services after his father’s death. He was later adopted and given that second chance that he believes every child deserves.