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Secretary's Message

September 21, 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

DJJ Awarded Public Organization of the Year Award

I am overjoyed to announce that DJJ has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the Public Organization of the Year Award by the Able Trust. The Department, chosen for its unwavering support of the Able Trust’s mission to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, offers the High School High Tech (HSHT) Program in its residential programs.

This is a tremendous honor not only for our staff but our stakeholders who diligently prepare youth to return to their home communities with the tools they need to succeed as they join Florida’s growing workforce.  Programs like HTST ensure that all youth, no matter the circumstances, will be afforded opportunities to thrive and achieve great things.

The HSHT offers transitional services to developmentally disabled youth in two DJJ residential programs in order to prepare them for life after high school – post-secondary education, employment or community involvement – through real-world experiences.  Currently, this program is offered at Escambia Boys Base and the Okaloosa Youth Development Center. 

Florida Missing Children Day

Last Monday, I attended the Florida Missing Children’s Day ceremonies on the steps of the Old Historic Capitol in Tallahassee.  The objective of this day is to raise awareness of Florida’s currently missing children, to educate the public on child safety and abduction prevention, and to recognize those individuals and law enforcement officers who have made outstanding contributions in the missing children issue. As difficult as it is to hear the stories shared at this event, it is important to continue the education of our young people and families as well as recognize those who make significant contributions to preventing these horrific crimes from happening in Florida.

The ceremony is sponsored by the Florida Missing Children’s Day Foundation which in addition to coordinating the events for this day also supports the Florida AMBER plan and the Florida Silver Alert Plan. 

Human Trafficking Update

Last week I also had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. During this meeting, the Council heard from The Lifeboat Project, which offers the unprecedented ‘Returning to Wholeness’ program for all survivors of human trafficking. In addition to their presentation, I updated the Council on the status of the Human Trafficking Summit next month in Tampa as well as an overview of the process map project the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet is currently involved in completing.

The 15-member Statewide Council on Human Trafficking builds on existing state and local partnerships working to combat human trafficking. Members include law enforcement officers, prosecutors, legislators, as well as experts in the fields of health, education and social services.

The Florida Legislature held committee meetings last week during the first of several Interim Committee Weeks in preparation for the 2016 Legislative Session. I attended the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee to present an update on the initiatives and accomplishments of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. In addition, I spoke about the implementation of the human trafficking screening tool utilized by both DJJ and the Florida Department of Children and Families. Committee members had several questions about the data being collected and are committed to continuing their strong commitment to addressing the issue of human trafficking with both resources and further legislation.

Duval Detention Featured on PBS NewsHour Weekend

PBS NewsHour Weekend recently aired a piece on juvenile justice programs in Jacksonville focused on serving young girls, which aim to rehabilitate rather than incarcerate. The show featured an in-depth story on the great work of the partnership between the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, the Circuit 4 judicial system and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The PBS reporter also did a piece on work the Department has done to reform our approach with youth and the incorporation of trauma-informed care, including facility environments. The two pieces can be viewed on the PBS website here:



National Center for Juvenile Justice Visits Florida

This week, staff from the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) visited Florida to learn more about how we support the implementation, monitoring, and proliferation of evidence based programs and practices (EBPs).  The visit consisted of a series of focus groups with DJJ and provider staff at Alachua Academy, Orange Detention, Orange Juvenile Assessment Center, and Circuit 9 and 10 Probation staff and contracted providers.  Through funding from the MacArthur Foundation, NCJJ maintains a website, the Juvenile Justice GPS (www.jjgps.org), to chart how states support juvenile justice reform. As part of this work, they surveyed the country on how states are supporting EBPs in the juvenile justice system. They are supplementing the survey by drafting a case study focused on how a three high performing states (including Florida) engage in these efforts and to hold them up as models for other states who are struggling with this issue. 

A special thanks to the following staff for participating:

Amy Johnson, DJJ; Christopher Goodman, DJJ; Amy Greenwald, DJJ; Sandra Johnson, DJJ; Darrell Bacon, DJJ; Paul McIntyre, DJJ; Deb Yates, NAFI; Damon Choice, NAFI; Vicki Donaldson, NAFI; Rebecca Kovar, NAFI; Jerome Brown, Alachua County School Board; Donna Connors, DJJ; Daryl Wolf, DJJ; Jason Pimentel, DJJ; Sgt. Vincent Sparrow, DJJ; Cpl. Shirlene Polycarpe, DJJ; Bonnie Zeller, Life Skills Training (LST) Trainer; Ayo Hinkson, LST Trainer; Denard Turner, Orange JAC Director; Johnny Alderman, DJJ; Kristen Richardson, DJJ; Chercolby Robinson, DJJ; Jerriel Lewis, DJJ; Edgar Guilfuchi, DJJ; LST and SNAP: Aaron Rivas; Gines Santiago, LST Trainer; Crystal Harris, LST Trainer; Katrina Philpot, LST Trainer; Melinda Wesley-Nelson, Reform Specialist; Anne Marie Sheffield, SNAP/Wraparound Orange; Patrick Delerme, SNAP/Wraparound Orange; Sarah Amato, BAYS; Marquitta Ceasar, BAYS; Christopher Deas, BAYS; Lawrence Hunt, Eckerd/Project Connect; Derrell Hand, Eckerd/Project Connect.

Chris Archer Nominated for 2015 Roberto Clemente Award

I am so thrilled to announce that Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer has been named a finalist for the 2015 Roberto Clemente Award. This award, presented by Chevrolet and given by the Office of Major League Baseball, not only honors a player’s sportsmanship and commitment to his team, but his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others. 
Chris’ commitment to his community has made an extremely positive impact to both our agency and the youth that we serve, and I have been proud to share many of his stories here in the weekly letter. In between starts, Chris makes regular visits to the Pinellas RJDC in an effort to make a meaningful and long-lasting impact in the lives of our underserved youth. In addition, he has performed countless hours of community service with a number of our stakeholders including: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, the Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast and Bay Area Youth Services. 

Chris founded the Archway Foundation to empower young people to fulfill their dreams. Archway sponsors two youth baseball teams which requires players to participate in all team activities, including required readings and community service projects. He also donates money for each strikeout he records to the Tampa RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and the inner-city Burg Baseball, Inc.

Voting for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award is open to the public, and I would encourage all of you to take a few minutes to vote, which you can do by clicking here

On behalf of DJJ, I would like to thank Chris for being champion to our agency by giving so much of his time to mentor the youth that we serve.

Probation Update

Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq and JPO Shawna Prope from Circuit 20 accompanied eight probationary youth and two Civil Citation youth on a community service project at the Southwest Florida RJDC in Fort Myers. These youth painted pavements and outside tables and laid mulch to beautify the parking lot in the front of the detention center. SW Superintendent Dennis Driscoll, Assistant Superintendent Mary Pagano and Detention Review Officer Jack McCotter provided both painting supplies and refreshments. All of the youth who participated earned valuable community service hours for their efforts.

Director of Policy and Programming for the Office of Probation Jeannie Becker-Powell traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the advisory group “Financing Effective Community-Based Behavioral Health Services” for youth diverted out of the juvenile justice system. The advisory group explored strategies for funding behavioral health services and was sponsored by the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change.

CPO Alison Fulford, ACPO Amy Stiles, Reform Specialist Vernolda Dilworth and JPOS Korri Stallworth from Circuit 10 attended a diversity luncheon sponsored by the Bartow Community Relations Committee through the Bartow Chamber of Commerce. The luncheon was designed to enhance the quality of life for the Bartow community through understanding and appreciating the differences of its people through positive change and dialogue concerning multicultural issues.

Prevention Update

Acting Assistant Secretary for Prevention Marcus Smith attended a special briefing on Gadsden County drug issues on September 9 in Quincy. Marcus was invited by law enforcement officials to attend a briefing involving more than 400 law enforcement officers, paramedics and other first responders who gathered to discuss the dangerous drugs known as Flakka and Molly. Law enforcement agencies from North Florida, South Georgia, and Alabama, attended the one-day seminar.

Gadsden County deputies say there have been several deaths believed to be connected to the drugs. Organizers of the event hope to teach others in law enforcement how to deal with the drugs and those who abuse them. The drugs have generated such concern among law enforcement officials because many are packaged as candy and are marketed to children. 
In order to assist law enforcement officers in the ongoing fight against Flakka and Molly, DJJ will begin distributing information on the warning signs of Molly and Flakka use; how to detect the drugs and how to assist those suspected of using them. If you are interested in receiving the educational information, please contact DJJ Prevention and Victim Services. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialists Lydia Breaux-Davis and Onazina Washington and Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady spoke during the Jackson County Strong Families Coalition meeting on August 27 in Marianna. Lydia and Verla provided an overview of DJJ’s and Prevention’s initiatives. Chief Probation Officer Wanda Jackson provided a complete overview of Probation’s initiatives and updates on Circuit 14.

The Coalition works with the community to increase awareness of the importance of child and family well-being to improve community wellness. The partnership is a group of partners involved in a number of projects including Jackson County Healthy Start and the Early Learning Center. On Sept. 26, The Jackson County Health Department is sponsoring  a 5-K run for World Heart Healthy Day.

Updates were also provided by Bonnie Wertenberger, Panhandle Area Educational Consortium; Edward Bell, AMI Kids; and David Taylor, CARE the new Healthy Start Provider for Jackson County.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene conducted community conversations last month in Kissimmee, Bartow and Tampa to encourage community engagement with DJJ and learn how we can better serve the youth in the local community. Local law enforcement, DJJ staff, faith-based groups and concerned citizens attended all conversations. DCF staff and school representatives also attended the Bartow conversation. FJJA staff and others from Bay Area Youth Services, Eckerd, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Metro Health, Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance and Tampa Alcohol Coalition also attended the Tampa conversation.

Residential Update

On Sept. 10, Walton Youth Development Center (WYDC), a high-risk residential program for males, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Gulf Coast Youth Services, Inc., held a Math Bowl.  During this event, the boys put their math education and skills to test. 

Youth worked in teams of four to answer math problems in just 30 seconds, earning points for each correct answer.  

The winning team shared a special chicken dinner with the education staff. 

Walton Learning Center (WLC) Math Teacher/Lead Educator Nancy Ochoa organized this competition.  The competition was scored and regulated by WLC teachers and WYDC administrative staff members.  

This was a great exhibition of how to make learning fun and of the collaboration between the program and education staffs.  

According to DJJ Director of Education Development Julie Orange, “These are the types activities that engage the students in learning.  This is an example of both facility and educational staff collaborating to provide students a hands-on approach to learning.”

The Cypress Creek residential facility in Citrus County was a busy place over the Labor Day weekend.  The Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center (CCJOCC) is a maximum-risk program and the Cypress Creek Treatment Center (CCTC) is a high-risk residential program, both of which are for males, ages 13 to 21, and are operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC.

Over the weekend, a facility-wide “step it up” contest was held.  From 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., the youth prepared their routines.  Facility staff member, Ms. Magno, then brought two teams at a time to the administration area where they competed through rapping, singing, and dancing.  Five out of the six living units participated in the competition.  

The dancing was fierce as each dormitory team did their best to win the grand prize of two hours of recreation time in the facility arcade, playing the PlayStation®4 Console and Xbox®.  Bravo Dorm took the grand prize.  Way to go, Bravo!

With football season upon us, Cypress Creek also held an intramural football tournament in the spirit of building teamwork amongst the living units and between youth from different geographical locations.  The boys had a blast while displaying great teamwork.  

The winning team was Delta Dorm.  Later this month, Delta Dorm will get to host a theme meal of their choosing to include the menu and decorations.  Way to go, Delta!

With the beginning of the 2015–2016 School Year, the Orange Youth Academy and the Orlando Intensive Youth Academy (OYA/OIYA)—non-secure commitment programs for males, ages 12 to 18, which are operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC—hosted the Inaugural “Back to School Kickoff” to motivate the students for the new school year.  

The students had a blast watching a dance crew from Orlando, and eating pizza, barbeque, seafood, and steaks with all the fixings.  They also discussed their goals for the school year.  
After the students finished dinner, they danced the evening away and listened to music. 

It was an eventful day for them to motivate each other and just be kids.  Many of the students stated that this was the best time they had ever had, celebrating a new school year.

Detention Update

On September 3, nine staff members from the Pinellas RJDC entered into a Chili Cook-Off Contest at the facility which was judged by staff members from Maxim Healthcare and the Pinellas County School District. Winners in three different categories each received a trophy and a $20 gift card to Outback Steakhouse. Many of the staff members from Pinellas brought sides and desserts to go along with the chili. The winners for each category are listed below:  

Best Overall:      Vito Caiati, LPN (Maxim)

Hottest Chili:      Patsy Smith, FSW

Most Unique:    Eris Womack, ADCS

I am pleased to announce that Ariel Veguilla has been named the new Superintendent at the Okaloosa RJDC. Ariel most recently served as the Assistant Superintendent at the Alachua RJDC and was named Supervisor of the Year for the North Region for 2014. Ariel began his career with DJJ back in 2007 at the Marion RJDC where he worked his way up to training coordinator and human trafficking liaison for the facility. Ariel traveled the state providing technical assistance in centers including Escambia, Duval, Hillsborough and Pinellas. Last week, the staff at Okaloosa hosted a welcome party for the incoming Superintendent and really made him feel at home. On behalf of the entire department, I would like to congratulate Ariel on his well-deserved promotion.

Education Update

I am pleased to share this letter that was sent to the Washington County School Program Coordinator at the Okeechobee Youth Development Center Jan Johnson. The mother could not be more pleased with her son’s progress since leaving the facility and is overjoyed with his work ethic in school and the football field. It reads: 

Hi Ms. Johnson, 

Just wanted to provide you with an update on S. Over the summer he completed a paid internship at a restaurant and worked part time on a landscaping crew. I have had no issues with him as far as negative behavior or hanging with peers that would've subjected him to further issues. He's doing amazingly well!!! The high school here allowed him to re-enroll and he is taking honors and advanced classes. He also applied for Dual enrollment so he is taking two courses at [XXXX] College. I couldn't be more proud of his progress. I also forwarded a link which is a photo of him at his first game of football season.  Please click on the link to see him! I also ask that you share this email with MS Shumate and Ms. Colegrove.

Thank you for taking care of him. Your staff most definitely played huge a part in his post commitment success. 

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.