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Secretary's Message

December 7, 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

Rally in Tally Event 

I was honored to give the welcome address at the Florida Coalition for Children’s (FCC) “Rally in Tally,” event at the Capitol. The “Rally in Tally” allows the opportunity for advocates, especially youth, to meet one-on-one with legislators and share their stories and experiences. These meetings are an important avenue to educating policy makers on the true needs of one of Florida’s most vulnerable populations. Thank you to the foster youth, families, child welfare workers and other advocates for taking time to travel to Tallahassee to deliver these important messages.  

The FCC advocates on behalf of Florida’s abused, abandoned, neglected, and at-risk children, and supports the agencies and individuals who work on their behalf. 

Florida Children’s Council Panel Discussion

Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann along with Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht participated on the Florida Children’s Council’s Public Policy Discussion and Panel. The panel focused on issues related to support for children, youth, and families and the systems and services set into place by policy that meet their needs.

Along with DJJ, agencies represented on the panel included the Statewide Guardian Ad Litem, Agency for Health Care Administration, Department of Children and Families, and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.  

 Legislative Update

Last week was the final committee week for the Florida Legislature before the 2016 Regular Session begins January 12, 2016. In both the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, I presented DJJ’s portion of Governor Scott’s “Florida First” Budget for Fiscal Year 2016-17. In the presentations I had the opportunity to highlight the major issues funded and answer questions from committee members.  To see the press release detailing the Governor’s budget recommendations for the Department, click here. And, to view the complete list of Governor Scott’s budget recommendations, visit www.FloridaFirstBudget.com. 

Call for Nominations! Youth Success Day

Each year, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), members of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA), the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF), and youth program providers celebrate Youth Success Day. It is hard to believe, but Youth Success Day 2016 is fast approaching!

To celebrate youth success, DJJ selects Youth Ambassadors to be recognized at the Youth Success Day Press Conference which will be held on January 26, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. at the Florida State Capitol.  We need your help identifying youth who are celebrating success! A Youth Ambassador nomination form is linked below for your use in nominating a youth to be recognized for their success. Youth Ambassadors must have touched the juvenile justice system in some fashion and be 22 years of age or younger.   Nominations will be accepted now through December 31.     

We look forward to receiving your nomination and cannot wait to congratulate the DJJ Youth Ambassadors on their hard work towards a path to success and the inspiration they provide for us all.

If you have questions about the nomination process or Youth Success Day, please contact Amanda Fortuna at Amanda.Fortuna@djj.state.fl.us or 850-717-2711.

JJSIP Update

On Nov. 18-21, a multidisciplinary team of DJJ staff members made presentations at the American Society of Criminology (ASC) 71st Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., which is held primarily for criminal justice and criminologist educators, criminal justice practitioners, and researchers. 

Office of Residential Services Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham and Residential Services Chief Policy & Programming Meg Bates served on the panel titled “The Road to Reform:  Connecting Research to Practice,” specifically addressing the topic “Juvenile Justice System Reform in Florida:  Strategies for Implementation and Sustainability.”  Their part of the panel discussion covered the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP) reforms that were initiated in 2011, as well as the implementation of the Structured Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) to determine the extent to which programs were providing evidence-based services to youth.  This topic included an explanation of the creation and use of the Structured Decision Making Disposition Recommendation Matrix, which is a tool used to assist in matching each youth with the appropriate level of service and supervision within Florida’s juvenile justice system.

In addition, Director of the Bureau of Research & Data Integrity Mark Greenwald presented research findings in breakout sessions, including “Reducing Recidivism Among Juveniles,” a panel discussion about “What We Know from Recent Data, Policy, and Practice” for juveniles in residential placement, and “Risk Assessment and Recidivism Prevention.”

Holiday Shop with Amazon Smile to Benefit FJJF

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) is excited about Amazon’s convenient and philanthropic way for you to support FJJF every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop through AmazonSmile at http://smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to FJJF.  Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations.

Simply go to smile.amazon.com anytime you want to make a purchase on Amazon and search “Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation” in the search box as your charity. The proceeds from your purchase will come to FJJF and benefit our children who are in need. Add a bookmark to smile.amazon.com to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.  It’s convenient, charitable and the perfect way to shop for the upcoming holidays.  Thank you for supporting an important cause and making a difference in the lives of our youth! 

Probation Update

I am pleased to share the following success story from Eckerd’s Project Bridge program. Two of our young women in the program recently completed job interviews with a local Chipotle restaurant. Despite being nervous and a little scared, both of these young women performed exceptionally and I for one am looking forward to finding out if they landed the job.

Project Bridge provides transitional services to our youth who are reintegrating back to their home communities from our residential commitment programs. Through an innovative collaboration of organizations, Project Bridge provides educational, mentoring, vocational and transportation services to help these youth achieve stable and successful lives and avoid re-entry into the criminal justice system.

I am happy to share another exciting graduation success story from the folks at Eckerd’s Project Bridge:

“If I can do it, you can do it……or you can end up in jail or dead” – quote from a successful Eckerd Project Bridge Youth.

Not many youth you meet have the courage to stand in front of their peers and say something that honest and direct. However, PF not only possessed the desire to help his peers but also the determination to help himself.  

Since the youth first enrolled in Eckerd Project Bridge he had a plan. “I want to get my GED and I want a graduation ceremony”, he said. After 3 months of fighting through obstacles and displaying perseverance, he attained both. On 10/29/15, a graduation ceremony was held in North Port, Florida and in attendance were Project Bridge staff, DJJ and 10 family members; some of which were recording video and taking pictures. PF interacted with his peers, spoke with staff and displayed a smile that would light up a room. He had completed his goals and everyone was there to celebrate with him.  

While with Eckerd Project Bridge PF obtained a GED, secured full time employment, participated in Grady’s MMA and remained crime free. All the while, the youth was displaced from his home, initially failed his practice tests and experienced significant financial setbacks. This withstanding, PF never gave in and refused to give up resulting in the completion of every goal he set to accomplish. However even PF will tell you that it doesn’t end here and we believe him. PF has proven determination, motivation and the desire to take advantage of a second chance will lead to further success and maybe even a few more celebrations.

Circuit 15 DJJ staff attended an event entitled, “Night Out on Crime,” in South Bay. The event was hosted by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) and gave the public an opportunity to speak with officers from community policing and other specialty units. Reform Specialist Shirlon McCarty and JPOs Eugene Babb and Nathalie Adonis manned a DJJ information booth and spoke to the public about the duties of a juvenile probation officer and the importance of respecting those in authority and obeying the law in order to avoid getting into trouble. The PBSO Night Out was a great success for the community, with many children and their parents participating. Several DJJ probationary youth were also on hand to assist with the set-up and clean-up and earned valuable community service hours for their efforts. 

Students from the Panama City Marine Institute held their student council elections last week. It was a great campaign that included posters and stump speeches. In addition the youth helped news anchor Jerry Tabatt from WMBB TV with his annual canned food drive. The students picked up food from each donation site and then sorted and boxed it for the charities to pick up in time for Thanksgiving.

Circuit 14 Probation held a lock-in for seven girls and three staff members at the facility. The girls came to the office after school and stayed for a night of dance-offs, ghost stories, and girl talk. The girls ate pizza, brownies, and Oreos while watching a movie on the projector. It was a great opportunity for the girls to bond with each other as well as the staff.

Circuit 17 CPO Cassandra Evans traveled to Washington, D.C. recently to participate in a roundtable discussion entitled, “Information Sharing: A Solution for Safer Communities,” during the 2015 American Society of Criminology’s annual meeting. The roundtable was hosted by the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center. The meeting focused on our state’s juvenile justice system and how the sharing of information is helping to better detect and prevent crimes by youth.

Detention Update

Youth from the Volusia RJDC are working with Operation Christmas Cards to create unique Christmas cards and artwork for our troops serving overseas. The youth worked with artists from VSAFL who conduct art education programs our facilities while promoting the accomplishments of artists with disabilities through their artist registry, exhibitions, and performances.

The Duval RJDC hosted their annual Fall Festival on November 20 for the youth at the facility. Corporal Monique Riley and Officer Megyn Garland assisted our youth with decorating personalized treat bags to carry with them as they moved through the booths at the festival. The education department had a book fair where they allowed our youth to pick out a book to take home with them. In addition, they also organized a bowling and basketball booth where the kids were able to answer questions correctly for a chance to compete. The mental health department held a substance abuse trivia game where youth selected an answer for a particular substance abuse and received personalized journals and treats for participation. Food services provided a booth on nutritious snacks and healthy eating while Chaplain Venus Darling provided information regarding their personal goals and achievements.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Licensed Mental Health Counselor Tenora Bailey generously donated a meal to those officers at the Bay RJDC who were working on the holiday away from their families. Tenora treated the officers to a barbeque buffet complete with all the trimmings as a sign of appreciation for all of their hard work. The feedback from the staff was amazing as they felt both supported and encouraged by the gesture. 


Pasco RJDC Superintendent Monica Gray was asked by several schools in Pinellas County to participate in the Great American Teach-In on November 18. Superintendent Gray visited three schools that day including the Lealman Innovation Academy, Mildred Helms Elementary School, and Largo Middle School. Gray has been participating in the Teach-In for the last ten years and answered many questions from the students, including what her inspiration was for working with children, the qualifications to work with our agency and room for advancement. 

The Pasco RJDC received some wonderful news recently as Suncoast Kid’s Place has been cleared to come into the facility and work with those youth who have experienced the loss of a loved one or a major change in their lives. The first group meeting was held on November 6 at the facility and the feedback that Suncoast received from the meeting was better than they anticipated. The youth had imagined that the group therapy would being boring or depressing and they were surprised that it wasn’t. They really liked that they were able to express themselves without judgement while working on their coping skills. Out of the 32 youth at the facility, 11 agreed to participate.

Corporal Ryann Ellingsworth and Officer Brittany Johnson from the Bay RJDC created a wonderful arts and crafts project during the Thanksgiving holiday for the youth at the facility. Youth made turkey plates and used their hands to represent the feathers of the turkey. Staff members helped them glue the feathers to the turkey after the colored it. In addition, the local community advisory board donated supplies for the youth to make Pine Cone Turkeys. The youth wrote what they were thankful for on each feather of the turkey.

Youth from the Escambia RJDC began an eight week class on domestic violence at the Favor-House Domestic Violence Center in Pensacola. The class will be taught each Monday by Crisis Intake Counselor Sheila Embrey and Child Advocate Pat Johnson and will cover a wide array of topics including: defining caring relationships and dating abuse, overcoming gender stereotypes and preventing dating sexual abuse. 


Recently, the agency’s first therapy dog Justice received a letter from a youth at the Miami-Dade RJDC. The youth pleaded for the therapy dog to come back to the facility for a visit. After reading the letter, Miami Superintendent Steve Owens and Orlando Superintendent Daryl Wolf thought a visit would be a perfect thing and Justice made an appearance at Miami-Dade on November 23. Justice saw every youth in the center, visited the classrooms, saw his favorite staff members and gave kisses to everyone. All of the youth at the facility enjoyed their time with him. After their visit, Justice received a letter thanking him for coming, which you can see below. 

The Escambia RJDC held a Thanksgiving luncheon on November 25 for the youth at the facility and their parents. Ahead of the parents visit, the youth decorated the boards in the dining room with turkeys and what they were thankful for this holiday season.

The Hillsborough West RJDC held a Thanksgiving Day raffle for seven families who came out to see their children for the holiday. The turkeys were graciously donated by Mr. Lou Greco from Palm Creek Realty. The families were very excited to participate in the event and those parents with the winning tickets were grateful to receive a turkey just in time for Thanksgiving. Some of the children were able to make it back home for the holiday and couldn’t wait to eat turkey. 

Several of the youth at the Escambia RJDC received painting kits from the mother of Bobby Cox, maintenance mechanic at the facility. Each of the kits came with the picture drawn as well as brushes and paint. All of those who participated had a wonderful time.

Prevention Update

Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice B. Sims was honored as a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of the Florida Panhandle at the FSU Alumni Center in Tallahassee on November 19. Assistant Secretary Sims was honored for her contributions in the category of social services. Other women were honored for service in the areas of business, law, education, community impact and Rising Young Women of Distinction. One woman received the Pearl Lifetime Achievement Award “for her significant contributions to the Girl Scout movement in support of building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.” The final honoree was recognized with the Diamond Award for “contributions to the community” that “embody the vision of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts.”        

According to Raslean M. Allen, Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle, Inc. chief executive officer, “The recipients are women who have distinguished themselves through service and leadership in their community demonstrating courage, confidence, and character, while making the world a better place.”

A program inspired by Girl Scouts nationally, and hosted locally by the Girl Scouts of the Florida Panhandle, the Women of Distinction awards honor women who truly demonstrate their commitment to the community. The women selected join the 142 women in the Florida Panhandle who have been honored as Women of Distinction since the program’s inception in 1998.

In the above photo (from left to right), Kimberly Hankerson, Assistant Dean, FSU Foundation; Assistant Secretary Sims; and Josie Tamayo, General Counsel, Florida Lottery  

Deputy Manager Marcus Smith took part on a panel discussion entitled “Journey Toward Justice: Race in Florida,” on November 20 at the Florida A&M University Law School in Orlando. Marcus discussed the school to prison pipeline at the panel discussion. He was joined by noted Tallahassee attorney Benjamin Crump, former Tallahassee Mayor John Marks  and other state and national advocates. Crump, best known for his involvement in the Travon Martin legal case, was also recently elected as President of the National Bar Association.

The panel was moderated by Sheryl Underwood, comedienne and hostess of the daytime talk show, “The Talk.” Ms. Underwood and Attorney Crump are traveling the country participating in town hall discussions geared toward promoting open dialogue about civil justice. The panel was presented by State Senator Geraldine F. Thompson, District 12, Vice Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus.   

The PACE Center for Girls of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, a DJJ prevention provider, celebrated its two-year anniversary of their new facility last month in Pensacola. Since moving to their new home, the girls are receiving more enhanced services. With more space to navigate formerly narrow hallways and ‘breathing room’ throughout the building, girls are more comfortable. Having personal space in their classrooms reduces frustration and increases productivity.

One hundred percent of the students are making academic achievements, with 87% or more having increased their math and reading scores by .5 grade level in a 4-month period.   While appreciative of the large classrooms, ample storage, and fully equipped kitchen with adjoining dining hall, the students’ favorite space is the new patio and backyard. On beautiful days, you can often find a class taking place in the fresh air.

In addition to traditional academics, PACE girls are expanding their minds through a host of cultural opportunities afforded by the added space, where they’ve enjoyed guest speakers, visiting performing arts groups, celebrated proms, hosted PACE graduation, played outdoor games in the courtyard, built a raised garden, cooked meals in their kitchen, enjoyed art classes, yoga sessions, book club meetings and dance workshops.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady manned a DJJ display table during the Family First Expo and Fun Day on November 7 at Kleman Plaza in Tallahassee. This was a day for parents and children to interact with more than 40 service providers and vendors. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson walked around to each exhibitor and welcomed them to the event.

The expo featured health, vision, and dental screenings for kids and their families. Along with Bond Community Health Center, the Early Learning Coalition, and Who We Play For, the Expo brought local partners together to show services available to assist children and families in Tallahassee.

As part of the Mayor’s Family First agenda, Mayor Gillum is hoping to build on the work of the child-focused organizations in Tallahassee to drive change and move the city toward a more nurturing and dynamic place for children and families to prosper. The Mayor also wants to encourage stronger partnerships between the state, city and county governments as well as community leaders.

In the above photo: Verla Lawson-Grady and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Office of Research and Data Integrity Update

Research Analyst Katherine Gomez, MA along with Gary Vitacco-Robles from Northside Medical Center in Tampa recently conducted a training entitled: “Youth With Sexual Behavior Problems 101: Everything You Wanted to Know About Sexual Behavior Problems but Were Afraid To Ask.” This training was presented to representatives from Bay Area Youth Services Juvenile Diversions Alternatives Program, the Circuit 13 Juvenile Diversion Program, Paxen Community Connections and DJJ staff members. It included a presentation and a panel discussion which featured two of our own in Reform Specialist Khalilah Daniels and JPOS Sha’akira Williams who have both taken an active role in maintaining the Hillsborough County Sexual Abuse Intervention Network. 

Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency Mural Project 

Members from the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency (FCCD) including President Justine Patterson and Vice President Rosalyn Baker from Circuit 10, President Patricia Guest from Circuit 20 and State President Gina Giacomo met with the administrators of the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility and the Martin Girls Academy in regards to a mural project for both facilities. The FCCD has committed to creating murals in each of the six day rooms at Palm Beach and a large mural in the day room and the medical hallway at Martin. These murals will provide encouragement, motivation and a brighter inside to the children’s environment. These FCCD members met with the children in both locations and provided a short teaching on murals, and listened to their input on what they would like to see on the walls. The youth will be providing FCCD their artwork to be used in the murals.  The children are excited and had insightful ideas as you can see below. 

PREA Update

Congratulations to the Dade Juvenile Residential Facility, Pompano Youth Treatment Center, and St. Johns Youth Academy residential commitment programs for successfully passing their Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) audits.  The audit reports are posted on the PREA web page at http://www.djj.state.fl.us/partners/prison-rape-elimination-act-(prea)/completed-prea-audit-reports. 

Residential Update

Recently, the Department of Juvenile Justice hosted a five-day training at the Circuit 8 Probation Office in Alachua for the Department of Corrections, regarding the Juvenile Justice Information System (JJIS) and the Residential Positive Achievement Change Tool (R-PACT)—an assessment tool DJJ uses to track key areas of development for residential youths.  The Florida Department of Corrections will be completing R-PACT assessments for youthful offenders who are 17 years old (and under the age of 17) to create individualized performance plans for those in the adult prison system.  

Eleven participants from the Florida Department of Corrections, representing the Suwannee, Lowell, and Sumter Correctional Institutions, took part in a daylong instructional class about JJIS taught by Data Integrity Officer Susan Stormant from the Alachua Regional Service Center.  In order to utilize the JJIS software to  perform R-PACT assessments, the participants needed to complete JJIS training. 

They spent the next four days learning about the R-PACT to include creating individualized performance plans as taught by Office of Residential Services-HQ GOC-II Vanessa Wicker Reeves, with assistance from SMA-II Supervisor Garrett Tucker and GOC-II Janelle King.

Last month, the Dade Juvenile Residential Facility (JRF), a non-secure residential program for males, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, worked with Farm Share in a community service project.  Farm Share works to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by recovering and distributing fresh and nutritious food to those who need it most.  The residents of Dade JRF packed and sorted food for Farm Share, which in turn went to members of the community.  

Also in November, Dade JRF hosted their quarterly Family Day, which gave the boys a chance to have a delicious meal with their families.  Facility Administrator Richard Barnett gave a brief overview of the program and updates about the staff members and program technology.  He then explained the educational services provided by the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, classroom technology, and school-sponsored activities.

Five students from Dade JRF successfully completed all the assignments, quizzes, and tests and earned SafeStaff® Employee Foodhandler Certificates, which are required of every Florida food employee who works in a licensed food establishment.  Certification is good for three years from the date of training and certified foodhandlers are maintained in a database by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Division of Hotels and Restaurants.  These five young men are ready for work upon graduation from Dade JRF.  Congratulations!  

Another highlight of November events at Dade JRF, The Brotherhood religious group began as an attempt to involve families in the lives of the juveniles during their stay in facilities and once they return home.  Family Focus occurs year-round to encourage families to worship together. The Brotherhood was started since many youth often do not receive any family visits during their stay. The group hopes to inform families how important its role is in the success of the child and to discuss how family members could help the youth once they return home.

Dade JRF students also earned certification in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and basic first aid, which was taught by Facility Trainer Darrell Russell.  He also taught the boys about disaster preparedness, empowering them to take action in their homes, schools, and communities should a disaster strike.  Shown here are the students learning CPR with mannequins.  

Last month, Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Facility hosted Jacksonville Youth Academy—both are non-secure programs for males operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC—for a friendly competition in flag football.  After weeks of practicing and memorizing plays, boys from both teams were excited about the game. 

The weather and field conditions could not have been any better.  Hastings won the coin toss and elected Jacksonville to receive the football.  During the first half, Hastings scored two touchdowns.  However, Jacksonville did not allow those points to go unanswered during the second half. 

Jacksonville scored a touchdown at the beginning of the second half and were about to score another touchdown at the end of the game when Hastings intercepted the pass that would have likely tied the score. 

The final score of the game was 14-7, with Hastings taking the win.  Players from both teams lined up on the 50-yard line and shook hands before exiting the field.  

In November, youth from Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for males ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, were invited to Jacksonville’s Ritz Theater and Museum to attend the special invite-only kickoff ceremony for the Black Wings Exhibit.  The exhibit honors African-American pioneers and visionaries who surpassed racial barriers to claim a legitimate place in the realm of aviation through joining the Armed Forces, getting involved with commercial flying, and becoming astronauts.  The youth were provided the opportunity to view historical equipment and uniforms used in the aviation field, and also hear stories from and meet a member of the Tuskegee Airmen and members of the original Buffalo Soldiers.  The Black Wings exhibit is currently on display at the Ritz Theater and Museum until January 17, 2016 when it will return to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.  

The Wellness Wire

Below is a link to the December edition of “The Wellness Wire.” This monthly publication provides calendars of events hosted by providers of Florida State Group Insurance and tips to improve health and emotional well-being.  Please take a minute to read it.

Volume 3 | Issue 12 |  December 2015