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Secretary's Message

August 31, 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

Juvenile Justice Leadership Network Meeting

Last week I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Juvenile Justice Leadership Network Meeting (JJLN) at Georgetown University. The JJLN is part of Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) and was created to support juvenile justice and probation leaders at the state and local level who are engaged in significant reform efforts in their jurisdictions. The JJLN supports some of the most innovative juvenile justice leadership in the country as they work to implement their reforms. Along with Florida, participants include representatives from New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Idaho, California, Illinois, Kansas, Oregon,  Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. 

Presentations followed by in-depth information sharing covered topics such as confinement in juvenile facilities and lengths of stay in juvenile justice programs. DJJ’s Human Trafficking Director Bethany Brimer Gilot was in also attendance for a portion of the program to present on Florida’s initiatives to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children, which include the state’s use of an identification tool in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.  

Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Meeting

On Thursday, I attended the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Meeting at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in Tampa. During the meeting, the Cabinet discussed the quality of afterschool care, early education for dependent youth, and Eckerd Community Alternatives. In addition, Cabinet Chair and former DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters proposed a new framework and next steps for the Cabinet. 

The mission of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet is to ensure that the public policy of Florida relating to children and youth promotes interdepartmental collaboration and program implementation in order for services designed for children and youth to be planned, managed, and delivered in a holistic and integrated manner. The goal of the Cabinet is to improve the self-sufficiency, safety, economic stability, health and quality of life of all children and youth in Florida. 

Broward Judicial Meeting

On Friday, myself along with Executive Director for the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) Shay Bilchik met with Circuit 17 juvenile circuit judges and their staff at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. This meeting was held to continue the dialogue between judicial stakeholders and our agency regarding the Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Project (JJSIP) in Broward County.  Also in attendance at the meeting was General Counsel Brian Berkowitz, Assistant Secretary for Residential Services Laura Moneyham, Director of Research Mark Greenwald, and Circuit 17 Chief Probation Officer Cassandra Evans.  I would like to thank our DJJ staff and our judicial partners in Circuit 17 for their continued support of JJSIP and their commitment to our agency’s reform initiatives! 

2015 National Faith Symposium

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice along with the Department of Children and Families and the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council will host the 6th annual National Faith Symposium entitled, “Our Children, Our Future, Strengthening Families and Communities through Faith,” October 13-14 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. 

The Symposium is one of Florida’s premier events, bringing together leaders of faith, child welfare, juvenile justice, and others to empower Florida’s children and families. The Symposium will connect conference attendees to resources, highlight best practices, and provide training in order to enhance faith and community-based programs that serve at-risk youth and struggling families.

Keynote speakers include: Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of what U.S. News and World Report has cited as one of the top schools in the country, Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. Capital Prep has sent 100% of its predominantly low-income, minority, first generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006.

Also keynoting will be Pastor Jay Haizlip, the founder and Senior Pastor of The Sanctuary in Orange County, California. He’s known in the Christian world for his street ministries, reaching out to troubled youth and finding them in prisons, skate parks, and impoverished communities. He stars on the popular television show “Preachers of L.A.” 

Throughout the conference, there will be more than 30 breakout sessions and numerous booths and displays. For more information on the symposium, click here.  

Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency Distinguished Service Award

Congratulations to Marlene Jefferson, a Circuit 9 juvenile probation officer, who was recognized last week with a Distinguished Service Award by the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency at their 86th Annual Criminal Justice Training Institute. Marlene has worked the past 7 years for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Previous to that, she spent twenty-five years with the Florida Department of Corrections where she began as a probation officer in Orlando and worked her way up to deputy regional director. Marlene also was a learning resource assistant at Valencia Community College. She received her associate degree from Valencia Community College, a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Central Florida and completed the Certified Public Manager Program at Florida State University.

Marlene has a special talent for baking and cooking which turned into a side business as a caterer for more than twenty years. She shared her talents as a cook and entertainer by holding cooking classes as well as teaching youth in the community and at church about manners, etiquette and hosting community events. She is a phenomenal inspirational and public speaker, and a strong-willed woman of faith who loves educating people, mentoring children and adults and giving back to the community.  

Detention Update

The youth at the Bay RJDC have a productive new way to spend their time thanks to Bay RJDC’s community advisory board and several DJJ staff members. A new basketball court was created over the summer and was poured over the Mod 1 recreation area. The Board worked with North Region Director Jeff Wenhold and Headquarters staff member Maureen Honan over the last several years and found grant money to help this basketball court come to fruition. Bay’s community advisory board is full of passionate members who continue to advocate for our youth in creative and generous ways. Superintendent Heather Hart honored two of our Board members, Beth Mathis and Jackie Parish who have consistently gone above and beyond to provide support to our youth and officers and were instrumental in making this basketball court a reality. Last weekend, JJDO II Shari Johnson organized a basketball tournament so that our youth could take full advantage of the new court.  I would like to thank everyone who took part in this event as well as all those who worked so hard in making this court a reality. It will allow our youth to engage in a positive activity and work off their worries in a positive manner.

Several weeks ago, we shared the pictures from the Okaloosa RJDC as they were making their transition into a more trauma informed care environment. Well I am pleased to report that the team at Okaloosa has completed their soft room transition and added new furniture! The softer, more pleasing theme of the room was inspired by the classic children’s board game Candy Land.

The staff and youth at the Escambia RJDC participated in a two day ‘Back to School Bash’ at the facility. On day one, the girls at Escambia painted dolls during teacher planning day while the boys participated in a video and card game tournament. The second day consisted of a poster board contest as well as a basketball tournament for both the boys and girls which was followed by refreshments for all involved. The bash proved to be a great start to the school year for our students.

Juvenile Justice Officer Academy Graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to the newest DJJ detention officers who graduated Friday, August 28, 2015, in a ceremony at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa.  The officers supervise youth in state-operated detention centers as they await an appearance before the court or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility. Thanks to Frank Gargett, director of detention services for the central region, for delivering the graduation address. Kudos to learning consultant Kiva Hagans for training the officers for this position of critical responsibility. Each graduate successfully completed 240 hours of training to become a certified officer. The graduates will work at the Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) listed next to their names.\

First row (Left to right):  Monica Coleman – Hillsborough RJDC, Mariana Barboza – Manatee RJDC

Second row:  Carlo Patrizzi – Pasco RJDC, Jai Elridge – Hillsbrough RJDC, Richard Acosta – Manatee RJDC, Jerome Salata – Pinellas RJDC 

Third row:  John Sanders – Pinellas RJDC, Trent McCann – Pinellas RJDC, Deshawn Williams-Tolson – Pinellas RJDC

Fourth row:  Jordan Leathers – Pasco RJDC, Natasha Sullivan – Hillsborough RJDC  

Fifth row:  Kiva Hagans – Learning Consultant

Education Update

I am pleased to share this letter below from one of our VSA teaching artists that was sent to Hope Sheppard from the Okeechobee Girls Academy. The VSA is a project that is run by Cindy Jones in DJJ’s Office of Education, and is a state organization on arts and disabilities housed at the University South Florida in Tampa.   The Artist in Residency program, which DJJ utilizes through a JABG grant is a 10 hour, 1 hour per week, 10 week session.  Our interested programs apply and VSA then matches them with a local artist who comes to their facility for the 10 week program.  The main art forms that are available include: visual art, drama, music, and  movement or dance.  The applicant chooses which art form is preferred and the artist is chosen for that focus.  The arts education program is a tool for learning though creative expression and enhances cognitive and social outcomes. 

At Okeechobee Girls Academy, local teaching artist Mia Lindberg assisted the girls with making ceramic pottery that they were then able to keep with them. As you can see by the pictures above, all of the girls who participated really enjoyed themselves. The letter reads:  

Miss Hope,

 Many, many thanks for the opportunity to work with you, your staff, and the girls. You have created a home away from home with an atmosphere filled with trust and caring for these young ladies. The level of respect and enthusiasm I've experienced from everyone at your facility, but especially from the girls is humbling.   

I've taught all types of young folks and adults for over 25 years.  The vast forest of people, situations, and opportunities not only benefits the group; but help me grow as a teacher and person. As they say, when the student is ready the teacher will come...

I've had nine little teachers surrounding me, how blessed am I... 

Mia Lindberg, Teaching Artist        

Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene gave a presentation to parents, youth, and staff from the Center for Manisfestation in Tampa on August 15th. Tina presented “B true 2 u” to encourage the youth in attendance to always be honest and truthful with themselves, and to ask for help whenever they need assistance. She also delivered a presentation titled “Preventing Burn-out, Igniting Passion!” for staff and parents.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady attended the 50 LARGE grant presentation ceremony on August 20th at the Ghazvini Learning Center in Tallahassee. Verla, who is also a steering committee member for 50 LARGE, was on hand to see Woody Simmons, Vice President Governmental Affairs, with Verizon Communications, present a $5,000 check to 50 LARGE. The donation represented the second grant received from Verizon. The Verizon grant will support incentives for youth participation. Due to statutory mandates, federal and state funds cannot be used to provide student incentives. Therefore, 50 LARGE relies on community donations and grants to provide student incentives. The youth stipends, food and additional supplies are critical components to keeping students engaged and committed to the program.

Other dignitaries who were in attendance included Dr. Michael Moore, 50 LARGE Chairman; Rhone Francis,  Interim Program Coordinator; Larry Thompson,  Former 50 LARGE Program Coordinator; Richard H. Richardson, Principal, Second Chance; Dr. Michelle Gayle, Assistant Superintendent, Leon County Schools and  Representative Alan Williams, Florida House of Representatives.

Recently, DJJ Prevention Partner Pastor Gary Montgomery and his wife Josephine from Living Stones International facilitated visits between incarcerated parents and their children at the Wakulla Correctional Institution in Crawfordville.  Living Stones is a children and family outreach organization hosting quarterly special bonding visits between children and their incarcerated parents. 

In 2007, Living Stones International (LSI) was established as a faith-based children and family outreach and social service organization working with "children of inmates and their families."  LSI's programs and services teach fathers and mothers how to be better parents and be more active in their children’s lives; offers children of inmates the tools to overcome obstacles and prevents them from following in their incarcerated parent's footsteps; and advocates on behalf of families to community and government officials.  

Since its inception, LSI has been transformed from a Marriage Really Works Education Program to a Prison-based Program working with children of inmates and their families.  For the past three years, children have been reconnected to moms, dads, and grandparents in the state prison system comprising the counties of Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla.

Probation Update

Civil Citation Coordinator Cathy Egley and Administrative Assistant Suzanne Schinina from Circuit 7 recently delivered 25 backpacks filled with school supplies to Chisolm Elementary School in New Smyrna Beach. 

The school supplies were donated by probation staff in Unit 303 while the backpacks were given by the Daytona Beach Police Department. Cathy and Suzanne reported that some homeless youth enrolled in school and would not have had school supplies if it were not for this donation. School began in Volusia County on August 24. 

Special Projects Manager Adam Wiegand from Circuit 12 participated in a graffiti abatement project and park clean up with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department and Keep Manatee Beautiful. Adam accompanied several probationary youth on this clean up as a way for them to earn valuable community service hours. All told, these youth eliminated graffiti on over half a dozen sites around the county, picked up 275 pounds of trash and performed a total of 70 community service hours in an effort to keep Manatee County beautiful.

JPOS Jesus Sosa, SJPOs Shelley Turner, Patricia Locker, Sara Folkins and Dennis McKinney and JPOs Rickayle Zanders, Dexter Battle, Jennifer Urra, Kenneth Goss, Frank Mitchell and John Hile from Circuit 13 participated in a ride along program with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Tampa Police Department. The ride along was entitled, “Operation Back to School.” Our officers spent nearly seven hours on the night of August 21st conducting curfew checks and contacted approximately 100 youth.

Circuit 17 CPO Cassandra Evans participated in the BAYS Florida Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program’s Bowling Bash fundraiser on August 15th  in Fort Lauderdale. The purpose of this event was to raise money for needy families in Broward County that are serviced by BAYS.

Bay Area Youth Services, Inc., D/B/A BAYS Florida was organized and chartered as a Florida Not-For-Profit Corporation on April 19, 1982. The agency, founded by William F. Bowman, was developed with the objective of improving the quality of life and increasing the potential of Florida’s youth. Since that time, BAYS has provided high quality and professional youth and family services throughout the State of Florida.

Reform Specialist Tina Robinson and CPO Cassandra Evans from Circuit 17 took part in the 4th Annual Prevention Forum and Back to School Shoe and Backpack Giveaway on August 22nd in Fort Lauderdale. The event was hosted by Team Saving Our Youth (Team SOY), which is an organization dedicated to ensuring our youth and their families have access to innovative, quality programs and services that will transition and transform their lives to help shape their future. Tina and Cassandra accompanied four of our probationary youth to the event where they had the opportunity to gain community service hours as they assisted with prepping and closing the event.

Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson assisted Billy Davis from A Positive Step and the Monroe County Coalition with a dorm check-in at the Florida Keys Community College. During the dorm check-in, Elaine and Billy distributed literature and assisted students and their families in fulfilling their opening day requirements.

Residential Update

Over the summer, the Youth Champions at the Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, served an important humanitarian cause by responding to a call for help from the Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County (HFH).  In a two-day period, eight different boys volunteered to paint the interior and exterior of a home built for a needy family.  MYA Recreation Therapist Sheratanairy Flores and Transition Services Manager Ralston McInnis supervised the youth on the first day.  On the second day, Transition Services Manager Ralston McInnis, Youth Specialist II Andrell Smith, and Assistant Facility Administrator Michael Williams supervised them.  Activities included orientation by HFH staff, project instructions, and safety education.

Facility Administrator Johnny Richardson made a surprise visit to the project site and has agreed to partner with the HFH volunteer program, which will support MYA’s efforts to serve the community and educate MYA residents while preparing each to successfully transition into the community.  Mr. Richardson congratulated each young man and thanked him for his service, explaining to each one the positive affect his work made in helping others experience homeownership.

In July, Mr. Richardson represented MYA at the dedication ceremony for the HFH family home. He joined many HFH and G4S executives in recognizing the new homeowners.

Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County creates partnerships with families in need to build affordable homes together.  Each partner family is required to invest a minimum of 400 sweat-equity hours of labor into the construction of homes before becoming eligible to purchase their home using the HFH 30-year, non-profit, no-interest loan.

We are grateful to the MYA Youth Champions for their hard work with Habitat for Humanity Palm Beach County.  These young men helped a family’s dream of home ownership come true. 

Earlier this month, a student from Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, attended the graduation of his mother from the University of Central Florida.  His mother earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice “…to become more aware of the processes that are utilized in the judicial system.”  

He witnessed more than 2,000 students graduate from college—especially his mother who diligently worked to continue her education and maintain fulltime employment, while being single mom— and attending the graduation ceremony motivated the youth.  His therapist asked him how he felt about his mother’s achievement.  He replied, “It makes me want to work harder to make her proud because she has made me proud.”  

The youth’s mother was pleased with the support she received.  Many thanks go to the program’s staff and DJJ personnel who worked to have her son’s attendance of the graduation approved.  

Staff Development and Training Kudos

Sr. Learning Consultant Duane Pace from the Office of Staff Development & Training was recently recognized by CPO Dave Cornuet for the Suicide Prevention Training he conducted for Circuit 2 Probation. The letter reads: 

Mr. Pace:

I wanted to send you a quick note in regards to the wonderful Suicide Prevention Training you conducted yesterday for my Circuit 2 Probation staff. I am not sure that we could have received a better training by a more enthusiastic Instructor. You fulfilled our annual training requirement while providing an exciting and enjoyable class on a very important subject. I truly hope that you will consider presenting on this same topic next year.

Thank-you again 

2016 Prudential Productivity Awards

DJJ employees are among the most innovative and creative people in all of state government as they continue to seek more productive ways to perform their jobs more efficiently. I am excited to announce that the 2016 Prudential Productivity Awards, presented by Florida TaxWatch, provides an excellent opportunity to recognize the innovative ideas and resulting cost savings accomplished by enterprising DJJ employees. 

Nominations are now open and forms for the 2016 Productivity Awards can be accessed at http://ppa.floridataxwatch.org/. Please take a few moments today to review the application and instructions and nominate a deserving DJJ employee or team of employees. 

Last year, our agency received a total of five Prudential Productivity Awards across several different program areas. Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, so don’t hesitate to look over the award criteria and decide what you or your team has done to make our agency run more efficiently.  

Nominations can be downloaded and completed off-line prior to submitting an on-line nomination. The site is now open and will close on October 7, 2015. To ensure that all nominations are accurate and properly reviewed, DJJ will not approve nominations submitted after September 30, 2015 at 5:00 PM.  No new nominations will be accepted after that time.
Nomination packets and questions regarding nominations should be directed to Patrick Fargason at Patrick.fargason@djj.state.fl.us or 850-717-2712.