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Secretary's Message

October 18, 2013

Secretary Walters’ Weekly Letter

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 www.faithsymposium.com.***






                                                                                                             From Left to Right: Becky Linn, DJJ                                                                                                                       Prevention Specialist; Sharon Langford,                                                                                                        County Commissioner, School Transition Specialist and                                                                                                   Truancy Officer, Gilchrist County Schools; Jill Wells,                                                                                                     Chief Probation Officer Circuit 8; me; Deputy CJ                                                                                                                      Schauble, Gilchrist Sheriff’s Office.

This week, I had the pleasure of joining Office of Prevention at two community conversations, in Madison and Gilchrest counties. We had great attendance at both meetings and I was thrilled that DJJ staff from the region and local residents took the time to share their concerns regarding at-risk and delinquent youth, as well as the many ongoing efforts taking place in the community to   steer troubled youth toward positive decisions that will help them avoid the juvenile justice system. For instance, the school resource officer and county commissioner featured in the picture above work together to ensure that troubled youth have the resources they need to thrive academically. Commissioner Langford explained that they have a great relationship with the local thrift store to help financially strapped families have appropriate clothing and supplies, and Deputy Schauble provides transportation to and from school for the community’s youth who otherwise would be truant. These two are just a few of the many wonderful people I met and stories I heard of community members going above and beyond.


I’m already looking forward to next week’s Community Conversation in Gulf County! To see the schedule of future meetings, click here


Legislative Update

This week, the Office of Legislative Affairs took some time to visit the AMI Kids Tallahassee program. AMI Kids contracts with the school district to educate troubled youth who are currently in the juvenile justice system. These youth not only receive education, but counseling as part of the program. Counseling services are provided through contracts with DJJ. A special thanks goes to Tallahassee AMI Executive Director Shannon Baker, who took time out of his busy schedule to provide the Legislative Affairs staff with a tour of the program.


Prevention Update

Yesterday, Theda Roberts and Joshua Kuch hosted a National Webinar entitled Classification of Misdemeanor Offenses: Civil Citations, Juvenile Justice, and the Impact on DMC. Each year, millions of misdemeanor cases are filed in state, municipal and juvenile courts resulting in overwhelming dockets and overcrowded jails and detention facilities. The webinar spoke on reclassifying misdemeanors in the juvenile justice system. Presenters focused on the civil citation process and its effect on juvenile justice system involvement. Civil citations hold youth accountable for their actions while diverting them from formal processing, thus avoiding the stigma associated with a criminal record. Additionally, civil citations represent a considerable cost savings to the state. 

Last Saturday, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene spoke at the HeartDance Foundation’s “Café Chocolat Retreat” in Tampa. HeartDance, which was founded by Dotti Groover-Skipper who recently received DJJ’s Human Trafficking Advocate of the year Award, helps Tampa-area women and children reclaim HOPE and human spirit by shining the love of Christ, especially in the darkest of places.  They are passionately dedicated to helping those recovering from the human trafficking industry, addiction, incarceration and other traumatic life experiences.

Deputy Manager Rhyna Jefferson attended the Tallahassee Alumni Chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity’s Kappa League Fall Induction Ceremony last Saturday at the Jack McLean Community Center in Tallahassee. Kappa League is the leadership development component of the fraternity’s national mentoring program, “Guide Right,” for male high school students. The Kappa League Leadership program teaches young men discipline, commitment, public speaking, perseverance, respect and service.  The Office of Prevention has worked with the Tallahassee Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi on other events, such as their annual “Stomp out the Violence” community day. The Tallahassee Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi is comprised of great men of distinction and educational attainment with a sincere desire to serve and give back to the community. 

Last Saturday, Lydia Breaux-Davis was a featured presenter at Cease Fire Pensacola: “Stand Up, Speak Out and Take Action against Youth Violence,” at the Catholic Charities Community Outreach Center.  Lydia presented an overview of the DJJ continuum of services for representatives of the Cease Fire Pensacola group. The group met in response to the recent shooting death of a 14-year-old girl. The group’s goal is to increase awareness of problems in the community, solicit community support and involvement and develop a long-range-plan of action to help children stay out of trouble.  

On Wednesday, Federal Grants Coordinator Juliet Westmoreland assisted in picture day at Gilchrist Elementary School in Tallahassee. Juliet helped ensure the process of taking pictures for the elementary school ran smoothly. She helped children follow directions, collected name cards and made sure children were prepared for photos.





Detention Update

On October 5, Michael Such from Leon RJDC took part in a “Stop the Violence” rally in Tallahassee. The event took place on Texas Street where three recent shootings had taken place. Dozens of people took to the streets and marched to remember those who lost their lives in the recent shootings and were tired of seeing violence in their community. Local residents took notice and the march made local news. 

On Thursday, Oct. 10, Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted Mr. Taurean Sinclair of Jacksonville’s Mayor Alvin Brown’s office and Director of the Jacksonville Journey and his team as they met with and interviewed 10 local black males being housed there. The youth were allowed to select the subjects most important to them for discussion, and the three topics on everyone’s minds were fathers, education and jobs. Mr. Sinclair and his team held an open, honest discussion with the youth and I am pleased that they took the time to visit with our youth. A special “Thank You” to Donna Clayton, Reform Specialist for coordinating this event. 


Probation Update

Last Friday, the Fort Myers Police Department (FMPD) honored JPOS Thomas Jenkins (pictured center) for his work and partnership. In 2007, Thomas was assigned to work with the FMPD Juvenile Arrest and Monitoring Unit (JAM). He has worked diligently with the JAM unit that intensely monitors young people the courts have assigned to probation or home detention. Jenkins has participated in countless community service projects with FMPD and has helped probationers complete community service hours. Jenkins has been an asset to FMPD and we are lucky to have him on our team.

On October 1, DJJ staff from Circuit 13 participated in the National Night Out (National Crime Prevention Night) in Tampa. This event is designed to bring the police and community partners together for one cause.  Participants included Tampa Police Department, Metropolitan Ministries, Feeding America, recruiters from the U. S. Military, Derrick Brooks, Erwin Technical Center and Target.  The Department of Juvenile Justice spoke with teens and their parents about the Department of Juvenile Justice and implementation of the Department’s Roadmap to System Excellence. City of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn complimented DJJ on a job well done.




On Tuesday, JPO Tara Daltry and several of her youth worked in partnership with the Sun Coast Community Center in North Fort Myers passing out food to local families in need. Tara’s youth volunteers earned valuable community service hours for the work they performed. I would like to thank Tara for her fabulous community service. 

JPOS Melissa Fuller, SJPO Patricia Johnston and JPO trainee Arilu Diaz from Circuit 6 participated in Pasco County’s second annual National Night Out on October 1. The event was hosted by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and consisted of many local vendors who came together with the goal of providing information to the children and families of Pasco. The JPOs maintained a table and DJJ board that provided information about DJJ’s Roadmap to Excellence as well as materials for local area providers who provide services for youth.  This event enabled  DJJ JPOs to connect with the community and to promote positive interaction between DJJ and the youth, the families, and other community stakeholders.


On October 5, JPOS Melissa Fuller, SJPO Patricia Johnston and support staff Gwendolyn Wright from Circuit 6 teamed up with local youth to participate in a community outreach event with local non-profit Vets for Pets. The youth in attendance had the opportunity to demonstrate their artistic abilities by creating works of art for the pet owners.  The interaction between the JPOs, kids, and pets was emotionally rewarding and beneficial to all of the participants. 



DJJ Probation staff from Circuit 18 was recognized Wednesday for their partnership with Wraparound Seminole at the Children’s Cabinet annual meeting. Seminole County JPOs have referred youth and families for wraparound services since program inception in mid-2012.  The original focus for Wraparound Seminole was DJJ youth that had processed through the Seminole JAC and had been identified for further services as a result of the Pre-PACT and the TASC evaluation. Additional populations of youth are now served, however, the support and commitment of the JPO’s continues resulting in positive results for the families they serve

JPO Ardena Bosely from Circuit 13 took part in  a “Feeding Children Everywhere” event in Tampa at DeBartolo Development’s office building. This local effort was part of a nationwide event that provided more than 100,000 meals to needy children. The event was put on by the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association locally, and Ardena is a board member. 

On September 28, SJPOs Traci Pullman, Jared White, Jon Justison along with JPOs Nikisha Branham and Greg Wade from Circuit 6 teamed up with the Pinellas County Science & Technology Education Innovation Center, and Charles Girard of Living Building Solutions to provide the youth in Pinellas County an opportunity to give back to their community and  offer some insight into the latest technology that goes into developing cost efficient and environmentally friendly buildings. After the youth completed their volunteer hours, they were given a tour of the first prototype of a completely self-sustained school building, dubbed “School in a Box,” that Mr. Girard has spent the last few years developing. The prototype displayed for the youth paved the way for Mr. Girard to develop the country’s first and only LEED Certified (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) school. Representatives of the Science Center, DJJ and Living Building Solutions are all looking forward to continuing to involve youth in the community while also teaching them valuable life skills they can use to further benefit themselves and their community.

I would like to share this letter from an out of state client to JPO Madeline “Matty” Miller from Circuit 1 in Escambia County. Like so many of our JPOs, Matty devotes so much of her time to the betterment of the youth in her community. She takes the time to treat each youth with respect and it shows in the letter below. It reads:



Hello Madeline, I just got done with my 20 hours and my dad should be sending the paper of the signatures and hours I’ve done soon. I wanted to tell you thank you so much for supporting me and I know it’s your job but it meant a lot that you didn't treat me like I was a terrible kid that did a horrible thing and shouldn't be forgiven. Thank you for all your help and being so kind to me. I have definitely learned my lesson and I’ve decided to go further with volunteer work and do more helping in the library at Whittier and also try and candy stripe at St. Ann's. This whole mess of what I did in Florida has actually turned for the best. I’ve gotten a lot better grades and I feel like I’ve gotten closer to my dad and I lost friends but I gained new ones that are better than before. I really can’t thank you enough and I am so much happier now than I ever was. Hopefully one day we meet in person, on good terms (ha-ha). I hope to find a job soon and start my life after high school is over. The one main thing I’ve learned from the damage that I caused to people and myself is, "it’s not about what you did, it’s what you do after your mistake" that stuck with me this whole period of time and it’s all thanks to you! 


Kudos to Circuit 6 JPO Yvette Carethers who was wonderful on a JS lockout case that was averted at the last minute. The court psychologist, Dr. Christine Jaggi, shared that Yvette was on top of everything and went more than the extra mile.  When things came together at the last minute, Yvette went to the juvenile detention center after hours and stayed very late to get everything ironed out so the youth could be successfully discharged to a family arranged placement rather than to foster care.  She was wonderful with the father and the new guardian. 


Residential Update 

If you ever want to see a soldier sweat, just put him in front of a group of girls on a mission!  Recently, the students of JoAnn Bridges Academy (JBA) welcomed recruiters from the Army, Navy and Air Force. The JBA students prepared questions, both general and personal. They were given the challenge to ask sound, solid questions and gather as much information as they could about serving in the armed forces. 

The JBA guests said they were surprised by the quality and quantity of questions the students asked.  Staff Sergeant Cavusoglu (SSgt. Cav) of the US Army said, “Wow!  They made me sweat it there for a bit!”  SSgt. Cav was an energetic and well-received speaker.  Eric Blocker, from the Navy, related well with the situation that many of the JBA students are in, encouraging them to persevere.  









MSgt. Garrett D. Forehand, US Air Force, broke it down to the essentials saying, “The two best things you can do for yourself at this point is to (1) Keep your nose clean; and (2) Read everything you can get your hands on!”  He also shared personal experiences to which the JBA students could relate.  Overall, the recruiters were excited to speak with the girls and the students learned valuable information that can be applied when making decisions about their futures. 

Kudos to the Residential team, led by Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham, for exposing these youth to these opportunities to serve their country! 


Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP) Update

Over the past two weeks, staff from the offices of Residential Services, Probation & Community Intervention, and Research & Planning travelled to Ocala (Circuit 5), Tampa (Circuit 13) and West Palm (Circuit 15) to further the department’s goal of the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP)—to provide the right service for the right youth, at the right time.  Each daylong presentation included case studies of youths in the juvenile justice system and how to implement the JJSIP protocols.  Case studies were presented by juvenile probation officers and facilitated by other DJJ staff members.  Participants included representatives from various community agencies, DJJ field staff, contracted service providers, community medical and mental health agencies, county sheriff’s offices, county school board districts and educators, representatives from the Florida Department of Children and Families, and other child welfare entities.


The purpose of exercises was to review individual cases, determining where a youth came into contact with various parts of the juvenile justice system.  Participants then determined how JJSIP protocols would help the youths at a much earlier point in their progress through the system.  The goal of initiating the protocols early is to intersect a youth’s trajectory through multiple systems so that the youth is prevented from becoming a serious, violent or chronic delinquent.



Meeting organizers from the DJJ Circuit Probation Offices included Lori Bright (C-5), Judy Roysden (C-13), and Greg Starling and Geeta Loach-Jacobson (C-15).  Technical assistance to help train the meeting facilitators for each of the three meetings was provided by the Georgetown University’s Council of State Governments’ Manager of Field Training and Technical Assistance Marion Kelly.  Meeting facilitators from DJJ headquarters included Kara Ahearn and Jeannie Becker-Powell (Probation & Community Intervention); Michael Baglivio (Research & Planning); and Meg Bates, Laura Moneyham and Vanessa Wicker (Residential Services).  Case study presenters from the Circuit Probation Offices included John Alicea (C-13), Shawntel Barnes (C-15), Valeree Clark (C-13), Orenthol Curtis (C-13), Tricia Elliott (C-13), Stacey Epstein (C-5), Holly Harrison (C-15), Valentino Hart (C-13), Katie Mabe (C-13), Adrian Mathena (C-5), Heather Newman (C-15), Johnny Odom (C-13), Donna Oliver (C-13), Ben Overgaard (C-5), Delores Richardson (C-13), Phillipa Robertson (C-13), James Coley Scott (C-5), Susan Snell (C-13), Bernika Stokes (C-5), Mae Turner (C-15), and Halina Wlodarczyk (C-15).  




Quality Improvement Update


As part of The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s effort to implement evidence-based and best practices throughout the continuum of services, The Sourcebook of Delinquency Interventions 2013 located at http://www.djj.state.fl.us/partners/QI/publications catalogues information regarding cognitive-behavioral curriculums and community-based family therapies that have been proven through research to reduce recidivism and/or criminogenic needs.




This document, produced by the Bureau of Quality Improvement contains the most current information available about the delinquency interventions presented.  Several interventions have been added to each tier, and practices have risen in ranking as new empirical evaluations have been conducted which advances our understanding of an intervention’s effectiveness.


Since publication of the 2010 Sourcebook, important milestones have been achieved in advancing the implementation of evidence-based and best practices within Florida.  The Department continues with efforts to build sustainability of practices through the implementation of the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) to include: qualified training, proper implementation, fidelity adherence and coaching of evidence-based delinquency interventions and best practices as well as research, development and pilot testing/evaluation. The SPEP process will help the Department evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of services with the goal of making them more accountable and effective in areas including: organizational culture, evidence-based delinquency interventions implementation and sustainability, management and staff characteristics, youth risk and needs assessment practices, program characteristics, behavior management strategies, inter-agency communication, and evaluation.


The goal of the Sourcebook remains to serve as a tool to sustain and advance efforts by providing a catalogue of examined practices by type as defined by The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.




September Workers Compensation Report



The September workers compensation report has been released with 45 first reports of injury/illness in September. This number is up slightly from last year’s report at this time.  



I encourage employees to think safety first in each of their daily duties and movements to prevent these incidents that cause pain and suffering and lost or diminished work time. The safety office will be distributing DJJ Safety Source informational flyers on these topics to our safety coordinators. Please place the flyers on safety bulletin boards, discuss in staff meetings and have staff place flyers in all work areas. Employees that consciously think "safety first" will eventually unconsciously practice "safety first" in their everyday duties and prevent accidents. Constantly making safety important through awareness will help accomplish this.




Retirement Kudos

Finally, I would like to recognize two employees who plan to retire Oct. 31.



Sr. JPO Jesse Alston from Circuit 7 in Volusia County started his career with the Department in 1983 and I would personally like to thank him for his thirty years of dedicated service.



In addition, JPO Michael Robinson from Flagler County will retire after 39 years of loyal service to the Department. Michael began his career with the Department in 1974.



The Circuit 7 probation offices in DeLand will present Michael and Jesse with a plaque for their years of outstanding service to the state. I would like to personally thank them for their many years of commitment to Florida’s youth.