About Us

About Children's Home Network

Our Vision: Children's Home Network will be a recognized leader in innovative programs and services in the field of child and family well-being, and as an exemplary model for the governance, management and operation of non-profit entities.

Our Mission: We unlock the potential of at-risk children and families by providing compassionate and effective services that create opportunities for success.

Our Values: The values honored by the Children’s Home Network help to form our thoughts and guide our decisions and conduct in delivering our mission. Our interactions are based upon Respect and Dignity. We strive for Excellence in all that we do. People can Trust in our word and abilities. We conduct our work with Compassion and Understanding.

Meet the Team

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Irene K. Rickus, MS, LMHC was appointed President and CEO for The Children's Home, Inc. on November 14, 2011. She is accountable to fulfill The Children's Home mission to unlock the potential of at-risk children and families by providing compassionate and effective services that create opportunities for success.
Irene has over 30 years of leadership experience with social service organizations. She was formerly Chief Operating Officer for Kids Central, a child welfare lead agency. Prior to that, she progressed in management over 26 years at The Harbor Behavioral Health Care Institute, Inc. in New Port Richey, FL., including nine years as CEO with a $39 million budget and 550 staff. She is recognized as an innovative leader who champions children and families, with a focus on permanency and child well-being. She maintains strong, collaborative relationships with key child welfare leadership organizations to improve the practice of child welfare in Florida and the nation.

Lawrence Cooper, MSW, LCSW has supervised prevention and intervention programs at the Children’s Home Network since 2001. Mr. Cooper is the model developer of KIN-TECH™. He has presented locally, statewide and nationally on his work with children and relative caregiver families. He was recognized as 2016 Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Tampa Unit and the 2017 Social Worker of the Year by the Florida Coalition for Children and 2018 Child Welfare Champion Award from the Florida Department of Children and Families. He has successfully administered large community-based support services to children and families in the Tampa Bay area during his tenure at CHN and in his current role oversees Kinship navigation services and Prevention & Intervention programs. He led one of only seven Kin Navigator grants awarded nationally from The Children’s Bureau under the 2008 Foster Connections legislation from 2012-2015. Additionally, Mr. Cooper serves as a Contributing Editor for GrandFamilies:  The Contemporary Journal of Research, Practice and Policy.  This journal will play an important role in extending knowledge, building collaborative partnerships, and promoting research relating to relative caregiver families. Mr. Cooper is a founding member of (GrOW) Grandfamilies Outcome Workgroup, that is studying the impact and benefits of Kinship Support Groups to caregivers. Mr. Cooper earned both his Master’s of Social Work degree in 1993 and his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in 1990 at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa.


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Dr. Kerry Littlewood, Ph.D, MSW holds a master’s degree (2003) and doctorate (2008) in Social Work (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). Dr. Littlewood is the Principal Investigator of the Children’s Home Network Kinship System of Care. Dr. Littlewood is  President of AAJ Research & Evaluation, Inc. and specializes in program evaluation, community-based participatory research, randomized control trials, and using mixed methods approaches to better understand at-risk children, families and older adults. Dr. Littlewood has two decades of expertise in designing and evaluating interventions to support families headed by grandparents and other relatives raising children. Selected examples of Dr. Littlewood’s randomized control trials and quasi experimental studies include: KIN-TECH™, COMRADE Trial, the EMPOWER Trial, SLIDE Trial, LEAD Trial and the Triple P NC 21 County evaluation.

Dr. Abhishek Pandey, MD is a sleep physician scientist with expertise in designing and implementing pragmatic healthy sleep prevention strategies and translation of evidence-based public health interventions into clinical practices and community settings to reduce the burden of sleep related disorders among vulnerable population in the United States. Dr. Pandey has conducted numerous clinical trials and self management interventions targeted at the reduction of sleep related burden among at risk populations, especially kinship and Grandparents taking care of Grandchildren. Overall, his work is focused on implementation of task-shifting strategies for management of sleep related disorders as well as promoting healthy sleep using a social justice lens and social determinant of health to pursue those individuals and groups facing health disparities.  Dr. Pandey is committed to building our research program in collaboration with cross sector, multidisciplinary partners who contribute to a more responsive behavioral approach to healthy sleep and better understand how it impacts overall health for the most vulnerable populations


Chris Groeber, MSW, is currently a faculty member in Social Work at the University of South Florida, He also manages a small human service consulting company called “Gro and Co.” Previous to this, Chris was the U.S. CEO for Key Assets part of an International Child Welfare Organization.  Chris has been fortunate enough to develop many programs for child welfare, both in his home State of Kentucky and nationally.  He has served as Principle Investigator on Federal Projects while on faculty at the University of Kentucky and has implemented numerous Statewide training programs for Foster and Adoptive parents. Chris has worked in many aspects of child welfare both in the public and private sectors over the past 30 years. Chris and his wife currently reside in the Tampa area and continue their work on behalf of vulnerable populations.