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Secretary's Message

November 22, 2013

Secretary Walters’ Weekly Letter

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no weekly letter next week, so I am taking this opportunity to wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving. I will be spending this holiday in Miami with my husband, Cliff, and our daughter, Charlotte; those two are truly the greatest blessings of my life and I am so looking forward to spending this time with them. As I reflected upon the many reasons I have to give thanks this holiday season, the amazing staff we have at DJJ comes to mind, and I want to take this chance to also express how grateful I am for each of you. The very nature of this agency means that our jobs can be very difficult at times, but the data shows we’re making a difference. We’re seeing all of the indictors moving in the right direction and I know that is a direct result of the hard work of our staff who have committed their lives to helping Florida’s most vulnerable youth succeed. Thank you for all the you do.


Happy Thanksgiving!


Wansley Walters

Community Conversations

This week I spent some time on the road with the Office of Prevention as they continued their Community Conversation Tour. As most of you know, these conversations give local residents the opportunity to speak with our agency to better determine what resources and services are needed in their communities. On Monday, we were in Perry where dozens of Taylor County’s citizens came out to voice their concerns.

On Wednesday, we traveled to Quincy and to meet with Gadsden County Conversation. We were thrilled to have Police Chief McNeil and DJJ staff in attendance, as well as representatives from Sen. Mumford's office, the State Attorney's Office and local providers for the fourth community conversation in Gadsden County. The overwhelming turnout at these meetings is evidence that Florida communities are engaged and ready to work together toward solutions. 

Today, I had the pleasure of visiting the Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center where I met with staff, youth and the resident therapy dog, Justice. I thoroughly enjoyed touring the facility and talking with the staff and youth about their experiences. Although I had heard a lot about Justice, this was my first time meeting him and in person and I am pleased to report he lived up to the hype. The smiles on the faces of the youth he interacted with were priceless and I’m thrilled to have finally met him. 

Service Delivery Improvement Update 

I am excited to announce the latest step in DJJ’s Service Delivery Improvement Initiative. On Nov. 18, 2013, the Office of Staff Development and Training, in partnership with the Manage Incidents component of the Initiative, piloted training on the new management review process. This training outlines process improvements in how the Department manages incidents reported to the CCC and our efforts to ensure the safety of youth, staff, and the general public while improving youth and program outcomes.

The pilot group consisted of current administrative review staff and program review staff from each of the program areas.   The pilot training was successful and valuable feedback was obtained to ensure the training curriculum meets the needs of the Department and staff conducting incident reviews. With the pilot successfully completely, we will embark on statewide training beginning in January 2014. Stay tuned for more updates!  

 Legislative Update

On Tuesday, Chief of Staff Jason Welty and Legislative Director Jon Menendez travelled to Orlando to speak at a Florida Partners in Crisis Meeting. The two men shared the important DJJ reforms taking place as a part of the Roadmap for System Excellence; particular focus was on legislative priorities for DJJ in the upcoming 2014 Legislative Session.

Deputy Legislative Director Marcus Smith and Director of Administration Fred Schuknecht provided a tour Tuesday for several members of the House Criminal Justice Appropriation staff. The tour covered several of our local and regional programs and facilities.

Champion of Hope Award

The Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based (FBCB) Advisory Council presented Living Stones International with the Champion of Hope Award at the National Faith Symposium in Orlando, FL on Nov. 6, 2013. Our agency nominated Living Stones International for the award that recognizes organizations that go above and beyond the ordinary to improve the lives of at-risk youth, children-in-care and families in need.  

Pastor Gary and Elder Josephine Montgomery accepted the award on behalf of Living Stones. The Montgomerys initiated and implemented the Children of Inmates’ program in North Florida State prisons as a member of the Service Network Miami, FL. Additionally, with Gary and Josephine’s oversight, Living Stones volunteers and interns mentor at-risk youth as well as provide food to the Bond Community in conjunction with Farm Share. This work and more from Living Stones is executed with private funders and donations.  

Probation Update

November serves as National Adoption Month and accordingly I would like to introduce you to JPO Darrell Cope from Circuit 4. Darrell, who was adopted himself  1961, has spent his adult life giving back the gifts he’s received by becoming a foster parent to 63 foster sons over the last 10 years. During that time, Darrell has adopted three sons and has since become a grandfather as well. He speaks to various community groups advocating for adoption as well as legislators at the Florida State Capitol. Darrell believes he was called to give back to God and the community for the blessing of being adopted and being allowed to adopt as a single father. I would like to personally thank him for all of his hard work. 

Also in honor of National Adoption Month, members from Circuit 4 wore white shirts in support of their Community Awareness Focus of Adoption. In the photo (L to R): Chapell  Walker (JPOS), Vicki Burke (JDAI Coordinator), Mary Buckner (Secretary Specialist), and Donna Clayton (Reform Specialist).

Two weeks ago, SJPO Rose Mells from Circuit 6 volunteered at the Veterans Day community event at Wildwood. The event honored three former Marines at which they were awarded the Civilian Gold Medal, which is the highest commandant honor. The ceremony was held at the Wildwood Recreational Baseball Complex and featured various members of the community. 

My special thanks to JPO Katie McCrary from Circuit 1 who coordinated with the local Project Connect case manager, Karey Roberts, to organize a community service opportunity for youth in DJJ’s care. Over the course of a weekend, the youth built a state-of-the-art children’s playground, which Crestview community families will enjoy for years to come. 

All in all the youth received experience in following directions and construction all while having a good time working outdoors. Katie, like many of our JPOs, recognized an opportunity and invested her best effort to get this done. 

On November 9, JPOs Pierre Conner and Greg Wade from Circuit 6 assisted in the Gulfport Community Service Project. Pierre and Greg supervised several youth in their care who participated in the cleanup effort, and those youth earned community service hours while satisfying court fees and sanctions. 

Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones received the 2013 Individual Civil Rights Award this week given by the International Association of Police. Chief Jones, who was named chief some five years ago, was a lifelong member of the Gainesville Police Department and worked his way up the ranks. Chief Jones is primarily known for his work in helping troubled kids. He is the co-founder of the Reichert House, an after-school program, and spearheaded the BOLD-Brave Overt Leaders of Distinction-program for men ages 18-24 who are unemployed or underemployed, lack a high school diploma or GED, or college education, or have past criminal offenses. He was instrumental in helping Gainesville obtain a federal grant to study why police have more contact with minority youth and why more minority youngsters are arrested. Gainesville is one of only two cities to earn the grant. Chief Jones serves on the State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, National Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, and the Alachua County Juvenile Justice Council.

On October 25, Circuit 6 staff members Liz Gattarello and Lawanta Stewart represented the Department at the Annual Coming Home Showcase of Services. The showcase was presented by the Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition and offered attendees the opportunity to contact resources in their area. 

Last Saturday, Reform Specialist Tracy Olson along with JPOs Julia Rogers and Antonio Henry from Circuit 18 participated in the Eighth Annual Day of Magical Connections sponsored by Families in Transition of Seminole County, which specializes in helping homeless families in and around Seminole County. In addition to receiving valuable resource information, these needy families received free clothing, dental exams, medical exams and haircuts. One of our youth in the care of JPO Rogers participated in the event and earned valuable community service hours. 

Last Friday, JPO Tara Daltry from Circuit 20 was the guest speaker at Fort Myers High School. Tara spoke about her career as a JPO to an 11th grade Social Studies class. Tara spoke to the class about the importance make good decisions and doing the right thing as they embark on their final years of high school.

Prevention Update

In addition to the Community Conversations, the Office of Prevention has embarked on Bridging the GAAP discussions. As I mentioned last week, Prevention staff members were in the South Region for five discussions covering, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Key West. This week, the Office of Prevention held another GAAP discussion in Tallahassee. These GAAP discussions are designed to provide a foundation for youth to foster positive relationships with law enforcement officers and create a well-balanced understanding by law enforcement of today’s youth.

On Tuesday, Federal Grants Coordinator Juliet Westmoreland volunteered at Gilchrist Elementary School assisting with the Department of Health’s annual health screening. DOH provides vision and hearing tests to students in Leon County Schools. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene spoke with students during the Great American Teach-In Wednesday at the Palm River Elementary School in Tampa. Using the theme that “Healthy minds build healthy bodies,” Tina spoke with the 75 second grade students to encourage them to make good choices in life and to never use drugs.

On Nov. 5, members from the Office of Prevention and the State Advisory Group (SAG) attended an Orange County Juvenile Delinquency Hearing in Orlando. 

Last Friday, Prevention staff as well city and judicial officials from Miami-Dade attended a ribbon-cutting at the South Florida Workforce Investment Board for their new Youth Mobile Workforce Assistance Center at the Miami RJDC. The Youth Mobile Workforce Assistance Center is the catalyst for the Youth Reentry Initiative, which promotes the successful re-entry of young offenders into their communities and aims to reduce youth recidivism.

Detention Update

DJJ has partnered with Pet Therapy, Inc. and this precious bunch of Bichon Frises have already paid a couple of visits to the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center. The facility's youth had the opportunity to spend quality one-on-one time with each of the dogs and a great time was had by all. Special thanks to Pet Therapy CEO Kathy Alexander and board member Patrick McGeever for making the trip! 

Superintendents, supervisors and regional office staff participated in the Toys for Tots Toy Drive at the last superintendents meeting. Each person was asked to bring in an new unwrapped toy to help a child in need in their community. The toy drive was headed up by DIO Coordinator Al Lewis who made lunch for everyone who brought in a new toy.

Photo From Left to Right: Jeffrey Lonton, Superintendent, Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center; Vickie Alves, Superintendent, Brevard Regional Juvenile Detention Center; Alexander Lewis, Senior Management Analyst Supervisor, DIO Coordinator; Edwin Kelly, Superintendent, Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center; Monica Gray, Superintendent, Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center; Larry Eason, Assistant Superintendent, Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center; Ida Burns, Acting Superintendent Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center

Juvenile Justice Academy Graduation

Congratulations to the juvenile justice detention officers (JDOs) who graduated today in a ceremony at Valencia College in Orlando. JDOs supervise youth in state-operated regional juvenile detention centers (RJDCs) and county-run facilities as they await an appearance before the court or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility. Thanks to Jon Loftheim, Director of Detention Services for the Central Region, for delivering the graduation address, and to Learning Consultant Tanesha Blackmon, who trained the officers for this position of critical responsibility. The JDOs successfully completed 240 hours of training to become certified officers. They will work in the facility listed with their names.

(Left to Right) Front row:  Cheryll Parker–Orange RJDC, Leslie DuFresne–Volusia RJDC, Kanesha McKinney–Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, Walter Lewis–Volusia RJDC, Brittany Burkes–Orange RJDC

Back row: Tremain Tillman–Orange RJDC, Scott Venters–Orange RJDC, Rustavious Redding–Volusia RJDC, Matthew Robinson–Volusia RJDC, Richardson Lalgee–Orange RJDC, Antwan Underwood–Orange RJDC

Residential Update

Last week, I told you that, Deputy Secretary Christy Daly and I, along with a select group of research and residential staff, and residential contract providers traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to meet with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and leaders from the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which houses the state’s Juvenile Justice Program. The final day of the hands-on experiences included a tour of Babler Lodge, in the St. Louis area, which is a moderate risk residential program.  

“Kiss Breast Cancer Goodbye” was the theme of the 10th Annual Breast Cancer Symposium held at Jackson Hospital in Marianna on October 17, 2013, where the giRls of DOVE Academy’s vocational education program, Culinary Arts Academy, helped prepare a meal to serve more than 300 guests who attended this year’s event to raise awareness of breast cancer. After the meal, the giRls joined the guests to learn invaluable information about breast cancer, early detection, self-examinations, healthy lifestyles and healthcare. The giRls were accompanied by their culinary arts instructor, the education director and assistant director and the director of the Boys & Girls Club.

During the week of Oct. 28, Senior Management Analyst II for the Office of Residential Services (HQ) Debbie Gries conducted facility site reviews in the Central Region. That week, Deb also conducted facility reviews in the South Region. Deb enjoyed meeting youth who created the accompanying drawings and paintings and she enjoyed being able to photograph the renovations at Lake Academy, which were undertaken by the contracted provider to create a more homelike environment.

Spring Lake Youth Academy

At Spring Lake Youth Academy, a program that serves low-risk males, Deb, Nick and Tracey got to meet some of the youths in class. The photos above depict artwork created by youth M.R.  He showed Deb his initial, pencil drawing (shown above left), which he planned to enter in a contest held by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS) for a personal narrative with artwork that pertained to the narrative.  In follow-up, Deb received a photo of his completed drawing (shown above right).  Note that the artwork states “Attributes of Personal Narratives.”  In the upper left is “Imagery.”  In the lower left is “event.”  Midway down is “character description” and “interesting details” is at the bottom right.  Unfortunately, M.R. was unable to enter the CEEAS contest because his artwork was not related to his personal narrative but he did an awesome job!

Lake Academy (Tampa/Hillsborough County/G4S)

Shown in these photos are examples of some renovations made by the contracted provider in the facility, which was formerly the Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center-East. G4S worked in conjunction with Deb and Jeff Whitfield (facility services, DJJ-HQ) to make sure the renovations were done in accordance with state requirements.  The painting and flooring (shown left) create a light, cheerful feeling for the females served by the program.  The painting and renovations—like those shown in the youth rooms (bottom left)—are now throughout the facility. The dragon picture below is a photo of artwork created by youth L.S. at Lake Academy, who drew this picture freehand and colored it in two days. Very talented!

Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility (Tampa/Hillsborough County/G4S)

This program serves moderate-risk males. Shown above are some of the paintings the program youths have done throughout the facility. The painting of a café is in the culinary arts classroom. The other two are in the dorm areas and reflect some of the teachings found in the evidence-based curriculum “Thinking for a Change.” 

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Many people may view the holiday season as a joyous time of the year, but some experience stress and tension during this time due to financial difficulties, illness, tragedy or other problems. Please remember that help is available through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).   


All requests for information and assistance are strictly confidential. EAP offers services to DJJ employees and household members for a range of issues, including:  

  • Stress and anxiety issues with work or family;
  • Difficulties in relationships;
  • Alcohol, tobacco or drug abuse;
  • Grief issues; and  
  • Depression.

Employees or household members will be provided short-term counseling sessions at no cost.  Services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To access services, please call (800) 860-2058 or visit www.MyFlorida.com/MyEAP.

Quality Improvement Update

The Bureau of Quality Improvement (QI) conducts annual reviews of each state-run and contracted provider program. This is a collaborative process between the review team and the program, and the focus of these reviews is continuous improvement in services to children and operational processes. Upon completion of each QI review, the program has an opportunity to evaluate their overall QI review experience, including individual QI team members. The feedback DJJ receives ensures fairness and fidelity to the purpose of the review, and allows for the continuous improvement of the QI process.

Last month, the QI team in Jacksonville conducted the annual review of Union Juvenile Residential Facility located in Raiford, FL. Executive Director; C. Mike Smith offered the following comments to Bureau Chief, Jennifer Rechichi:  

“We could not have ask for a better group of reviewers. They were professional and their teamwork, knowledge and clarity was extraordinary. At this point, I feel this was the most effective and user friendly review that I have been a part of. I really can't think of anything that needs to change. The overall review was a great experience. The review team was extremely professional as well as sensitive to the operation of the program. They were neither intrusive nor intimidating. Our staff felt at ease throughout the process and actually enjoyed the interactions with the review team. The flexibility and patience of the review team should be noted as well.

Thanks to the QI team members, Janet Hampton, Katina Horner, Mike Marino, Angela Mills and Lynda Rolack. Your conscientious commitment to helping programs improve is one example of DJJ’s reform efforts to make Florida a leader in the effective administration of juvenile justice.

In addition, the Bureau of Quality Improvement (QI) conducts Motivational Interviewing trainings throughout the state on an on-going basis.  Motivational Interviewing is a directive, client-centered interaction style for eliciting behavior change by helping youth to explore and resolve ambivalence. Motivational Interviewing training is intended to provide staff members with more effective communication strategies to utilize when interacting with youth. These strategies focus on reducing resistance and are non-confrontational in nature and involve less escalation during the course of interactions. Motivational Interviewing teaches staff to elicit positive youth behavior by enhancing the youths' motivation and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own actions. The DJJ Basics of MI and the Stages of Change Curriculum (2008) is delivered over two days and involves lecture, role-playing, group activities, and individual readings. Completion of the two-day DJJ Basics of MI and the Stages of Change Curriculum is a prerequisite for attending C-PACT and/or R-PACT training, as well as facilitator training in any of the DJJ recognized evidence-based practices.

Last week, Sandra Johnson, Technical Assistance Specialist, conducted a Motivational Interviewing training in Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Arthrine Roberts, CINS/FINS Counselor, Mount Bethel Human Services Corporation Inc. offered the following comments to Program Administrator, Jackie Young, about the training:

“Good morning. I had to share this with you. I had an intake this morning and I was able to identify the stage of change that the youth was in. It was so amazing, and was so evident to me because of the training I had with you for the last 2 days. Had I not done this training I would have misinterpreted the youth and would surely not have handled the session the way that I did.  Thank you very much!!!! The training was awesome, I appreciate that you were willing to teach us (yep I’m practicing giving affirmations).”