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Secretary's Message

September 28, 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 Employee of the Month

It is my great pleasure to recognize Juvenile Detention Officer Steiner Jean-Louis as our DJJ Employee of the Month!  

Officer Jean-Louis has been with our Department for twenty years and currently serves as a juvenile detention officer at Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center.  From assisting with facility maintenance to serving as a multilingual interpreter for youth and parents, there is no task Officer Jean-Louis can and will not do.   While Officer Jean-Louis is diligent and hardworking in his duties, he is most deserving of Employee of the Month because of the incredible impact he has on the staff and the youth at the facility.  He is an exemplary officer and a role model to all at the Hillsborough Detention Center. 

Please join me in congratulating Officer Jean-Louis on this very deserving honor! 

We look forward to highlighting our next Employee of the Month in the near future. Our agency and I would like to remind everyone to please keep sending your nominations for the monthly DJJ Employee of the Month Award. 

Miami Youth Academy Family Fun Day

Last Sunday, I toured the Miami Youth Academy (MYA) Residential Program in Miami during the program’s Family Day festivities. Family Day is an event that invites the families of youth at the facility for a day of food, fun, and fellowship. In addition, I was able to meet the new pet therapy dog at the facility.  The dog was purchased by the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF), the DJJ direct-support-organization, and was appropriately named “Caroline,” after our own FJJF Director Caroline Ray (pictured with me, at left).  

The Miami Youth Academy, operated by G4S, serves males between the ages of 14 and 18, in a non-secure residential commitment program.  Males served are those who have been assessed as needing Substance Abuse Treatment Overlay Services (SAOS) in a residential environment.

Community Based Care Workshop 

This week I also attended a workshop sponsored by Devereux Community Based Care of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast in Port Saint Lucie. During this meeting, I was privileged to participate on a  panel regarding crossover youth with Representative Gayle Harrell, Chair of the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee.

I shared with those in attendance that DJJ and the Florida Department of Children and Families are working collaboratively to aggressively research a variety of topics related to crossover youth in Florida. The panel discussion also provided the opportunity to report on some of the data-related information available to DJJ through the Juvenile Justice Information System (JJIS).

Interestingly, 3.4 percent of arrested youth were identified as being actively served by both agencies and the most common offense for “dually-served”  youth was misdemeanor assault or battery. One of the most striking findings, though, was that a non-law violation of probation was a common offense for arrests involving dually-served children – leading us to ask what challenges these youth may be experiencing that may lead to a higher likelihood of violating their probation, which could push them deeper into the juvenile justice system.     

Devereux Community Based Care of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast provides oversight and coordination of the child welfare system in Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties. At any given time, there are around 1,300 abused, abandoned or neglected children in their care. 

Detention Update

Last week, regional directors, superintendents and assistant superintendents from the Office of Detention Services convened at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway for a leadership training course. The meeting featured breakout sessions regarding the facility management system, detention utilization and trends and behavior management. In addition, attendees heard from former FDLE Assistant Commissioner Dr. James Sewell regarding stress management and the Chief Clinical Officer from Correct Care Solutions Dr. Carl Keldie. Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, Director of Communications Heather DiGiacomo and Bureau Chief of Personnel Dodie Garye from our executive leadership team also spoke on Thursday. 

The awards ceremony on Wednesday was without a doubt the highlight of the training meeting. Diana Perreault, Assistant Superintendent from Pasco RJDC, took home the Assistant Superintendent of the Year award, while Darrell Johnson from the Duval RJDC won the Superintendent of the Year Award.

Youth from the Bay RJDC received a special visit by horticulture agent Julie McConnell from the University of Florida Extension Center. Julie presented a lesson to our students on insects and how they impact our lives on a daily basis. She taught our youth about their life cycle, reproduction, parts of the insect, and good and bad insects. Julie also brought a live butterfly exhibit complete with caterpillars. Julie, an active member of the Community Advisory Board, has set a precedent for creating active learning environments for our students who thrive on these opportunities.

During detention stay, Youth A. had endeared himself to the staff and his peers at the Bay RJDC. When the day came for him to be placed into a long-term residential facility, the young man did not have a single stitch of clothing to take with him. Due to his large stature, the local clothes closet did not have much to accommodate him. Accordingly, the officers and educational staff at Bay utilized their resources to ensure that the young man had brand new shoes, jeans and shirts to begin the next part of his journey. The staff at Bay sent him off by providing cupcakes for all youth, who were given a chance to wish him the best as well. 

Thank you to Bay RJDC staff for making such a positive impact on this young man’s life. 

Prevention Update

PACE Center for Girls of the Treasure Coast hosted an open house on September 3rd at their facility in Fort Pierce. The goal was to showcase how the PACE program changes the lives of girls and to solicit community support for the work being done in St. Lucie County and across the state at the 19 PACE Centers.  

Tours were led by PACE girls currently attending the program. The Center’s Poetry Club girls recited an original spoken word poem. Many community members, parents, and representatives of partner agencies attended the Open House including: Representative Larry Lee, DJJ, United Way, Children’s Services Counsel, police chiefs from the cities of Ft. Pierce and Port St. Lucie, the vice mayor of Port St. Lucie, and the director of alternative education from the St. Lucie County School System as well as many others.  

The event was also an opportunity for PACE Treasure Coast to honor Senator Joe Negron as their 2015 Senator of the Year on behalf of the PACE Center for Girls, the PACE Board, and girls across Florida.  Because of the leadership of Senator Negron, PACE Center for Girls has received additional funding that will enable them to transform the lives of a record number of girls by providing them with better opportunities through education, counseling, training and advocacy to become successful in the classroom and the community.

Faith Coordinator and DMC Specialist Craig Swain attended a meeting of the Florida Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys on September 17 at the Florida Capitol. As the DJJ designee on the Florida Council, Craig attends meetings of the group established to study conditions negatively affecting black males in Florida. At the recent meeting, council members discussed their strategic and operational plans, scope of contractual services, and days of dialogue scheduled for early 2016 in Tallahassee and Daytona Beach. 

Council Chairman, Dr. Eddy M. Regnier, also reported that he has met with a variety of state legislators and that he has been receiving positive feedback and offers of support from all of the legislators with whom he has met.

Recently, the Council has concentrated its efforts on developing programs and services based on sound practices designed to improve the lives of black males. In 2013, the Council focused its efforts on researching strategies to help reduce high dropout rates in schools, reduce violent crime rates and reduce incarceration rates among black males.

Jazmyne Simmons, host and executive producer of The Jazmyne Show a community access television show produced and directed at Florida A&M University (FAMU), toured the PACE Center for Girls of Leon County on September 22nd in Tallahassee. Jazmyne was accompanied on her tour of the Leon PACE Center by PACE Executive Director Kelly Otte, and a PACE girl named Trinnedy.

Jazmyne is conducting research for an upcoming segment of her television program on the importance of gender-specific prevention programming for at-risk girls. She was interested in seeing how the educational, spiritual and psychological needs of girls are met. Kelly and Trinnedy shared information on the PACE model and how the program addresses the special needs of their unique population.

The Jazmyne Show is a trendy, innovative talk show that focuses on key topics in health, lifestyle and social empowerment. The purpose of the show is to engage teens and young adults on every day issues that affect their overall health and well-being.

Residential Update

Earlier this month, a student from Challenge Juvenile Residential Facility (JRF), a non-secure program for males, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Eckerd Youth Alternatives, was celebrated for earning his GED® with the pomp and circumstance of a graduation ceremony.  The following is his success story in his own words and a poem that he wrote, which he presented at the ceremony and he will present to the Eckerd Board of Directors meeting in October:

I didn’t start out as a bad kid. I always got A’s and B’s in school. When I got taken away from my mom in 6th grade, I was put into the foster care system. I felt pressured by the cool kids to impress them because they used to pick on me for having shoes and clothes that weren’t name brand. I tried so hard to act cool and after a while it wasn’t an act anymore. I started smoking marijuana and hanging around the wrong crowd. I got caught breaking into someone’s house and ended up going to jail for six months. Walking into the courtroom, I noticed the only person there to support me was my mother, not any of my so called friends that I was trying to impress. I got ordered to Eckerd Youth Challenge Program (EYCP) and didn’t know what to expect. When EYCP picked me up, I expected to be shackled. I was shocked that we just got to walk straight into the building without the door being locked or having to be buzzed in. I expected to be surrounded by locked doors and cages. Instead I saw open spaces and smiles. I was so worried it was a setup. They brought me to my case manager’s office and she asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told her I wasn’t sure yet, but I knew I wanted to make something of myself and have my mother be proud of me. During my time at Eckerd, I was awarded student of the month and attended a poetry class that resulted in me receiving an Honorable Mention in a national contest. I earned the following certifications: SafeStaff Foodhandler, NRF Customer Service, and HBI Building Construction Technician and Pact Core. Most importantly, I earned my GED. I knew I made my mother proud when I got to call her and tell her that I had graduated high school. I am the first in my family to do this. At EYCP, I had goals and I did what I said I was going to do.  I know that I still have so much more to accomplish in my life and I want to get to the point where I support my family enough to where they don’t have to worry about anything. For now, I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far and have gained the confidence to continue to succeed in the future.

I was told, I will never succeed.
I was told, I will never make it.
I was told, school isn’t for me.
But I always said YES I CAN
I was called UGLY.
I was called STUPID.
I was called RETARDED.
But I always said I STILL CAN
I was treated like a butterfly in harsh winds.
I was treated like a wolf with no pack.
I was treated like a boy with no friends.
But I always said YES I CAN I CAN MAKE IT
But I always said I STILL CAN BE FAMOUS
And till this day YES I CAN
Be an Incredible, Intellectual, Insightful, Inspirational, Intuitive, Person with Intensions to show Integrity
And face problems without letting people get the best of me.
And the reason I used words that begin with I:
Because (I) - (C)an - (A)void - (N)egativity

On September 16, Escambia Boys Base, a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by AMIKids, Inc., was honored by the United Way of Escambia County as the “Volunteer Group of the Year.”  At the United Way’s 2014-15 Annual Meeting, leadership shared their gratitude for the 2,676 community volunteers who donated over 30,000 hours of service to make this work possible. In total, their time and talent was a $703,035 gift to the community.

Last month, the students at the Dade Juvenile Residential Facility (JRF), a non-secure program for males, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, asked to be certified in First Aid and CPR.  The program’s trainer facilitated a small group of boys who were very engaged in learning manual cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to appropriately use an automated external defibrillator (AED), which automatically diagnoses life-threatening arrhythmias of the heart and, by applying electrical therapy, can reestablish the heart’s effective rhythm.  The students have now passed the course and received their certifications—ready to save lives, including their own.

Shown above, the students are holding the resuscitation dummies used in the course to teach first aid—such as mouth-to-mouth resuscitation—and the portable AED units used in the classroom.        

Shown right, this student is learning how to use the AED device with the assistance of a first aid dummy.  Shown left, a student has applied the AED monitoring patch to the dummy and is demonstrating the proper technical to tilt a victim’s head back, opening the airway, and to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

At the end of summer, Dade JRF recognized the 36 students who earned educational achievements that included awards for the “best overall student” and the “most improved student.”  In Mr. Gonzalez’s class, 12 students earned awards for excellence in reading or language arts.  In Mr. Fair’s class, four students earned awards for excellence in math and four students earned awards for excellence in science.  In Mr. Gonsalves’ class, eight students earned awards for excellence in social studies and six students earned awards for achieving a “B” in social studies.  All of the students were recognized for their hard work in school.

recipient of the “Best Overall Student Award”(left); and, “Most Improved Student Award” recipient (far right).

Last month, 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, held a unique birthday celebration with an “erupted” twist.  

MYA dietary services staff members Tawanda Holmes and Tina Pennaman shared their creative baking skills with three Youth Champions who celebrated birthdays in August by planning a volcanic celebration.  The young men learned how to bake and decorate Bundt cakes that looked like volcanoes.

MYA Facility Administrator Johnny Richardson encourages the program’s staff to share creative ways that teach the Youth Champions skills that they would learn in a home environment.  Further, staff ties each teaching opportunity to an educational component.  In this situation, the students learned about culinary arts and about the geologic science of volcanoes.  Each month, the Youth Champions and the staff members work together in planning birthday celebrations that meet these criteria.

Special thanks go to the MYA dietary services staff, the program’s teachers from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and the MYA direct care staff for creating this teachable celebration.

Also last month, the MYA Youth Champions held two ceremonies for 17 students to receive recognition of their academic achievements.  One student was celebrated with full pomp and circumstance for earning his GED®.  Graduating from high school is traditionally a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, which is a celebrated by the youth, families, and classmates.  

At MYA, a graduate who earns this achievement in such a short time is honored for his determination and hard work.  MYA also honors the coordinated efforts of its direct-care staff and outstanding educators in helping the youth achieve this goal.  Many thanks go to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools – Office of Alternative Education (MDCPS) for helping MYA students achieve their educational goals.

Probation Update

Circuit 2 Reform Specialist Elizabeth Phillips recently received an award from the Goodwill Prosperity Center in Tallahassee for the strong and continuous partnership between DJJ and Goodwill Industries. Goodwill Prosperity Center has an amazing mentoring and job training program and provides beneficial services to the families in our circuit.

On August 13th and September 17th, staff from the Home Builders Institute (HBI) represented Eckerd Project Bridge by assisting at the male mentor recruitment initiative in West Palm Beach and Belle Glade. The mentor recruitment events are put on by the Palm Beach County My Brother's Keeper (MBK) initiative. MBK's mission is to encourage 100 men to become mentors in 100 days and to improve life outcomes for minority youth.  From these events, several men signed up to be Eckerd Project Bridge mentors and we are hopeful that we can match these men with our youth. Project Bridge plans to continue to collaborate with MBK to strengthen our families, transform our communities, and have a positive impact on our children's lives.

Ten young men from the Panama City Marine Institute recently competed in a whitewater rafting and mountain repelling competition against other AMIkids programs from across the county. The event took place on the Nantahala River in North Carolina. The ten man group known as the “Raft Kings” beat out fifteen other teams to take home the first place prize. Our youth rafted over three miles of beautiful icy water, rappelled down mountains, camped in tents and visited the Cherokee Nation. All of the youth are back safe in Panama City with many stories to tell for years.

Last Tuesday, newly appointed Statewide Transition Coordinator Shauntrai Bruton conducted her first statewide transition monthly call. During this call, Shauntrai gave an update on transition services as well as received feedback for the CRT protocol. In addition, she reiterated the importance for the CRT tracking log and circuit schedule. The next statewide transition call will take place on October 20th.

Circuit 6 JPOS Melissa Fuller attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Healthy Start Coalition of Pasco County. The Coalition provides services, resources, education, and supplies to expecting mothers and parents of young children in the local community. They have played an active role in reducing the rate of infant mortality in Pasco and have spearheaded a task force to reduce the frequency of substance exposed newborns. Their organization has provided support for pregnant teens involved with the DJJ system and have collaborated with DJJ on several community engagement events.  We are happy to have them as a part of our community as they provide hope as they strive to meet the needs of the families of Pasco.

Central Region Director of Probation Cathy Lake conducted two juvenile probation officer supervisor retreats in Bradenton and Orlando last month. These retreats focused on leadership development, improving employee relations, teamwork communication skills and administrative rules. The reform specialists from each central circuit including: Buddy Hall, Hazel Hudson, Khalilah Daniels, Melinda Wesley-Nelson and Tracy Olson played a key role in making these retreats a reality. 

During the retreat, Operation Review Specialist Kristen Richardson developed a Jeopardy style game as it related to Administrative Rules and QI Indicators, and where circuits competed against each other. Circuit 18 and Circuit 13 won in the East and West respectively.  

In addition, Circuits shared information which turned into building a toolkit for the Central Region of all the tools needed to implement specific best practices with summaries and formats. The chief probation officers, assistant chief probation officers, reform specialists, and the Central Regional Office will be meeting next month to formalize these processes so that each Circuit will have a “Best Practice Toolkit” binder to take back to their circuits in order to replicate what is working well. 

Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign

The 2015-2016 Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign (FSECC) is still open! The online pledge system is open for payroll and one-time pledges and will close on November 6th.  Pledging is easy and open to all state employees.  Please visit https://www.givingnexus.org/_fsecc/  to make your pledge today.  You can also pledge right from your phone by going to the mobile site here. 

Find charity information and much more by visiting the FSECC website at: www.fsecc.com.

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.