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Secretary's Message

October 4, 2013

I am so proud to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice, and I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our colleagues and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase DJJ employees and the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich your communities. I know there is even more going on than what I report here, so I would like to encourage each of you to keep the weekly letter in mind and remember to share your good news. It’s easy – email news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon (submissions after that time will be considered for the next week’s letter).


Wansley Walters

***Reminder: The “Our Children, Our Future, Restoring Hope” National Faith Symposium is November 6-7, and registration information is available at http://faithsymposium.dcf.state.fl.us/.***

The Governor’s Corner by Rick Scott

Governor Rick Scott

Thanks to your hard work there are incredible opportunities for families to succeed in the Sunshine State. In a little over two years, we’ve worked to make government more effective and operate at a better value to taxpayers - and thanks to the hard work of Florida job creators - families are beginning to reap the rewards. Last session, we were able to provide pay raises for our hardworking teachers and make critical transportation investments in our communities.

Our pro-growth policies are so effective that recently our State Revenue Estimating Conference announced that the general revenue now forecasted for 2014-2015 in Florida will be the highest ever. That’s why we’re working to cut $500 million in taxes and fees in the next budget, so families can keep more of their money. As we continue find ways to improve state government and benefit Florida families, we want to hear from you about how a reduction in taxes and fees would benefit your family.


Human Trafficking Summit

Dotti Groover-Skipper, Advocate of the Year

Dotti Groover-Skipper, Advocate of the Year

Stacie Harris Prosecutor of the Year

Stacie B. Harris, Prosecutor of the Year

Patrick Guckian Law Enforcement Official of the Year

Sergeant Patrick Guckian, Law Enforcement Official of the Year

The Interagency Human Trafficking Workgroup, which I chair, hosted  the 2013 Florida Human Trafficking Summit yesterday in Tampa on the campus of the University of South Florida. Since the inaugural event last year, there have been great things happening in our state to bring awareness to the tragedy of human trafficking and we have made great strides to help victims of these horrible crimes recover.

This year’s summit held three breakout sessions with thirteen individual courses designed to give professionals in various fields including prosecutors, advocates, educators and law enforcement officers the resources they need to combat this problem. The expert panelists at the summit were truly some of the best in the nation, and I am overjoyed that so many people attended.

I would like to extend my thanks to Commissioner Gerald Bailey from FDLE, Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo from DCF, Secretary Ken Lawson from DBPR, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Director Jesse Panuccio from DEO for serving as panelist on the Florida Leadership Panel. Also a big thank you to Deputy Secretary Christy Daly for attending on my behalf. I would also be remiss if I did not recognize the tremendous amount of hard work put in by Courtney McCowen in planning the Summit. Thank you Courtney! And, thank you to  Divida Schissler, Debbie Touchton and Christin “Cici” Battle for your assistance in making the Summit such a huge success. Congratulations also to our award winners as well, Dotti Groover-Skipper, Advocate of the Year; Stacie B. Harris, Prosecutor of the Year and Sergeant Patrick Guckian, Law Enforcement Official of the Year.

Pictured with awards winners are Governor Rick Scott,  Attorney General Pam Bondi and Deputy Secretary Christy Daly


Legislative Update

Legislative Affairs Director Jon Menendez attended stakeholder meetings in Tallahassee this week with the Florida Police Chief’s Association, the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Florida Prosecuting Attorney’s Association to discuss the Chapter 985 revisions. Each meeting garnered substantial positive feedback and we hope to incorporate their suggestions into the final draft language before it goes to the Capitol in March.

Probation Update

Assistant Secretary WimmerLast Wednesday, Assistant Secretary Joan Wimmer drove down to Okeechobee for a visit with the staff from Circuit 19. The day began with a Circuit Management Team breakfast followed by the Circuit Advisory Board meeting at the courthouse in St. Lucie. Assistant Secretary Wimmer and DJJ’s Civil Citation coordinator Theda Roberts gave an update on the Department’s Civil Citation efforts. In attendance were Chief Circuit Judge Steven J. Levin, State Attorney Bruce Colton, Public Defender Diamond Litty and St. Lucie Sheriff Ken Mascara. The meeting was held to encourage participation and involvement of the Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Board.

After the meeting, Assistant Secretary Wimmer administered the Oath of Office to staff, as well as recognizing the following outstanding employees of the second quarter: Secretary Specialists Joan Nicoll, Crystal Smith, Alberta Crews, SJPO Anthony Ferrino and JPO Julie Rathbun. These outstanding employees received gifts of appreciation and accolades from their supervisors.


Circuit 6 visitToday, Deputy Secretary Daly had a great visit with Circuit 6 staff. She expressed how much of a pleasure it is to meet face-to-face with our team in their communities and to hear about all the positive and promising work happening every day.   

The Ronald McDonald Charities from Circuit 20 has been providing sandwich coupons to be used as positive reinforcement for the youth served  by the Department. Their partnership is just one example of  how community engagement can make a difference. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to JPO Shana Feren for spearheading this effort.


Reform Specialist Buddy Hall from Circuit 12 met with local retailers in Desoto County on September 17 to explain the Department’s Roadmap to System Excellence and the Civil Citation process. Buddy was advised by local law enforcement that many stores refer their retail theft cases to DJJ. Each retailer seemed excited about civil citations and all were agreeable to swift consequences with accountability being addressed on the front end instead of the back end. 

Senior JPO Debbi Davis from Circuit 20 went above and beyond recently placing a seventeen-year-old pregnant mother into the Mother’s Home in Cape Coral. The mother, who had been in our system for some time, gave birth to a healthy baby boy just a few weeks ago. In this heart wrenching tale where no family came to visit the young mother, Debbi stepped up and took time out of her day to spend with her.

Prevention Update

Prevention Update

The Office of Prevention was on the road again this week welcoming input of Florida’s local communities during their Community Conversation Road Tour Tuesday evening at the Wakulla County Public Library in Crawfordville. Wakulla residents were asked to come to the meeting to share what resources and services they felt were needed in their specific community.


Prevention Update Pinellas CountyPrevention staff were also in Pinellas County on Thursday for a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives)conversation where local law enforcement met with area youth. Bridging the G.A.A.P. conversations offer a chance for young people to engage in constructive dialogue with members of law enforcement to improve communication and to break down barriers between both groups. The next Bridging the G.A.A.P. conversation is scheduled for Nov. 21 in Tallahassee.


Last Friday, Youth Engagement Coordinator Christin “Cici” Battle served as a volunteer hostess for the 4th Annual Celebration of Women and Girls at Tallahassee Community College. The event was a fundraiser for the Oasis Center for Woman and Girls and the PACE Center for Girls. The evening showcased diverse musical, theatric, spoken word and dance performances by local women and girls and also served as a celebration for the two local organizations.


Marie Boswell Reading Pals ProgramOn Tuesday, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell participated in the Reading Pals Program at the JSD Child Care Center in Miami. This is the third week of a twenty-six week program designed to encourage young kids to get excited about reading. Marie read the book “The Letters are Lost” to her reading pals and the two young girls identified the lost letters in the book. The girls presented Marie with a flower at the end of the session.




Domestic Violence SymposiumOn Wednesday, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene attended a Domestic Violence Symposium in Winter Haven which was sponsored by the Domestic Violence Task Force of Polk County. The event was designed to prevent domestic violence through education and awareness.

In photo: The Honorable Judge Sullivan from Circuit 6 (left rear) and Tina Levene (right rear) join Domestic Violence Survivor Kathy Halley at the Domestic Violence Symposium in Polk County.  Kathy is an inspirational speaker on surviving a domestic violence situation which ended in her ex-husband shooting her in the back.

Palmer Munroe Teen CouncilThe Office of Prevention and Probation Staff attended the Palmer Munroe Teen Council meeting and MY LIFE event last Wednesday at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee. The Teen Council is the youth governing body of the teen center and their goal is to get youth involved and engaged in the process by allowing them to create events and offer suggestions to the staff. MY LIFE Tallahassee is an event to raise awareness about mental health, substance abuse, foster care and other issues facing youth and young adults. Prevention staff attended these meetings to learn about what the teen center is doing to assist DJJ with the formation of a youth commission.

In photo (left to right):Elizabeth Phillips, Probation, Circuit 2 Reform Specialist; Christin “Cici” Battle, Prevention, Statewide Youth Engagement Coordinator;Kara Ahearn, Probation, Headquarters Reform Specialist.


On Tuesday, Federal Grants Coordinator Juliet Westmoreland participated in a “Boosterthon” at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee. This is the school’s biggest fundraising event of the year designed to finance special programs at the school. The Boosterthon creatively teaches daily character lessons to students ranging from respecting others to not bullying and even having children shout out their strengths to encourage them to work hard and be good students. 


Staff Development and Training Update

National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice trainingThe Department’s Central Region training on the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) curriculum entitled Mental Health Training Curriculum for Juvenile Justice (MHTC-JJ) was conducted in Orlando on September 25. The training was conducted by DJJ contracted and employed staff who completed the NCMHJJ Train-the-Trainer session in Tallahassee in January. Eighty DJJ staff participated in the regional trainings and provided very positive feedback regarding the MHTC-JJ curriculum. 

Attendees asked that I expressly thank the trainers: Philip Amorgianos of Gateway Community Services,Darrell Bacon (DJJ-Northeast Region), Pat Wilson (DJJ Residential Services), April Walker(DJJ-Central Region),Ramona Salazar (DJJ-Central Region), Melissa Johnson (DJJ-Central Region),  Christine Gurk(DJJ – OHS), Heather Lincicome (DJJ-OHS),John Beck (DJJ-OHS),Leslie Swanson (DJJ-OHS) and Gayla Sumner(DJJ-OHS) for the excellent regional training. 

The next regional training on the MHTC-JJ curriculum will be provided in the South Region. The Office of Health Services will be providing information regarding the upcoming regional training over the next few months.


Detention Kudos

JDO Stacy OliverI would like to give my sincere thanks to JDO Stacy Oliver from the Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was instrumental in assisting with a school bus accident in the Interlachen area on September 19.

The Putnam County school bus was dropping off children when it was cut-off and overturned leaving numerous children injured and needing to be evacuated. Stacy was one of the first persons on the scene and responded quickly and efficiently to ensure the safety of the children who were a part of this unfortunate incident. After the injured students were assisted, Oliver helped children reunite with their parents at the onsite command center.

Stacy acted without hesitation and many of the first responders commented that Stacey exuded bravery, effectiveness and humble leadership. Putman County School Board Official Travis Weaver said of Stacy, “Like every parent, I want a better place for my child. I can say that I feel blessed to know that there are people in our community like Stacy Oliver.  My child and every child in our community is lucky to have a neighbor of his character.”

Stacy was recognized at the Putman County School Board Meeting on Tuesday by Superintendent of Schools Phyllis Criswell.