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Secretary's Message

July 27, 2015

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Last week was a full and productive time for our agency and providers as we continued our work in serving Florida’s at-risk youth and families.  I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our agency staff, our colleagues, and the youth in our care.

As always, 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.


Christina K. Daly

Human Trafficking Update

Last week was a busy one for our human trafficking initiatives and staff. Human Trafficking Director, Bethany Brimer Gilot, spent last week in South Florida conducting site visits and meeting with various stakeholders involved in the anti-trafficking efforts in Florida. On Monday, she presented to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking's Resources and Services Committee on ways in which DJJ’s Human Trafficking Screening Tool (HTST) is moving forward around the state and opportunities for other agencies to also utilize this tool. Bethany also co-facilitated a meeting on Monday afternoon of all of the agencies providing residential services for trafficked minors throughout the state of Florida, from safe houses to Statewide Psychiatric Program (SIPP) facilities with Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) programming.  It was a productive strategy meeting regarding increasing human trafficking-specific services throughout the state. 

Also this week, both Miami-Dade and Broward County's Juvenile Assessment Centers hosted Bethany, as she met with staff to discuss the HTST and how it is currently being used within those facilities. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with and thank those staff on the frontlines who are working so hard to help identify our youth that may be victims of human trafficking.  

A special thanks to Latawun Bess, Maria Gilhooley, and Tina Robinson for assisting in setting up these meetings and for taking the time to meet with Bethany in an effort to help the Department continuously move forward in our efforts to address human trafficking. 

Detention Update

The youth and staff at the Okaloosa RJDC are continuing their transition into a more trauma informed care environment. As you can see in these pictures, they are painting several of their mods into a softer, more pleasing look. The kids at Okaloosa decided to make their theme the classic children’s game Candy Land

Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene delivered an inspirational speech at an empowerment and awareness event called “MASKcara,” on July 11th in West Palm Beach. Tina, who also serves as an author, speaker and comedian, was joined for the function by Myesha Chaney, author of “Hiding Behind the Lipstick” and television personality from the “Preachers of L.A.,” and Miranda Wright, CEO and Founder of Nesting Knowledge at the Wright Place.

The speakers spoke of the importance of standing up for the truth and not (literally or figuratively) hiding behind masks that shield your true identify from those around you. 

In the above photo, Tina Levene (right) poses with Myesha Chaney, TV personality from Preachers of L.A. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialists Pat McGhee and Tina Levene attended and participated in the Fashion, Health, and Youth Camp on June 19th at DAB Community Services in St. Petersburg. Tina conducted a workshop on the importance of respect, problem solving, and leadership skills. She made learning fun through motivating teens and teaching them to use energy positively. Tina taught active listening skills and how to choose positive words and peer relationships. Tina was interactive with the girls and used hands-on activities. She also gave them permission to use their words and ask for help.  She taught resiliency and leadership skills.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Lydia Breaux-Davis attended a substance abuse training on July 17th at Bradford Health Services in Pensacola. Lydia participated in the training titled: “The United States of Numb: Current Trends in Adolescent Substance Abuse.” The training was facilitated by Angela Camp, National Coordinator of Adolescent Marketing with Bradford Health Services.

Among the topics addressed were: adolescent developmental issues, physical and cognitive changes in adolescents, common signs and symptoms of adolescent addictions and risk factors associated with adolescent addiction. Bradford Health Services offers substance abuse treatment for adolescents and adults.  Regional offices are located throughout Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady conducted a Community Conversation on July 16th at the public library in Monticello. Verla teamed with the Public Defender’s Office, Healthy Start, Department of Health, Department of Corrections, Jefferson County Library staff, and community members to discuss issues of concern involving youth in Jefferson County.

Community Conversations provide local residents with the opportunity to discuss areas of concern in their community in an effort to provide services to youth and families and work towards steering youth away from the juvenile justice system. Verla also provided an overview of DJJ’s initiatives and prevention priorities. To date, the Department has conducted 53 conversations in 33 counties involving close to 2,200 participants.

Probation Update

Probation staff in Circuit 19 are gearing up for their 3rd Annual Back to School Bash on August 14, and one of their many contributors, BB&T Bank, generously donated 50 backpacks to our Department to hand out during the event. These backpacks were filled with much needed school supplies and hygiene products. In the picture to the left is ACPO Dorothy Malik, BB&T Staff members Toyan Hill and Donna Padilla and DJJ Secretary Specialist Geraldine Cox. In the right photo stands CPO Wydee’a Wilson, Reform Specialist Michelle Simpson and ACPO Malik. 

Last Tuesday, probation and prevention staff in Circuit 6 held their fifth Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) conversation between Pinellas County youth and law enforcement officials. The event, presented in partnership with the City of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department, the St. Petersburg Police Department and the Pinellas County Job Corps Center, was a question and answer session that looked to improve communication between youth and law enforcement. This successful event brought some incredible dialogue to the table relating to profiling, racism, and how one dresses. I would like to thank the following DJJ staff members who took part in the event: CPO Adrienne Conwell, JPOS Barbara Koppelmann, SJPOs Nikisha Branham and Jeffery Williams, JPOs Aimee Reffner, Brittany Peterson, Micah Taylor, Sr., Deon Wimberly, Cheryl Lucas, Sarah Blumberg and Kristina Hollingsworth, Reform Specialist Hazel Hudson, Special Projects Coordinator Jill Gould, and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee.

On July 13th, Probation staff in Orlando completed their first “Stop Now and Plan” (SNAP) group. The Orlando group had a total of four young men and their parents who participated and successfully completed the program. In addition, the Orlando site also held a SNAP sibling group in which they were taught some of the SNAP skills.  Each participant was presented with a certificate of completion. The facilitators highlighted each participant’s positives attributes and contributions made throughout the course of the group.  

The group had a parent who summarized her experience with the SNAP Program to the group as the following:

“The past 13 weeks have been the good weeks of my life. I have learned so much as a parent from SNAP. I have learned a lot of techniques that have improved my relationship with my son. I am so glad I was chosen to participate in the SNAP Program.”

I would like to thank all of the facilitators for their hard work, dedication, and commitment throughout the course of the first class including: Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson who also serves as our SNAP Coordinator in Orlando, JPO Michelle Woodcock, Central Probation Director Cathy Lake and CPO Jill Wells

Education Update

The teams from AMIkids programs across the Southeast have arrived in Florida City, where they are gearing up to perform three days of open water dives to earn their open water diver certification. All of the groups have completed SCUBA training in a closed water environment and are ready to get into the open water. The goal for the week is to learn everything we need to know about diving safely, and most importantly, to have fun!

Youth from both the Miami North and South facility were in attendance. Each Miami program came with four students and three staff, all of whom are chopping at the bit to get out on the boat.

 Excitement was in the air as all of the teams met up on Monday evening for dinner. The boats are launching at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo bright and early Tuesday morning. The park is America's first undersea park, which extends three miles into the ocean and is about 25 miles long. The student divers will expect to see a wide variety of tropical plants, birds, and of course, marine life! 

Residential Update 

Last month, three residents of the Union Juvenile Residential Facility—a non-secure program for males, ages 12 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC—attended an event known as the Educational Transition Planning Panel.  Not only did the youth perform some of their music, they also participated in a round table discussion. 

The youth received great feedback from DJJ Director of Education Development Julie Orange who said, “I got more positive feedback from their panel and music.  The young men showed such poise and maturity well beyond their years.  Many people met them in the hallway afterwards to express their personal sentiments as it touched them deeply.”

On May 30, five students of the Orange Youth Academy and the Orlando Intensive Youth Academy (OYA/OIYA)—non-secure commitment programs for males, ages 12 to 18, which are located in Orange County and operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC—attended Public Safety Day at the Northwest Recreation Complex located in Apopka.  Public Safety Day was sponsored by the Florida Hospital Apopka

The Northwest Recreation Complex has more than 180 acres of land, including soccer fields, multi-purpose fields, lacrosse fields, flag football fields, baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, pavilions, and a 9-mile walking trail.

The young men from OYA/OIYA learned about public safety from various demonstrations given by Apopka’s police, fire and emergency medical services.  The day featured police SWAT and K-9 demonstrations, a mock vehicle extrication by the fire department, a variety of emergency vehicles, and medical helicopters.

Shown above is the mock vehicle extrication demonstration by the Apopka Fire Department.  Below, the boys enjoyed going inside a helicopter, an ambulance, and a fire truck.  

They were fascinated by the fire rescue demonstration, the SWAT Team, and the K-9 demonstrations.  The students asked many questions of the men and women who provide safety services to the public.  The students left the event with a better understanding of the duties of someone in the field of public safety and an appreciation of them as true public heroes.

In June, 10 residents of the OYA/OIYA programs participated in the “Man Up ‘n’ Cook” Second Annual Urban Fathers’ Day Cook-off (sponsored by the not-for-profit organization ManUp! Inc., USA, whose mission is to serve urban neighborhoods as a Multi-cultural, social service Agency for Neighborhood improvement and for the complete Understanding of emergency Preparedness!), at the Central Florida Fairgrounds located in Orlando.  The sponsors were the FAMU College of Law and Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation

This event featured various recruiters, including Bethune-Cookman University, Mid Florida Tech, Valencia College, United States Air Force, United States Marine Corps, United States Navy, Job Corps, and CareerSource of Central Florida.  The students spoke with recruiters, sampled some of the food, and played games.

One of the highlights of the event for the students was when they met NFL Green Bay Packer Safety Ha’sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix who grew up in nearby Eatonville.  He is standing in the middle of the boys in the photo to the right. 

When the students returned to the programs, they explained to the rest of the students and staff that this was the best outing they ever participated in because they learned about the sacrifices one must make to face adverse situations and take responsibility for one’s actions or to “man up.” 

A week later, the residents heard from a special guest speaker—2008 Olympic Bronze Medal Hurdler David Oliver (shown right) who now lives in Kissimmee.  He also won the bronze medal at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships and a gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2013.  In May 2015, he was recorded as running the fastest 110-meter hurdles at Beijing’s World Challenge.  

Mr. Oliver spoke to the OYA/OIYA students (shown right) about perseverance, discipline, and being a role model for many to follow.  He displayed his medals (shown left) and discussed his knowledge of the track and field sport, answering the students’ questions.

Office of Health Services Update

Statewide Helpline for Questions about Psychotropic Medication 

The Office of Health Services (OHS) would like to inform Residential and Day Treatment programs, Detention Services, Probation staff, and Medical/Mental Health providers of a new Helpline for questions about psychotropic medications. 

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has partnered with the University of Florida Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to pilot a statewide toll free telephonic consultation help line for prescribing practitioners, nurses, mental health and substance abuse clinicians, and other DJJ staff and providers.

The purpose of the help line is to facilitate access to expert consultation on questions concerning the safety and well-being of children and adolescents in DJJ facilities who are receiving psychotropic medications. It does not represent a second opinion, but is an educational line designed to give information about psychotropic medications.

To schedule a consultation, callers will be asked to leave information with the consult line staff.  The consult line staff will take information about the youth including age, height and weight, medication history, and the reason for contacting the consult line. Daily appointment slots will be available, and all appointment time will be provided within two working days after the initial contact. The consultation will be provided by experienced licensed physicians who hold certification in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. A written summary of the consultation will be sent by fax after the call.

Toll-free number:


9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight/Standard Time

For a printable flyer to distribute to staff or display in your facility, please click here.