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Secretary's Message

December 20, 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, both DJJ employees and those who work for our contractors, and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase 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

On Monday, DJJ partnered with Living Stones International to host a holiday fellowship dinner for Capital Area children with incarcerated parents at the New Birth Tabernacle of Praise Church in Tallahassee. Children and their caregivers enjoyed a traditional holiday meal, enjoyed holiday entertainment and received gifts.

Living Stones International has a program that is designed to assist children of incarcerated parents and their caregivers by providing them with tutoring, mentoring services and food throughout the year. They also facilitate visits between the children and the parent(s) who are incarcerated to maintain and build on the parent-child bond even while the parent is incarcerated to mitigate the trauma of being separated and make the transition easier when the parent is released and returns to the community. 

I would like to thank our entire agency for donating gifts and volunteering to serve food – I am so proud to work among such amazing people who worked so hard to make this holiday season extra special for children in our community. I want to specifically recognize a few Office of Probation and Community Intervention staff: Kara Ahearn and Amy Greenwald for spearheading donation collection efforts; Jeannie Becker-Powell for contributing the gifts collected at her family’s annual party to this very worthy cause; and Mark Russell for providing the night’s entertainment – he played the violin and sang beautifully for the guest. The event made the front page of Tuesday’s Tallahassee Democrat. To read the article, click here.  

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the holiday celebration Monday night because I was at the Eighth Annual Models for Change National Working Conference in Washington, D.C. which was hosted by the MacArthur Foundation and supported by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. I was honored to be in attendance as this conference gave me the opportunity to network, share information and learn from leaders in their shared juvenile justice systems reform efforts. More than 400 representatives from 31 states and numerous non-profit organizations were on hand for this intriguing experience. I spent time speaking with other leaders about our Roadmap to System Excellence and our efforts to make Florida a national model for juvenile justice reform. 


 Service Delivery Improvement 

This week, the team around the Provider Management Shared Services project has been strengthened with an important addition. Ashley Douglass has joined the team as the training specialist, responsible for developing the training materials for the changes ahead.

Ashley, a Tallahassee native, has earned her Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Central Florida. She worked in education for 3 years before joining the Staff Development and Training department in November 2013. When not helping making DJJ more efficient, she volunteers with the Big Bend CDC teaching theatre and music classes to under privileged youth.

We welcome Ashley to the team! Feel free to reach out to her (ashley.douglass@djj.state.fl.us) if you have questions!

 Prevention Update

On Monday, Prevention team members in Tallahassee provided food and toys for their “adopted” family through Christmas Connection, an annual holiday drive sponsored by Catholic Charities. The family consisted of a 19-year-old mother with two young sons, a 1-year-old and a 2-month-old. The mother insisted that she didn’t want gifts for herself; instead, she requested games and bedroom comforters for her boys. Thanks to the Prevention elves, the family received comforters, games, toys and a gift card to purchase a holiday meal. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Martin Reid represented DJJ at the Christmas Tree Lighting and Open House at the Boys Town of Central Florida on December 8. The open house was designed to welcome the Central Florida community to the facility and share the holiday spirit from Boys Town.

Martin also attended the statewide planning meeting for the 31st Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run last Friday at the Florida Hotel in Orlando. The event supports the Special Olympics of Florida and Martin represented the agency at this meeting to coordinate events that will be conducted in conjunction with the run. 

On Tuesday, Delinquency Prevention Specialists Becky Linn and Gwen Steverson from Circuit 4 attended the Florida Youth Challenge Academy’s graduation ceremony at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts in Orange Park. More than 175 youth received certificates and multiple youth received scholarships for their success. Established in 2001, the Florida Youth Challenge Academy is a partnership involving the Clay County school district, retired military personnel, Florida National Guard and state departments of Juvenile Justice and Children and Families. A voluntary program, the academy involves five and a half months of residential schooling in academics and life and job skills including self-discipline, self-motivation and time management at the camp.

Probation Update

I would like to thank Latrice Glenn, Carldernett Davis, Glendale Walker and Schnitta Gilreath, of the Department of Juvenile Justice, for bringing Christmas joy to a Central Florida teen suffering from a terminal illness. Earlier this year, the youth was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor while in DJJ’s care. He is currently residing with his aunt, but DJJ’s regional probation staff has stayed in touch and helped them navigate the web of services available through government agencies. Recognizing this will likely be the teen’s last Christmas, the staff pulled together personal funds and surprised him and his aunt with lunch at a local restaurant and several gifts. This heartwarming story is truly a testament to the amazing individuals we have working at DJJ. 

Last Friday, JPO Tara Daltry and Merritt Blandford from Circuit 20 partnered with Officer Dawn Olson with the Fort Myers Police Department for a community service event in Centennial Park in Ft. Myers. Tara and Officer Olson supervised six probation youth as they completed Christmas cards to U.S. service members currently deployed overseas. The youth earned valuable community service hours during this event and enjoyed the opportunity to recognize courageous soldiers who may not be able to spend the holidays with their families. 

Last Saturday, probation staff in Circuit 20 partnered with Healthy Harvest Farms to teach local youth the skills necessary to grow a garden. Seven of the youth in our care participated in learning how to prepare land for planting, planting seedlings, removing the wilted parts of the plants and harvesting vegetables to give back to the community through local food pantries. The community garden is located in Lehigh Acres and has the potential for future expansion. For more information about this worthwhile program, visit http://www.healthyharvestfarms.org.  

Statewide Human Trafficking Director Tyson Elliott held training for Circuit 8 probation staff last Friday at the Florida Alachua Service Center. Tyson’s knowledge and expertise served as an enlightening experience for the audience who learned more about human trafficking and gained knowledge on identification of victims and reporting of incidents. 

Last Thursday, JPO Salita Algere-Mason from Circuit 6 provided transportation for a youth and her father to the social security office in order to obtain a new card; this in an effort to get the necessary documentation together to take the GED test. The youth was recently placed back into her father’s custody after spending the majority of her life in foster care, and the family didn’t have transportation to accomplish these tasks. 

On Monday, JPOS Melissa Fuller from Circuit 6 delivered gifts to the Healthy Start Coalition for the Adopt-A-Mom program on behalf of units 101 and 103 in New Port Richey. This is the third year that probation officers have pulled together to provide a family in need with a wonderful Christmas. This annual tradition emphasizes the rewards of giving to others in their local community.


On November 22, members from the Circuit 9 probation staff held a Thanksgiving Appreciation Luncheon with the Juvenile Arrest and Monitoring (JAM) deputies with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. CPO Cathy Lake presented each JAM officer with a certificate of appreciation for their partnership and support of our JPOs. I would like to extend a special thanks to JPO Irma Meldendez for her hard work in coordinating, planning and cooking for this event. 

Last Wednesday, Reform Specialist Khalilah Daniels from Circuit 13 participated in the Spring Hill Community Center’s Bridging the GAAP event presented by the Tampa Bay Parks and Recreation Department. Approximately 50 middle school aged students were on hand to hear presentations on internet safety, gang-related violence and the facts vs. myths of the juvenile justice system. Staff and parents discussed the Roadmap to System Excellence and reform efforts of the agency. 

The Circuit 14 probation office held their third annual Open House last Friday for more than 40 community partners, court staff, youth, families and staff from other agencies. The open house gave visitors a chance to tour the building and discuss the program plans for the upcoming year. The highlight of the afternoon was the presentation of prizes for the door decoration contest. Panama City Police Chief Scott Ervin served as judge for the event and gift cards were awarded to JPO Jennifer Mefford, Secretary Specialist Renee Crews, JPO Robin Myers and JPO Mary Zahasky for their creative displays. Every office door in the building was decorated, which added to the festive nature of the afternoon.  

I would like to share a letter that was sent by a youth in our care. The letter gives glowing recognition of JPO Tia Williams who has been an outstanding role model to this young lady. It reads:

I am on Ms Tia's case and I was really wondering if I could keep her because when I'm angry she understands me she know me and  knows were I'm coming from she has worked with me once before I'm sure your aware of . I would really love to keep her. My caseworker Gwen Doyle said she had no problem with bringing me back and forth to your guys office, I feel that Ms Tia has really help me to become a better person. She is my role model , she has helped me in so many different ways , and I feel that I am very successful when Ms Tia helps me with areas that I need to work on so PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CAN I KEEP HER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????? Get back to me at your earliest convenience. She is just GREAT!

Juvenile Detention Officer Graduation

Congratulations to the newest class of juvenile justice detention officers that graduated today from the Florida Public Safety Institute in Tallahassee. I was honored to deliver the graduation address to the class. Kudos to Learning Consultant Artavia Parrish for training the officers for this position of critical responsibility and to Senior Learning Consultant Duane Pace for his assistance. The officers successfully completed 240 hours of training to become certified and will serve in the regional juvenile detention center (RJDC) listed next to their names. 

(Left to right) Front row: Scott Bellesfield-Volusia RJDC, Robert Young-Collier RJDC, Angie Sower-Collier RJDC, Terry Spillman-Escambia RJDC, Daniel Barrios-Collier RJDC, Shonobe Morgan-Leon RJDC, Dominique Turner-Leon RJDC, Montea Ellis-Marion RJDC

Middle row: Thomas Molinets-Bay RJDC, Chazten Byrd-Bay RJDC, Brian Washington-Escambia RJDC, Chris Essoe-Okaloosa RJDC, Michael Rafuse-Okaloosa RJDC, Eric Goerdt-Leon RJDC,

Back row: Dexter Delain-Volusia RJDC, Jesse Swift-Okaloosa RJDC, Horace Winn-Escambia RJDC, Melvin Walton-Escambia RJDC, William Canty-Alachua RJDC

Detention Update

The Central Region Superintendents held their quarterly meeting this week where they discussed matters including training, budget, performance management and other operational issues related to detention reform. Detention Chief of Policy Development and Planning Jeff Wenhold was in attendance and offered support as the Superintendents received computer training.


This week, youth at the Volusia RJDC volunteered to help several local churches create animals for their upcoming nativity scenes. 

On Wednesday, our creative young ladies from the Escambia RJDC painted several of the doors in the girl’s module. The warm purple color can just about brighten anyone’s day. 

L to R (Gospel Rapper Kevin L, Shelia Ray Charles and her husband Tony Steptoe)

The Manatee RJDC received a special visit during their holiday programming on Monday. Shelia Ray Charles, daughter of the great Ray Charles, along with her husband Tony Steptoe and Gospel rapper Kevin L made an appearance. Shelia gave a warm and positive holiday message to all of the youth in attendance. The youth decorated the facility in a holiday theme in advance of Shelia’s arrival. 

Residential Update

(L-R):  Laura Moneyham, Gwen Nelson, Sophia Ifill, Vanessa Patino Lydia, Katherine Jackowski, Candace Seifert, Vanessa Wicker, Ramona Salazar, Pat Wilson, Sharon Coplin, Monica Webb, Garrett Tucker, Dwight Poole, and Kristen Stablein.

The Office of Residential Services held a gender-responsive workgroup meeting, Dec. 11-12, at the DJJ Probation Offices at the St. Augustine City Hall Complex. This workgroup is integral to the goal of providing quality, gender-specific programming and best practices in residential settings. The group continued their work toward the development of a Gender Responsive Assessment Protocol, a tool that will be used by the Department, in conjunction with providers, to assess services in girl-serving programs. The protocol will assess policies and procedures, practices and services for all aspects of the girls programs. It will provide information regarding whether programs reflect a “signature strength”, are “on track”, or “needs improvement” for the areas addressed in the protocol.

This workgroup focused on improving gender-responsive issues and programming. Workgroup participants also included Residential Services Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham (DJJ-HQ), Meg Bates (DJJ-HQ, residential), Pat Wilson (DJJ-HQ, residential), Candace Seifert (DJJ-HQ, residential), Vanessa Wicker (DJJHQ, residential), Katherine Jackowski (DJJ-HQ, research and planning), Dwight Poole (DJJ-program monitor, DOVE Academy), Garrett Tucker (DJJ-program monitor, JoAnn Bridges Academy), Gwen Nelson (DJJ-program monitor, Alachua Academy), Monica Webb (DJJ-program monitor, Frances Walker Halfway House), Ramona Salazar (DJJ-program monitor, Hillsborough Girls Academy and Central Pasco Girls Academy), Sophia Ifill (DJJ-program monitor, Broward Girls Academy and Okeechobee Girls Academy), and Sharon Coplin (DJJ-program monitor, Martin Girls Academy). In addition to DJJ staff, the workgroup included Kristin Stablein from Chrysalis Health (a group home for girls who have been victims of human trafficking or sexual abuse), and Vanessa Patino Lydia and Lawanda Ravoira from the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

The next steps are to bring in the leadership and clinical staff from the girl-serving programs to review the tool and address plans for implementation.

Dr. Ravoria (Pictured center), the CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center sent me this fabulous letter acknowledging the hard work of Assistant Secretary Moneyham during this workgroup. It reads:

Dear Secretary Walters,


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Laura Moneyham for her leadership in working to improve the quality of services for girls and young women who are placed in residential commitment programs.  Laura invited Vanessa Patino-Lydia, our Vice President of Research and Planning, to participate in the protocol assessment planning meeting held last week in St. Augustine.  I had the opportunity to attend for a few hours.  It was very heartening to hear the dialogue and to see how hard everyone was working to develop an effective tool to better provide guidance and support to the residential providers.  It was clear that there is a collective vision for creating quality services for the girls and young women.  I left feeling feel of hope and I look forward to continuing to see how the process unfolds.  We are delighted that the Department is modifying the tool created by the Policy Center staff and believe that the changes recommended by the DJJ staff will result in a useful monitoring and training tool.  I wanted to thank you for your support and to let you know we are here to support these efforts in any way we can.




The residents of Central Pasco Girls Academy (CPGA), a moderate-risk program operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, for females ages 13 to 18, worked with members of the Van Dyke Church and volunteers from Jesus For Juveniles (JFJ) to create 200 headscarves for orphans in a Tanzanian village. The sewing machines, supplies and tools, and the fabric were donated years ago by members of Van Dyke Church. Recently, more fabric was donated by Cathy Vick (who heads up the sewing team). In addition to Cathy, volunteers Lilian Devaux and Chris Briggs, and Recreational Therapist Sean McLawhorn taught the six participating girls how to make the headscarves. Members of the sewing team have been making scarves since 2011. Headscarves made by girls in the program have been distributed on two trips to Tanzania and one to Haiti. This time, the youths worked on the scarves for two to three months, making more than 100 scarves. Last year, they made approximately 130 headscarves.

This year, they also made 200 ornaments and cards to distribute to the children at the orphanage. The wrist ornaments were made by the youths on a Wednesday evening with help from several Jesus for Juveniles volunteers. The headscarves, wrist ornaments, cards, and some candy were given out to the children and their caretakers at the orphanage. These small gifts are all that these orphans will receive for Christmas. The good works of the CPGA have reached around the world.

Last Saturday, five residents of Big Cypress Wilderness Institute, a moderate-risk program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by AMIKids, Inc., traveled to the Center for the Arts Bonita Springs to learn a bit about one of the world’s mysteries and two artistic media. They learned about the monument statues of Easter Island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean and Instructor Cesare Morisco taught the young men how to create miniature duplicates of the famous Easter Island statues, using modeling clay.

He demonstrated each step of the process and the boys displayed tremendous creativity with their mini-statues—like the one shown in this photo (left).

But that was only the first art lesson of the day. The second lesson involved a special technique of using water, ink and large sheets of paper to create abstract paintings. The boys dropped different colors of ink into a pan of water. Then using random motions, they gently swirled the ink around, which left a unique pattern of multi-colored swirls on the water’s surface. Each boy then dropped a sheet of paper onto the surface of the water for a mere two seconds, lifted it up, and produced a stunning design.

SkillPro Update

Did you know SkillPro will be used by juvenile justice workers in both state-run and contracted facilities? By offering easy access to professional training and development opportunities, SkillPro supports a culture of continual improvement in the care and services juvenile justice professionals provide to troubled youth. 

SkillPro offers greater value to contract providers. There will be no change in the cost to providers for SkillPro online learning; they will continue to annually reimburse DJJ $35 for each user. 

REMINDER:  SkillPro is scheduled to go live in January 2014. 

TRAINING COORDINATORS: Please be sure to print out your CORE All Training Completed Report for all staff before the CORE system is terminated on December 31, 2013. A form to track instructor-led classes conducted during the SkillPro transition period is now available. To print a copy of the form, as well as the most recent checklist, please visit the SkillPro webpage: http://www.djj.state.fl.us/services/support/staff-development/skillpro-learning-management-system. We are working on compiling an email distribution list for training coordinators. Please continue to check the SkillPro webpage regularly for updated information. 

Chili Cook-Off and Door Decoration Contest Winners

We are pleased to announce that out of 10 contestants in the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation’s (FJJF) Chili Cook-Off, Chandra Fields from General Services Purchasing & Leasing was victorious. All contestants were rated on aroma, color, consistency, taste, and lastly, but no less important aftertaste. If it is going to be with you for a while, we want you to enjoy it.

Please help me wish Chandra a hearty congratulations and thanks to everyone who helped raise money for the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation.

FJJF is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation and a direct-support organization for DJJ that works to raise private funds to promote delinquency prevention, intervention and educational opportunities for at-risk and delinquent youth. Programs under the Foundation provide funding to assist youth that have been involved with the juvenile justice system. In the past, youth have been awarded funding for assistance for college tuition, books and related fees, GED-related fees, and the cost of acquiring a Florida identification card, among other things. To learn more about FJJF or to donate, please visit www.djjfoundation.org

We must say that the thought, quality, craftsmanship, and artistry of the doors that were decorated at DJJ HQs is beyond belief. There was a healthy sense of competition amongst our DJJ staff that elevated all of our doors and brightened our holiday spirits. After considerable thought and deliberation from our four Assistant Secretaries (and a special thank you to Jeff Wenhold for filling in for Assistant Secretary Strange) we are proud to announce that Detention’s Doggie North Pole door was victorious. We would like to thank everyone for the participation in this annual event. The entire design was delightful, but my favorite part was the poem, which references our dog therapy program.

Happy Holidays

T'was the night before Christmas, when all through mods,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a dog.
The handcuffs were hung by the sally-port with care,
In hopes that S.T.A.R. soon would be there.

The youth were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of release dates danced in their heads.
The officers in uniform, buttoned up to their necks,
Had just settled in for lots of room checks.

When out on the rec yard there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my post to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Ran past my partner, knocked over the trash. 

The moon was full in the sky up above,
The fence was secure, the gate like a glove.
When, what to my wondering eyes should I see,
But a miniature sleigh, and the ELT.

With a little old driver, so lively with glee,
I knew in a moment they were here for me.
As rapid as responses to codes they came,
And she whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.

"Now, Christy! now, Jason! now, Julia and Vickie!
 On, Laura! on Wanda! on, Joni! -It’s TRICKY!
 To the top of the razor wire! To the top of the wall!
It’s absolutely wonderful, but please don’t fall!"

 And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
 As I wrote in the log, and was turning around,
It was Secretary Walters not making a sound.

 She was dressed really fancy, from head to foot,
Her clothes were not tarnished with ashes and soot.
A really big bag she had flung on her back,
It was full of a great gifts she was about to unpack.

 Her eyes -- how they twinkled! Her dimples how merry!
Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry!
Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
She was full of pride from head to toe.

She was smart and quick, a right jolly old boss,
I had no words, I was at a loss.
A wink of her eye and a twist of her head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

 She spoke not a word, but went straight to her work,
 filled all the mods; then turned with a jerk.
I knew just then the greatest gift to receive,
were cute rescue puppies from the ELT.

She sprang to her sleigh, off into the fog,
She’d twenty more centers to deliver some dogs.
Retrievers and labs and cute little terriers,
These bundles of fur would break down barriers.

I heard her exclaim, ere she drove out of sight,

I wrote in the logbook, all the details with glee,
But wondered if I needed to call the IOC.
The event was not ordinary, so I made the call,
and simply exclaimed “Justice” for All !

Safety Source

DJJ’s Risk Management Unit publishes a newsletter each month entitled the “Safety Source.”  The December edition is available now and features tips on how to keep your family safe during this holiday season. To view the latest edition of the newsletter, click here. To view past issues of the Safety Source which are geared toward wellness, please click here.