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Secretary's Message

October 9, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Last week was a productive and busy time for DJJ staff, our providers, and our stakeholders, as we continued our work in bettering the lives of Florida’s children 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 a reminder, don’t forget that I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you all do – on and off the clock – to enrich our 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

Staff Announcement and Kudos

The Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center honored their recent employee of the month recipients. Each of these employees were given a certificate and a gift card. Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) II Gina Creuziger was recognized as the employee of the month for the month of July. JDO II Lamone Gibson was recognized for the month of August. Administrative Assistant Vickie Brown was honored as the regional support staff member for the month of August. 

Juvenile Detention Officer II Kristen Swartz from the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center was named employee of the month in the Central Region for the month of September. Officer Swartz has been with the Department for 2 years and in that time has  proven to be hard working, reliable and an incredibly positive influence on staff and youth.  

Pictured above (from left to right): Superintendent Seeber, Kristin Swartz, and Captain Bridget Letthand.

Congratulations to Food Service Worker Robert Wiley from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center who earned employee of the month honors for the month of September. Mr. Wiley always goes above and beyond the call of duty, ensuring that the facility is cleaned and maintained. He models a good attitude and shows great respect for our youth and serves as a role model to many of them.

Congratulations to Fred Lyles and Mark Shubrick for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for August 2017.  Each month, IT recognizes one employee from Headquarters and one from the field using a peer nomination process.  Being nominated by their peers speaks volumes to their work ethic and dedication to this agency.

Probationary Youth Shine in the Classroom

Project Connect Youth EM in Circuit 2 was recently awarded an “HP Computers In Transition” laptop computer for his performance in the transition program.  Youth EM was released from his residential program in April 2017 and successfully completed Project Connect on August 30, 2017.   During his time with Project Connect, he enrolled in Tallahassee Community College with the assistance of his Transition Specialist Je’Meane Pinkney and his Life Coach Kimberly Mathews, and obtained part-time employment at Whataburger as a crew member. 

Project Connect is very proud of Youth EM’s accomplishments, his steadfast dedication to improve his life each day by making the right choices and his positive approach to reaching his goals.  This is a donation well deserved!  

Youth involved with the Girls Court in Circuit 4 recently enjoyed an extra activity when a placement specialist from AMIkids set up a yoga session for the young ladies. In addition, the girls were visited by a pet therapy dog named Buddha, who works with children from all of the specialty courts. Our thanks to AMI for going the extra mile to provide for these youth. 

DJJ youth from the AMIkids Miami Dade North facility recently completed the Aggression Replacement Training (ART) group. The group meets 3 days per week for 10 weeks and teaches youth on skill streaming, moral reasoning and anger control components. Youth have to complete and pass an exam pertaining to information they learned throughout the 10-week course. Pictured to the right are the four youth who completed their certification along with the group facilitators, Mrs. Celia and Mr. Carter.

In addition, I would like to congratulate youth JD from AMIkids Miami North who recently received a job with Alliance Solutions. The company contracts with the Miami Marlins baseball team and students work in the parking area, assisting patrons with their parking needs. JD was extremely excited about earning his first check and said, “I feel motivated now that I am earning money the good old-fashioned way!” 

Circuit 6 Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Melissa Fuller and Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor (JPOS) Jared White recently attended a youth roundtable discussion at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The roundtable was hosted by Chrysalis Health and Eckerd’s Project Bridge and was comprised of youth who are actively participating in aftercare transition services with Project Bridge. The discussion centered on the increase in car thefts in Pinellas County and how DJJ, providers, and the community could help to rectify the root of the problem. The youth provided insight as to their daily struggles at home and the feel-good rush that stealing a car brings them.  CPO Fuller and JPOS White took away some valuable lessons and ideas on how to change youth’s perception of the Department and how to convey to kids the consequences of making bad choices.

Detention Staff Organize Blood Drive to Help With Recent Disasters

Staff members from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) organized a blood drive at their facility in response to the hurricanes and other tragic events in recent weeks. The Big Red Bus parked itself outside of the Orange RJDC facility and staff members including Corporals Carl Smith and Cawanis Leonard, Fiscal Assistant Sherry Barksdale and Administrative Assistant Sue Freiburg stepped up to give blood and help their local community in need.

In addition, the Orange RJDC received a donation of new books which were donated by Robert Wesley and Division Chief Danielle Barbato from the Circuit 9 Public Defender’s Office. The books were donated to help the facility create a library for the youth. The Public Defender’s Office has been a tremendous support of the facility and we thank them for all that they do for our youth.

The Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently held a party for three of their staff members and three youth who celebrated their birthdays in the month of September. The staff members included Superintendent Terry Carter, and JDO II’s Robert Peterson and John Monteforte

Prevention Staff Help With Clean-Up Efforts in Miami

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell assisted with clean-up efforts at the Homestead Campus of Miami Bridge Youth and Family Services in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Days after Hurricane Irma, there was plenty of debris left behind despite vigorous cleanup efforts. Staff and community members rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to remove the debris. We appreciate their efforts and enthusiasm to work so diligently to get the job done. 

Pictured above: Marie Boswell (left), Delinquency Prevention Specialist, and Darren Campbell, from Cushman and Wakefield, a Miami Bridge Board Member

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson, Circuit 9 Assistant Chief Probation Officer Johnny Alderman and Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson attended the Orange County Sheriff’s Community Crime Summit on September 27 at the Rosen Centre in Orlando. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings’ goal for the summit was to provide a clear and accurate account of crime in the community, and how working together can create a positive change.

Topics included a crime update, the impact of the heroin/opioid crisis, global terrorism, 21st Century awareness in response to acts of violent crime, and community resources. The keynote speaker was Anil Gupta, who is the author of an Amazon bestseller, “Immediate Happiness.” Anil Gupta spoke about recognizing our greatness and utilizing that to live a richer and fuller life.

Pictured above (left to right): Orange County Sheriff’s Office Major Denise Demps; Circuit 9 Reform Specialist, Melinda Wesley-Nelson; Delinquency Prevention Specialist, Dionne Anderson; Orlando Police Department CSO Roland Clee; Orange County Sheriff’s Office DFC Andrea Demps; and Circuit 9 Deputy Chief Probation Officer, Johnny Alderman.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee and Reform Specialist from Circuit 6 Adrienne Conwell hosted a DJJ resource table during St. Petersburg’s National Night Out observance on October 3. National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer.

There were a wide array of vendors and agencies participating in the event and each provided information on their organization. DJJ disseminated a variety of family engagement brochures in addition to networking with other organizations and developing ways to collaborate. The St. Petersburg Police Department displayed their SWAT vehicle as well police horses and had many officers on hand to mingle with the crowd.

Pictured above: Pat McGhee, left and Adrienne Conwell at National Night Out activities.

DJJ Student Shares Education Success Story

I’m pleased to share the following story written by a youth from the Central Pasco Girls Academy:

While residing at Central Pasco Girls Academy, I had the ability to work and achieve some of my education goals. The education team of Jessica Williams, guidance counselor, Dorothy Hawkins, and Tim Guy worked with me every week to press ahead in my education. They helped me and I could take full advantage of the time they worked with me in catching up to where I am now.  I came into the program falling behind in the 10th grade and now I am leaving here as a senior.  I learned if I applied myself and take the help they offered me, I can do anything.  I am leaving here as a senior needing only a few credits before I can graduate with a high school diploma.  

Residential Facility Welcomes DJJ Staff for Grand Opening Celebration

At the end of September, Walton Academy for Growth and Change, a secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by Rite of Passage, Inc. opened its doors to the community, inviting stakeholders to tour the newly updated facility. Rite of Passage assumed operations of the Academy in April and in partnership with the Department of Juvenile Justice, has invested close to $80,000 in improvements including new furniture, carpeting, paint, equipment and landscaping.

These enhancements re-energized the Academy and reinforced Rite of Passage's philosophical approach of operating school houses rather than jailhouses. Decked out in new Academy-style uniforms, students participated in the event with one young man helping to lead tours and answer questions.

The event was widely attended by Department of Juvenile Justice officials including Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, Residential Regional Deputy Director Lori Jernigan, as well as community partners from the Walton County School Board, State Attorney's Office, Children's Advocacy Center, Home Builders Institute and City of Defuniak Springs.

The girls of Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, helped Steadfast Mentors and Bay Hope Church with packing 70 of these bags full of food for toddlers at the Rosa Valdez Center in Tampa. The Academy Mentor Coordinator Deb Sternett says, "They also made a sweet card to go in each one. Look closely at the color label on the outside of the baggie. They are so very helpful!!"

Ms. Deb goes on to explain, "If these toddlers didn’t get these bags of food most would not have enough to eat on the weekends. Hard to believe."

Central Pasco Girls Academy also held a staff appreciation event during their general staff meeting on September 28. Facility Administrator Roberts provided lunch to all the staff in attendance and an awards ceremony was held to recognize staff for "Outstanding Service" "Teamwork" and "Positive Culture." With the events of this month, the CPGA team really pulled together to make it though. We couldn't be prouder of the team we have and the team we will continue to build.

Register Today for the 8th Annual Florida Faith Symposium

The eighth Annual Florida Faith Symposium will be held November 7-8, 2017, at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. The symposium is one of the state’s largest gatherings of faith leaders and government agencies joining forces to serve and strengthen Florida’s children and families.  

The conference will feature dynamic speakers, more than 35 workshops, and a variety of exhibits focused on enhancing faith- and community-based programs. Attendees can also look forward to inspiring musical performances by Dove and Grammy award-winning jazz musician Ben Tankard and the Camp Anderson Band, a youth-led group that is living proof of the positive impact of faith- and community-based programs.  

This event is hosted by the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, in partnership with the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council, as well as other statewide partners. 

Early bird registration is still available at $125, for a limited time. To register and for more information, visit http://faithsymposium.com/