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Secretary's Message

September 16, 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

Residential Update

Union Juvenile Residential Facility (JRF), a non-secure program for males, ages 12 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, conducted a monthly Town Hall Meeting last week.  “Change” was the topic of discussion.  What is change?  How does one deal with change, especially constant change?

The discussion gave the residents opportunities to talk about change from their perspectives.  Each youth’s discussion gave great insight into how resilient they are, flowing with the changes in their lives.  

The Town Hall Meeting also gave the program’s staff an opportunity to emphasize the “triple crown” rewards program, which has proven to be an effective part of the program’s behavior management system. 

Additionally, awards were given to those young men who showed the most advances in treatment, good leadership skills, and motivation in achieving their program goals. 

Last Friday, several of the residents’ Juvenile Probation Officers (JPOs) were given a tour of the Union JRF.  The JPOs who toured the program were the assigned officers for those young men from Judicial Circuit 8.  

At Duval Academy, a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., advisory board members Deloris Williams, Vernell McDaniels, Annie Smith, and Herlena Washington acknowledged a young man on his birthday.  They also presented him with a care package to help him as he prepares for completion of the program and return home. 

The advisory board celebrates youth birthdays monthly and presents each boy with a care package upon release to assist with re-entry into the community.  Inside each care package are hygiene products, laundry detergent, food, and a community resource guide.  Many thanks go to the Duval Academy Advisory Board for your devotion and assistance.  Your gifts to each young man assist him in making a successful transition home.  

Additionally, several residents recently had the opportunity for fellowship with members of the NAS Chapel Jacksonville.  The youth visited the NAS JAX Naval Base for Church service and attended a service at the NAS Chapel.  The young men thoroughly enjoyed attending the church service with members of Duval Academy Advisory Board.  Commander Herlena Washington, advisory board president, spearheaded the outing and made the necessary connections for the youth to have this experience.  

Pictured below are youth of Duval Academy during a meet-and-greet opportunity with Chaplain Dennis Andrews of NAS JAX Navy Base.  Commander Herlena Washington (2nd from left), initiated a partnership with the Naval Base in an effort to broaden the experiences of the youth in the program.  The Naval Base has graciously opened their doors to the residents.  In attendance with the youth was Recreation Therapist Robert Griggs (1st on the left), Facility Administrator Albert Chester (1st on the right), and several members of the Duval Academy Advisory Board.

Prevention Update

On September 8th, the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program from the University Area CDC in Tampa unleashed new vehicles as a part of their pioneering mobile initiative entitled, “Prodigy Moves.” This innovative program-on-wheels was launched to serve the Central Florida area through appearances at youth showcases and events. So far, since its launch in June 2015, the program has been a huge success. Many bookings have been secured for art, music, and dance classes as well as various events in the community. Most importantly, Prodigy Moves is playing a valuable part in the reach of the program. “It’s exciting to be able to bring Prodigy to kids who have never experienced it,” said Mike Trepper, Director for the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program.

Last week, the PACE Center for Girls Broward helped to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of theSun Sentinel Children’s Fund.  Established in 1991, the focus of The Children’s Fund is the education of children and youth, one of the core components of the PACE program. 

PACE Broward is very grateful for the continued support of the Sun-Sentinel Children’s Fund. This partnership over many years has helped to maintain PACE’s Student Support Services Fund, to provide food for lunch and breakfast, bus passes for transportation, clothing, and personal emergency assistance to girls and their families.

Since its inception, the Children's Fund has been fueled by the generosity of loyal donors and Sun Sentinel newspaper readers. So far, nearly $27 million has been raised, with the McCormick Foundation adding more than $14.5 million in matching funds. Combined, nearly 2,500 grants totaling almost $41 million have been invested through the Sun Sentinel Children's Fund in local nonprofit agencies that are on the front lines making a difference. 

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Lydia Breaux-Davis spoke during a meeting of the Calhoun County Children’s Coalition on August 25th at the WT Neal Civic Center in Blountstown. Verla and Lydia provided an overview of DJJ’s initiatives and the Office of Prevention’s initiatives.  The mission of the Calhoun County Children’s Coalition is to support the health and well-being of children and families in order to improve the quality of life in Calhoun County. 

Among the items discussed were the juvenile justice council, substance abuse, Tobacco Free Partnership, Calhoun County Healthy Start Program and School Health Advisory Council. Calhoun County is working towards better collaboration and partnerships.  Community leaders are focused on the youth in their county. There are a number of upcoming events for youth and their families including a 5K Run between Bristol and Blountstown, afterschool programs, anti-bullying seminars for youth and more.

Young women from the PACE Center for Girls Broward, took photography lessons on July 29th at PACE and at Sanctuary Church in Fort Lauderdale. PACE had the opportunity to work with two excellent groups – Cameras for Kids Foundation with Founder/CEO Betsey Chesler, and 21 employees from Citrix. The Citrites were in Fort Lauderdale for a Citrix Global Day of Impact and included employees from Citrix offices around the world.

Ms. Chesler is teaching the girls a variety of photography techniques. After spending a brief time at PACE, the entire group traveled to the The Sanctuary Church in Ft. Lauderdale. This venue presented a host of photographic opportunities – Citrix volunteers worked with the girls to obtain pictures including things such as negative space, a shape within a shape, shadows, reflections, colors, etc.

Probation Update

Congratulations to Gwen Steverson who has been appointed as the Northwest Probation Region Operations and Program Manager providing managerial oversight to Circuits 1, 2, 3, and 14.  Ms. Steverson, who most recently served as the Chief Probation Officer in Circuit 4 has over sixteen years’ experience working within the juvenile and adult justice systems.  She has extensive leadership experience within multiple branches of the Department of Juvenile Justice, gender specific programming, juvenile male group homes and adult inmate substance abuse treatment facilities.  Ms. Steverson received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management at the University of West Florida.  On behalf of our agency, I would like to thank her for all of the hard work and dedication she has shown in Circuit 4 and know she will continue her efforts in this new capacity! 

Congratulations also go to Donna Webb who will serve as our new Chief Probation Officer in Circuit 4. Ms. Webb has been a DJJ employee since 1994 beginning her career as a juvenile probation officer.  She currently serves as the Circuit 4 assistant chief probation officer. During Ms. Webb’s 20+ years of service in Duval and Nassau Counties, she has continuously strived to support the Department on a statewide and local level.  Beginning in 1996, Ms. Webb served as an original member of the DJJ Secretary’s Forum.   Ms. Webb has also served as the state local arrangement chair for the Florida Counsel On Crime and Delinquency (FCCD).  In 2013, Ms. Webb graduated from the FBI Citizen’s Academy, Jacksonville Division.  Through the FBI Academy, Ms. Webb completed extensive training related to human trafficking, safety and security, as well as de-escalation techniques.  Ms. Webb currently serves on the North Florida Human Trafficking Law Enforcement Task Force and the Human Trafficking Community Coalition. Congratulations again to Mr. Webb on her promotion! 

We would like to highlight some of our female students at AMI Kids Miami in Circuit 11. They are currently working on a container project which is still under way at the North Campus. These students are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty! It is very exciting to see the female students at AMI Kids taking advantage of the NCCER Construction opportunity!

Recently, The Palm Beach County’s Probation and Community Intervention Program in Circuit 15 conducted a Management Staff Retreat/Training Day which was led by Chief Probation Officer Gregory Starling and Assistant Chief Probation Officer  Geeta Loach-Jacobson. During their education of effective management techniques through Encouraging the Heart practices, the management team practiced their team building skills and bonded over breakfast and lunch.  The team reviewed Florida Administrative Codes, DJJ policy and practices, and shared insights on the pilot program for supervision matrix probation contacts. Attendees from Circuit 15 Management Team included Lola Alston; Valerie Bryant; Althea Cameron; Wondra Daniels; Tahirah Jones; Shirlon McCarty; Cedric Pla; Richard Rathell and Stephanie.

Detention Update

The Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) is continuing their amazing transformation when last week staff and youth began their new project in transforming the facility’s C-Mod (the mod for male youth at the facility).  The transformation started with an idea from the staff and youth to change the mod into a football field. The mod now has a football field complete with a scoreboard, various football teams represented that include some fun cartoon depictions.  We have commentators, fans in the stands, and a band playing in the end zone.  In addition, positive quotes are painted throughout the hallway geared towards success and positive career choices, and featured in the end zone area is a silhouette of players coming out of a tunnel breaking through the ORJDC banner.  The dayroom area is a continuation of the sports theme with playful depictions as well as sports trivia and a picture of the USA with each football teams pictured on each state.

The youth and staff are having a ball (no pun intended) participating in this project.  Youth seeing the mods for the first time often say they feel comfortable, safe and less stressed - which in turn changes the behavior and interactions. 

The youth and staff at Bay RJDC were treated to a wonderful performance by the Student Worship Arts Team of Houston’s First Baptist Church in Texas.  Youth Pastor Josh Harris reached out to our facility over the summer after being in contact with Assistant Secretary Dixie Fosler and of course we were very receptive to programming that could have a positive impact on our youth.  

This youth group and their leaders spent several weeks traveling through different states volunteering their time and talents to inspire and motivate others.  They haul their own equipment and spent an hour setting it up in the day room of our facility.

Approximately 20 youth and 4 of their youth leaders sang songs of praise and worship as well as spent some time ministering with our youth over a 3 hour period which made a visible impact on many of our youth.  It is obvious they are dedicated to making a difference and it was great for our youth to see a group of their peers involved in that kind of life-changing process.  We were grateful for the time and energy they devoted to us and look forward to having them back next year! 

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.