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Secretary's Message

August 24, 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. It was also quite eventful when last Thursday Hurricane Danny became the first hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. Wherever this storm makes landfall, I would like to remind everyone that preparation is key in dealing with any emergency and it important for everyone to be ready at both work and at home.  I would again like to encourage each of you to ensure that you “have a plan.”  

The www.FloridaDisaster.org website (with “Get a Plan” templates) is an excellent source to assist anyone in preparing a personal disaster plan.  We are not able to take care of the youth that need us if we do not take care of ourselves first. 

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

On Monday, I attended the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking’s Legislative and Special Initiatives Committee Meeting at the University of Orlando. Chaired by Attorney General Pam Bondi, the committee discussed the current services available to trafficked minors and adults in Florida with an emphasis on increasing emergency housing options and utilizing wraparound community services in areas that do not have trafficking-specific services available to their victims. I had the opportunity to present updates on this year’s Human Trafficking Summit which is hosted by the Attorney General’s Office in partnership with DJJ and the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking (please see below for more details). The meeting closed with a presentation from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation on factors that increase the demand for the commercial sexual exploitation of children and efforts that can be taken to curtail that demand.

2015 Human Trafficking Summit

I am excited to share with you that the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking has announced that its 2015 Human Trafficking Summit will take place on October 29-30 at the Marshall Student Center on the campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa. 

This conference will host many experts in the field of human trafficking prevention, including several guest speakers from DJJ. It will give law enforcement officials, public defenders, and advocates cutting edge training on how best to stem the tide of human trafficking in our state.  Registration for the Summit is free, but space is limited so we encourage you to pre-register to reserve your spot. 

Residential Providers Meeting

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of hosting our residential providers meeting at the Leon County Human Services Center in Tallahassee. This meeting included the CEOs of DJJ’s residential provider companies and their leadership staff as well as the DJJ leadership team and residential staff.  The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the progress we have made in our residential programs since DJJ’s reform efforts were initiated and to discuss solutions to challenges we still face. 

This meeting featured a presentation by Director of Research and Data Integrity Mark Greenwald on recent delinquency data and how our Roadmap plan is working for residential programs.  We heard from Director of Program Accountability Amy Johnson about rate study and shared services, as well as Director of Special Projects Brenda Posthumus who gave the results of the recent program directors surveys. 

This meeting is an important part of furthering the collaboration between DJJ and our providers in order to provide the best possible services and outcomes for the youth in our residential programs.  I would like to thank the Florida Juvenile Justice Association’s Executive Director Cathy Craig Myers for participating and a big thank you to our providers and their team members for facilitating an open and honest dialogue on how we can all come together to best serve our residential youth.   

Prevention Update

Girls from the PACE Center in Marion County are participating in the “because I said I would” movement which emphasizes the importance of making a promise for the better and keeping it. According to the organization’s website: “because I said I would is a social movement and nonprofit dedicated to the betterment of humanity. We make and keep promises to end suffering, establish peace and build happiness. Our mission is to strengthen humanity’s will.”

“because I said I would” was started by Alex Sheen, who as a young adult lost his father. Sheen was struck by the fact that his father always kept his word, regardless of sacrifice or effort. Sheen believed people need to be empowered to know they can make a difference – to themselves, to family, to friends and to the world – simply by thinking about something important enough to make a promise, and then keeping that promise.

Sheen’s movement is growing throughout the world, and girls at PACE Center Marion participated by studying and discussing the power of a promise and how it can make significant changes in people’s lives. Each girl then took time to think about a promise she could make, wrote it down on a card, and posted the card in the Center’s great room so everyone could see the potential change PACE girls will make. Black bracelets with the words “because I said I would” were provided to each girl as a reminder of her promise. The entire staff participated as well. Promises such as getting along better with a mom, not hurting themselves, helping at a local non-profit, helping a sister as she struggles with cancer, graduating from high school and many others were pledged. 

Through the fall, girls will be reminded of the promises they made, and, if they choose, can report on the progress they have made towards keeping them . The project was provided to PACE Marion by the club sponsors of the Future Business Leaders of America Club at Forest High School in Ocala.

Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III attended a Back to School Event on August 15th at the Greensboro Elementary School. Close to 300 people attended the event where youth received school supplies and encouragement to start the school year. Onazina set up a DJJ display table and distributed information and answered questions about agency initiatives. Also taking part in the event were the U.S. Air Force, Gadsden County Public Library, Big Bend Hospice, Refuge House and Tallahassee Community College.

DJJ staff and prevention providers attended the second quarterly update meeting on August 13th  in Tallahassee. The purpose of the meeting was to ensure communications are flowing effectively from our agency to providers and vice versa. After an update from the April meeting, participants discussed PAR and its projected impact on prevention providers, monitoring (financial, administrative, program and contract), PAT,  and community resources, specifically mental health and substance abuse services.

Jon Howard, State Director, Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, moderated the meeting. Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht welcomed the attendees. Providers at the meeting represented the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, PACE, and North Carolina Outward Bound.    

On August 11th, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady conducted a Community Conversation at the Gainesville Police Department in Gainesville. Among those participating in the conversation were Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones and Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.  The Chief and Sheriff delivered a powerful message about how their agencies are working collaboratively for youth and discussed their new initiatives for prevention.

Also participating were DJJ staff Assistant Chief of Probation Rebecca Rogers, Reform Specialist Melanie Kretzman, and Superintendent Major Forrest Hallam, Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center, who provided overviews of their respective program areas. They shared information, discussed DJJ initiatives, prevention services, and provided Probation and Detention Services updates. Other dialogue surrounded parents/caregivers, families, community activists, businesses, civic organizations, faith partners and others working to provide greater opportunities for Florida’s youth.

The DJJ team collectively worked as a united front and expressed the mission and vision of the agency. This meeting was another step towards developing better collaboration and partnerships in Alachua County.    

Suicide Risk Screening Instrument Webinars

The Office of Health Services (OHS) recently partnered with the Office of Data Integrity to present a series of eight statewide webinars from August 12th through 17th.    The webinars were about the upcoming changes to the Suicide Risk Screening Instrument (SRSI), anticipated for release in JJIS very soon.  Over 470 staff from all circuits of Florida participated in the training including detention, probation, JAC, OHS, regional MQI, contract administration, and provider staff.

The OHS Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Gayla Sumner, and Senior Behavioral Analyst, Joy Bennink, provided an in-depth overview of upcoming changes to the SRSI document.  The training focused on Rule 63N-1 F.A.C., provisions relating to the delivery of suicide risk screening in Juvenile Assessment Centers, JPO Screening Units, and Juvenile Detention Centers.  One of the most notable changes includes new navigational processes, pre-populated data, and automatic notifications.  Another notable change is the addition of questions on the SRSI that screen for alcohol/drug intoxication and withdrawal symptoms.  Lastly, at the request of the Office of Probation, JPO’s are now asked the same interview questions and the parent/guardian as part of the SRSI process.

Future trainings and materials will be offered and available via Skillpro and the OHS website.  OHS would also like to thank Data Integrity Officer Supervisor Jeff Clarcq, Data Integrity Officer Kelli Mukaddam, and Data Integrity Officer Thomas Jenkins for helping to develop and present the JJIS navigational components of the webinars.  

If you would like more information, please contact Gayla Sumner or Joy Bennink through the following link: http://www.djj.state.fl.us/contact-us/health-services

Probation Update

Project Bridge probationary youth in Central Florida recently learned how to fish with the help of local environmental group “Anglers with Attitude.” The kids learned to fish on the shores of Lake May in Winter Haven and received a new fishing pole, tackle box and a Florida fishing license as a part of the event. In between catching fish, the kids helped clean up the shoreline and recreation area of Lions Community Park. After fishing and cleaning up the park, kids, anglers, and program staff enjoyed a cook-out. Event organizer Janis Jones enjoyed spending the afternoon with our kids and teaching them how to fish. She hopes that positive activities like fishing will help them in making good decisions and stay out of trouble. “Anglers with Attitude” will partner with Project Bridge for another event in October.

Probationary youth from the Eckerd Project Bridge program in Circuit 19 participated in a Back to School activity entitled “Education: The Road to Success,” that was hosted by our agency. Youth participated in games and had the opportunity to enjoy free food while receiving information on other resources in the community. These promising students were happy to also receive book bags and free supplies from vendors who donated supplies throughout the community. The new chief of police for Fort Pierce Police Department gave an uplifting and inspirational and motivation talk with the youth of the community.

Circuit 19 Probation Staff participated in an Open House at the Port Saint Lucie Police Department on August 1st. The event celebrated the community’s 40% reduction in crime over the last three years. DJJ staff members set up an information booth where they offered information on the Roadmap to System Excellence, Civil Citation and a handout on the expungement process. Over 80 vendors were on hand for this event including the local K-9 and SWAT teams. Pictured to the left are ACPO Dorothy Malik and Reform Specialist Michelle Simpson.

Probation staff in Circuit 16 teamed up with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and other community stakeholders to collect donations of school supplies and back-packs for those supervised youth and their siblings in need of assistance. Everyone involved was extremely happy to provide those youth with the tools they need to make this school year successful.

Probation Staff in Circuit 19 participated in a Back to School event in collaboration with the City of Fort Pierce to help distribute donated school supplies to area families who are in need. This year the city employees held an ice cream social and were asked to bring in school supplies to help with the drive. Partnerships like these make our community stronger.

JPO Deborah Bunch from Circuit 19 was recently recognized by Assistant Public Defender Michelle McMurtry for her outstanding effort in working with a very difficult delinquency case. The youth in question was charged with a sex offense that required a tremendous amount of added work. I have posted an excerpt from the letter below. 

“I would like to commend JPO Deborah Bunch for her outstanding efforts in a very difficult delinquency case.  Our client was charged with a sex offense that required a tremendous amount of additional work for JPO Bunch.  She sincerely went above and beyond in order to obtain all of the necessary information to ensure that our client received community based treatment instead of a residential placement…  Thanks to her untiring efforts the youth was not committed to the Department.” 

Deborah’s work ethic and dedication to her craft earned her the Employee of the Quarter for the 2nd quarter of this year and she was recognized during a circuit wide probation meeting in June. Deborah displays a great attitude and an eagerness to “get the job done.”  She is very conscientious about her work.  She works very well with the youths and clients that we serve, as well as with our providers and stakeholders. She is always willing to help out and assist anyone that is in need. She volunteers to take on extra cases and assignments and has demonstrated excellent case management skills.  She is truly an asset to the Unit.   

Probation Staff in Circuit 15 participated in the 2015 Community Back to School Bash from August 6-8 at various sites around Palm Beach County. Our JPOs were instrumental in transporting 40 probationary youth to and from the different sites. These youth help set-up tables, hung signs, and organize school supplies which were handed out to over 16,000 students in the local community. All of the youth who participated earned valuable community service hours for their time and received a free book-bag stuffed with school supplies. SJPOs Elsa Westcarth and Heather Newman and JPOs Irene Collymore, Sharon Glass, Christine Rouse and Shaday Peeples worked with the youth at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. JPOS Cedric Pla, SJPO Tiffany Patrick and JPO Rebakah Wilson worked the event at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter while JPO Nathalie Adonis worked the site in Belle Glade. I would like to thank all of these probation officers for their extremely hard work.

JPOs Jillian Kewandowski and SJPO Sara Driver from Circuit 7 participated in the Annual National Night Out Event on August 5th at the Port Orange Police Department. National Night Out is held nationwide annually to help strengthen neighborhoods, police-community partnerships, and promote safe streets. The block party event included safety demonstrations, vendors, and various community exhibit.

Circuit 17 Reform Specialist Tina Robinson and several probationary youth volunteered to assist with a Back to School Rally hosted by the Florida All-Star Youth Program on August 15th  at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Broward County. The event was open to all youth in the Sistrunk community. All of the probationary youth who participated received valuable community service hours for their efforts.

The Circuit 17 Juvenile Assessment Center held its annual team building BBQ on August 12th  Pictured left is Broward County Sheriff Office Sargent Juan Thomas who did an excellent job manning the grill!  The day was filled with spirited camaraderie, light banter and nostalgic storytelling.

Detention Update

Staff at the St. Lucie RJDC have embarked on a t-shirt project in an effort to motivate the youth at the facility. The ‘Teens in Tees’ program allows the young women at the facility to personalize t-shirts with positive quotes or inspirational sayings in an effort to build healthy relationships between the youth and staff. The girls are allow to take their t-shirts home with them upon release. In addition, St. Lucie is continuing to make their facility a more trauma informed environment as evident by the pictures below.

Office of Program Accountability Update

DJJ Contract Managers gathered in Tallahassee last week for the 2015 Statewide Manager meeting at the Florida Sheriff’s Association Training Center. The purpose of this training was to discuss and review current management processes and procedures. The agenda included topics such as administrative compliance reviews, PMM, managing deficiencies, financial consequences, contract file structure, contract close out and transfer procedures and provider on-boarding. Jacqui Hagan from the Office of Staff Development and Training was on hand to lead a half-day session entitled “Introduction to Grammar, Writing and Style.” Bureau Supervisors Coni Ward and Lisa Leath incorporated various breakout sessions concerning contract reconciliation and invoice processing where managers were challenged with writing various contracts that they normally wouldn’t process. Contract Managers Barbara Manakas and Adrian Williams presented on how to verify residential, probation and prevention census reports which proved to be very helpful for those managers who were new to the process. The event provided an excellent opportunity for the bureau staff to brainstorm on ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of DJJ contract managers.

Residential Update

DOVE Academy, a non-secure program for females, ages 15 to 18, which is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., took a group of the residents to St. Andrews State Park for their monthly incentive trip.  Ten young ladies and four staff members enjoyed a hot, sunny day at the beach swimming, picnicking, and learning how to paddle board.

Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, celebrated National Hot Dog Day on July 23, with grand fare and some flare.  Facility Administrator Johnny Richardson prepped the cuisine while program residents voluntarily shared with all of the residents and staff some facts about National Hot Dog Day and the proper way to eat a hot dog.  

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Lead Teacher Dan Wynne donated the cake and the dietary staff—led by MYA Dietary Manager Rosalind Brockington—prepared and served the tasty hot dogs along with delicious choices of fries or chips, pickles, onions, jalapeños, banana peppers, chili and other condiments, and a soft drink or water.

Last week, United States Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Thomas (shown right in the red shirt) and Staff Sgt. Fred Bryner (shown in Army fatigues) visited the residents of the Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc.  The two spoke with the residents about the US Army, explaining what it takes to be considered for service.  They gave out calendars to the young men and inspired several who probably would not have considered going onto the Army unless they had heard from these special visitors.

Walk of Honor Brick Program

The Florida Veterans Foundation is spearheading a “Walk of Honor” Brick Promotion to recognize the 1.5 million veterans that live and work in the state of Florida. These bricks will not only honor those veterans who served our country, but the proceeds will go to assisting veterans and their families who are in need. Governor Scott, legislators, agency heads and veterans and their families who purchased bricks will be invited to a ceremony to present the bricks during the Veterans Day festivities at the State Capitol on November 11. 

All the bricks up to the first 1,500 sold will be in the Medal Of Honor Node, which is the centerpiece between the State Capitol and the State Senate. In return for the sale of the bricks, the Florida Veterans Foundation will be able to provide much greater emergency financial relief support to veterans and its tax deductible to you.