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Secretary's Message

October 6, 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

JDAI 2015 Inter-Site Conference

Last week, DJJ staff traveled to Phoenix for the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) 2015 Inter-Site Conference, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The conference hosted over 800 JDAI professionals to discuss major accomplishments and review best practices and outcomes. 

Among the highlights from the conference was a presentation by Chief Program Officer Dr. Jessie Russell and senior researcher Angela Fitzgerald from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency on “Developing, Implementing, and Using Risk Assessments and Disposition Matrices.” This conference serves to both connect practitioners in the detention reform movement and to strengthen their strategies and networks. 

JJSIP Trauma Responsive Practices 

Last week, Residential Services continued work on the Trauma Responsive Practices (TRP) Project.  As part of the Department’s work with Georgetown University for the Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Project (JJSIP), the Department has been collaborating with three nationally recognized experts in trauma responsive services within the juvenile justice system to implement a TRP process:  Drs. Monique Marrow, Christopher Branson, and Jacob Ham.
The TRP Project includes an assessment of programs and staff training—with a focus on working with direct care staff—to more effectively address gender-related trauma responsive services for youth with an increased likelihood to re-offend.  The TRP Project is currently working with two residential programs: 

• Martin Girls Academy, a high- and maximum-risk program for females that is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, in Circuit 19; and

• Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, a non-secure program for males that is operated by AMIKids, Inc., in Circuit 18.

Dr. Ham and Dr. Marrow facilitated three meetings—one each at the residential programs and a joint training on Friday.  Residential Services staff members Vanessa Wicker Reeves, Garrett Tucker, William Donnelly, and Mack McLeod, along with Monitoring and Quality Improvement staff member Elma Adame, were involved in these meetings.  

Last week’s meetings focused on working with the programs to provide technical assistance and planning to continue implementation of their trauma-responsive efforts.  For their included follow-up, on-site visits, the consultants worked with staff on Wednesday and Thursday to meet each program’s unique needs.  On Friday, the staff members from both programs joined Drs. Marrow and Ham for a “train the trainer” meeting to help adapt and customize the Think Trauma curriculum to meet the unique needs of the programs.  The Department will be working with the consultants to address the delivery of future Think Trauma trainings in the state as the TRP Project moves forward.

On September 25th, the Department hosted an hour and a half webinar on Addressing Problem Sexual Behaviors among Juveniles. Reaching almost 200 attendees, we had a diverse group of attendees including juvenile probation officers (JPO), secretary specialists, reform specialists, chief probation officers, and commitment managers, just to name a few. The webinar was funded through JJSIP and was a component of Trauma Responsive Practices. 

The presenters, Marion Kelly and Dr. Steven Wolf, both from Georgetown University, first focused on characteristics of Florida’s population and national trends before moving into the topic of recidivism and psycho-sexual evaluations for this population of youth. They then discussed treatment and community based services, elements of the JPO’s role, and finished with how to best work with families and how to deal with case management and non-compliance response. 

The purpose of this webinar was to provide as brief overview of this population, with the intentions of doing a full-day webinar training in the future that delves into more detail and depth. 

Overall, we received great feedback, participation, and questions from the attendees and we are looking forward to continuing to better address this particular population of youth. We greatly appreciated the support from Georgetown University and from the Office of Residential Services for providing us with the JJSIP funding, and the Office of Research and Data Integrity for providing us with the detailed data used in the webinar. 

Probation Update

DJJ probation staff in Circuit 12 were awarded two Keep Manatee Beautiful Awards for their work with the organization and probation youth in community clean-up projects.  The two awards from Keep Manatee Beautiful were given during a ceremony on September 17th during their 18th Annual Awards Celebration at the IMG Golf Club in Bradenton. The Keep Manatee Beautiful organization awards local businesses, governmental agencies, neighborhoods, organizations and citizens for their outstanding volunteer efforts. 

The first award was for the staff’s work in the Adopt-A-Shore Program, in which youth removed litter 3 times per year on Anna Maria Island from Bean Point south to the sea wall near Coconut Avenue. Staff and youth also helped refurbish all 50 Adopt-A-Shore signs located throughout Manatee County.

The second award was given for the team’s efforts in marking 285 storm drains with the message “Dump No Waste – Protect Your Water” on roads in downtown Bradenton, as well as northwest and southern Manatee County. The goal of marking these storm drains is to educate citizens about the importance of protecting our waters from storm water pollution.  

Both awards were accepted on the Department’s behalf by JPO Adam Wiegand who helped orchestrate these community projects.  We would like to thank the following staff members for their participating and hard work: JPO Sarah Bachmaier, JPO Heather Ferrara, JPO Mitzi Petty, JPO Jeremy Baldwin, JPO Chris Pursino, JPO Norm Nichols, Secretary Specialist Donna Phipps, Secretary Specialist Jayleen Montgomery, JPO Nancy Holland, and JPO Janice Hetzel

Probation staff from Circuit 3 attended the launch of the “Rachel’s Challenge” initiative at Columbia High School in Lake City. Rachel's Challenge is a national non-profit organization dedicated to creating safe, connected school environments where learning and teaching are maximized.  Based on the life and writings of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine tragedy in 1999, Rachel's Challenge provides a continual improvement process for schools designed to awaken the learner in every child.   Rachel's Challenge motivates and equips students to start and sustain a chain reaction of kindness and compassion that transforms schools and communities.

Superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students bring Rachel's Challenge into their schools to help deal with escalating problems such as: bullying, student isolation, teen suicide, discrimination, school violence and increased disciplinary actions.  Through powerful presentations, trainings, community events and professional development, Rachel's Challenge provides a sustainable solution to the problems facing our schools.  

Circuit 4 probation staff, along with Juvenile Court Judge Suzanne Bass organized the first Juvenile Justice Resource Fair at the Duval County Courthouse on September 23rd.  More than 300 community members and 50 juvenile organizations from Duval, Nassau and Clay counties were in attendance including judges, assistant state attorneys, and the newly elected Jacksonville sheriff. The event received positive media coverage and was such a huge success that plans for next year are already underway. 

Those staff members who participated included: Donna Webb, Chief; Tim Denton, Assistant Chief; JPOS Ann McKinnon and Ashely Graves; SJPO Alisa Bishop, Rachel Hillegass and Keith Money; JPO Valentina Wiltshire, Amy Medis, Cliff Anderson, Darrell Cope, Karen McNeal; Angela Mills, Government Analyst and Vicki Burke, JDAI Coordinator.  

Probation staff in Circuit 6 celebrated staff appreciation day on September 25th at Brooker Creek Preserve in Tarpon Springs. The event began with the recognition of service awards to those staff members who were celebrating their anniversary with the state of Florida, and then progressed with team building exercises to engage new and seasoned staff. At the end of the day, staff held a retirement party for Assistant Chief Donna Butt whose last day was September 30th. On behalf of the Department, I would like to congratulate Donna on her retirement and wish her the best in the coming years.

Recently, Circuit 18 JPO Sarah Bachmaier  assisted an expectant mother she currently serves on her caseload in a very special way.   The young lady found herself struggling both financially and emotionally and was not very excited about becoming a new mom. Sarah took it upon herself to try and change her fear into hope and enthusiasm for her new baby. Sarah coordinated with other JPOs and our stakeholders including Aspire Health, the Brevard County School Board, North Brevard Quilts, Kiwanis Kids, North Brevard Charities, Bay Area Youth Services and BETA to provide this youth with a real baby shower complete with food fit for a queen and gifts for the arriving prince. Sarah went above and beyond in helping this young lady cope with a difficult situation.

On September 24, Circuit 15 ACPO Geeta Loach-Jacobson conducted a workshop on Moving the Margin, a values-clarification workshop geared to work with LGBTQ youth within the dependency and juvenile justice systems (adapted from Lambda Legal). The workshop’s core constructs addressed personal values, perception of safety by youth and adults, and the impact of family support, through the use of data and highly interactive activities with our JPOs.

Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell attended the 12th Annual Gang Summit on September 23rd  at the Miami Airport Convention Center. Faced with today’s many community issues, the summit focused on a coordinated approach for organizations seeking to strengthen the lives of children and families in a holistic way by shifting from competition to collaboration. In doing so, organizations will be better able to initiate and maintain collaborative relationships to accomplish goals that neither could achieve alone. The Summit was sponsored by Miami-Dade Youth Crime Task Force, Institute for Child & Family Health, Miami-Dade County and the Dade Miami Criminal Justice Council.

On September 25th, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene conducted a motivational presentation for the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance at Airheads; a trampoline entertainment center in Tampa. Tina’s presentation covered a variety of skills, including positive communication, agreeing to disagree, positive decision making, healthy lifestyle choices, and humor. They had an incredible night. Sixty youth attended the event. Airheads admitted all youth and adults in for free, and even supplied free pizza. It was a great collaboration with Airheads, Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance and Tina.

Detention Update

The Bay RJDC received a visit from Fishery Biologist and Education Outreach Coordinator Michelle Duncan from National Marine Fisheries. Ms. Duncan taught our youth about sharks and gave them an opportunity to feel their way around the inside and outside of a shark. She brought over several dissected specimens our youth were given hands on experience with a shark’s anatomy, including its heart and liver. Michelle spent about an hour explaining the behavior patterns of sharks as well as their feeding rituals and reproductive process. She performed an amazing job connecting with our youth at Bay, so much so that most of them didn’t realize they were in a classroom. The Bay RJDC thanks Ms. Duncan for spending time at our facility as well as Bay District Schools Liaison Anne Martin who helped make this happen.

Juvenile Justice Detention Officer Graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to the juvenile justice detention officers (JDOs) who graduated on October 2, 2015, in a ceremony at DJJ headquarters in Tallahassee. Thanks to Fred Schuknecht, Chief of Staff, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, for delivering the graduation address to the Florida Public Safety Institute class.  JDOs supervise youth in detention centers as they await an appearance before the court or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility. Kudos to SD&T Senior Learning Consultant Manager Duane Pace, who trained the officers for this position of critical responsibility. The officers will work in the facility listed next to their name.

Front Row (left to right):  John Dunaway  – Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC); Tom Gutman – St. Lucie RJDC; Thaddeus Griffin III –Escambia RJDC; Patricia Alexis – St. Lucie RJDC; Eursula Harrison – Leon RJDC; Joshua Solomon – Leon RJDC; Nick Rivera – Southwest RJDC; David Dix – Escambia RJDC

Back Row (left to right): Daniel Holland – St. Lucie RJDC; Nathaniel Back – Escambia RJDC; Toia Phifer – Escambia RJDC; Travis Bolder – Escambia RJDC; James Smith IV – St. Lucie RJDC; Jeff Westfall – Bay RJDC; Edward Luna – St. Lucie RJDC

Residential Update

The Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center (CCJOCC), a maximum-risk program for males, ages 13 to 21, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, held a pizza party in early September to recognize youth for their positive behavior, interactions with peers, and progress in treatment.  The motto used is: “Youth who go a whole month without acting greasy, they get to get cheesy.”

Of the 78 youths who were in residence, 67 were able to participate in this behavior modification reward celebration.  The pizza party is just one of the positive performance system techniques used at the program to change youth behavior and maintain a positive program culture.  

Shown right is just one group of young men who enjoyed cheesy pizza as a reward for positive behavior all month long.

At the September meeting of the Cypress Creek Community Advisory Board, the board members heard from Facility Administrator Calvetti Pate on the subject of creating a “Culture of Care” and enjoyed a modern day rendition of the skit “Who's on First?” by Abbott and Costello.  Two very animated young men who are shown in these photos with the board members performed the skit.  It was a smashing success.

The board members also received paper flowers that were created by the artistic youth of the Omega dorm.  The gifts were appreciated so much that the school board wrote the following article about them:

Flowers from Cypress Creek

Yesterday Gayle Nobles, Director of Career and Technical and Adult Education and I attended the quarterly Community/School Advisory Council at Cypress Creek Academy (a Level 10 Juvenile Offender Correctional Center in Lecanto, Florida). I have the great privilege and honor of spending time at our schools and love sharing about the impressive work and accomplishments of our schools—and Cypress Creek is no exception. I will share with you just a preview of those accomplishments which I will share even more with you in a future post.  Last year at Cypress Creek Academy school year we had 45 students who earned their high school diplomas or GED, the most ever—and we have three students currently in college and one 19 year old student who just earned his bachelor’s degree.

These great accomplishments are a testament of Principal Rob Cummins and his team of educators, the Facility Administrator and his team, Director Gayle Nobles and the commitment of the Citrus County School District, Superintendent and our Board.

Today I wanted to share with you one of the gifts and messages the students shared with us during the meeting.

Each Council member received this handmade flower, made by the students and they read the following message:

“Each of these flowers use to be a plain pieces of paper. It had no particular use and very well could have been tossed away and never’ missed. Someone took the time to transform this paper with no meaning into an object of beauty. This flower we share with you to remind you that our youth are much like these pieces of paper. Each of them have the ability to become something beautiful if someone just takes the time to be patient with them and help them with their transformation into something beautiful.”

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.