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Secretary's Message

April 17, 2018


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

Statewide Employee of the Month Awarded to Juvenile Detention Officer Jamese Edwards

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) Jamese Edwards with the Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named DJJ’s Statewide Employee of the Month.

JDO Edwards has been described as dedicated, determined and hardworking. She is attentive in her duties and never hesitates to take on a challenge or difficult task. JDO Edwards is a great team player and maintains a very positive and friendly attitude towards her fellow team members and our youth. Congratulations again to JDO Jamese Edwards on this well-deserved honor!

We look forward to highlighting our next Statewide Employee of the Month in the near future. If you know of a dedicated DJJ employee deserving of this distinction, please send in your nominations for Statewide Employee of the Month by clicking here (please note, this link can only be accessed by DJJ employees).

Congratulations to Juvenile Probation Officer Robbin Alexander from Circuit 1 who was named the Circuit’s Employee of the Quarter for the first quarter of 2018. Officer Alexander began his career with DJJ last August and hit the ground running with a full caseload. After a staff resignation, Alexander demonstrated outstanding leadership abilities by taking on additional cases, with an ability to work very independently. He is a self-starter and shows tremendous competency in working with the youth in his care as well as their families, school officials andjudicial staff.

I would like to extend my congratulations and best wishes to Nathan Epps from the Office of Research and Data Integrity who recently retired from DJJ after an illustrious 34-year career of dedicated service to the Department. Nathan began his career in 1984 at the Dozier School for Boys before becoming a juvenile probation officer in Plant City back in 1988. He spent the last 28 years in Research and Data Integrity.

Nathan became interested in a concept that was beginning to emerge in human services fields, but had barely even made a ripple in the juvenile justice world.  That concept is trauma-informed care, which is now so widely embraced.  Nathan created the Delinquency Profile which is readily available on DJJ’s website, and used to be copied and mailed out on floppy disc.  The pictures here are from his retirement celebration at DJJ headquarters on April 2.

Pictured above: Nathan Epps (right) with Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht 

Probation Youth Attend Job Fair, Learn about Construction Careers

Project Connect Transition Specialist (TS) Jonathan Balcar in Circuit 4 recently assisted transition youth DW as he participated in the LGBT Employment Summit sponsored by the University of North Florida’s LGBT Resource Center within the Division of Student Affairs.  Youth DW met with several employers such as Starbucks, Fidelity, Mayo Clinic, and City Year.  TS Balcar and Youth DW observed a panel discussion on non-traditional pathways to careers and participated in a career readiness workshop.  TS Balcar reports that youth DW is not only completing all of his program requirements but is taking huge strides toward becoming a successful adult fully engaged with and enfranchised in his community. 

Project Connect was proud to have two youth award winners at the Santa Rosa County Youth Success Week ceremony on April 2.  Youth EM and Youth TW, pictured here with the Honorable Judge Ross Goodman, have excelled in the community since returning from their residential programs.  Youth EM will be graduating high school in May and plans to join the Navy.  Youth TW is working towards his high school diploma and conducting interviews for part-time employment.  Both youth have taken full advantage of Project Connect services, are on track with their individualized service plans, and have formed a strong working relationship with their transition specialist.  Both youth spoke freely with Judge Goodman and were surprised that he remembered them so distinctly from court.  The young men stated they were “proud that the judge could witness them in a more positive light” as he acknowledged their efforts since returning home.

DJJ youth from AMIkids Miami North participate in a construction class for interested youth each Wednesday and Thursday. The class is taught by Wayne Dawkins who share with our youth his knowledge of carpentry and inspires them to change their lives around. Recently, the class made a field trip to a construction site with AMI’s partner CARES. The students were provided a tour of the site and learned the entire process and stage of the building project.

Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson and Juvenile Probation Officer Jeffery Jones from Circuit 9 were guest speakers during a criminal justice class at Valencia Community College in Orlando on April 9. Melinda and Jeff provided the class with an overview of the DJJ system, reform initiatives, experiences as a juvenile probation officer, juvenile probation officer qualifications, and volunteer and internship opportunities. 

Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney and JDAI Coordinator Sarah Blumberg from Circuit 13 attended the local transition team meeting on March 28. The pair gave a presentation on DJJ processes and shared information regarding Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) and reform initiatives. 

Circuit 18 probation staff participated in, “The MANicure Movement,” on April 6. This grassroots campaign, which began in in Central Florida, was designed to raise awareness of child abuse as a national health crisis. MANicure asks men to get one of their fingernails painted blue to start the conversation in regard to one in five children experiencing child abuse by the age of 18. Staff members from probation, residential and IT all participated in this event.

Assistant Chief Probation Officer Dorothy Malik and Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Karl Dorelien from Circuit 19 attended an event for National Crime Victim’s Rights Week, which was sponsored by the Village Coalition of Youth Activities. The event raised awareness for victim’s rights and our officers disseminated information relating to our agency initiatives and community resources.

The Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) program at Capitol City Youth Services in Tallahassee was awarded the 2018 Partnership of Excellence Award from Leon County Schools. The SNAP Program is funded by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice through contract with the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services and works to give children ages 6-11 the skills to make better decisions in the moment and stay out of trouble at school and at home. Youth and their parents participate for 13 weeks in engaging activities such as group discussions, role-playing, interactive games and self-reflection to address topics including dealing with anger, learning how to cope and practice self-control, engaging in problem solving and learning not to bully and how to prevent bullying. The program is currently in 10 sites and will be expanding to 11 new sites this summer. For more information visit www.floridanetwork.org.

Prevention Staff Host Bridging the G.A.A.P. Discussion at PACE Center

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. discussion on February 23 at the PACE Center for Girls in Tampa. The panel consisted of 12 PACE youth and 14 law enforcement officers who included detectives, community officers, and a major.

What made this G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) so special is the girls created questions to ask the officers. The questions were among the highlights of the event seeing the girls with pad and pen asking questions and noting the responses of the officers.  Some questions included: “How do you deal with reports of bullying?” “How does an officer respond to reports of school violence?” and “How does law enforcement prioritize calls?”   

The discussion went so well Captain Johnson from the Tampa Police Department and officers are interested in collaborating on more projects with the DJJ in Hillsborough County. The G.A.A.P.’s have addressed community and individual concerns relating to youth and the law. A very successful discussion took place as youth and officers provided closure to questions of interest by youth as officers received a better understanding on youth behaviors.

Statewide DMC and JDAI Coordinator Minnie Bishop and State Advisory Group Member and DMC Committee Chair Cheryl Massaro spoke at the Minority Family Summit on March 24 in Bunnell. Minnie Bishop discussed the “Explanation of Bias & Implicit Bias and its Effect in Working with Juveniles.” Cheryl Massaro spoke on “Defining Racial Ethnic Diversity & Disproportionate Minority Contact. (DMC).”

The Summit was sponsored by Flagler County’s Juvenile Justice Council’s DMC Committee. The purpose was to educate people on DMC issues. About 60 people attended. Disproportionate minority contact refers to the unequal number of minority youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system.

Detention Employees Attend Local Job Fair

GOC II Melody Chisholm, Administrative Assistant Franklin Watson from the Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center and Officer Caitlin Smoak from the Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted an informational booth during the Hillsborough Community College career fair. During the fair, our staff members talked with perspective applicants about the job requirements and responsibilities for becoming a juvenile detention officer.

The St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center held their monthly birthday party for staff members celebrating a birthday during the month of April. This month only one employee had an April birthday, Medical Clerk Tiffany Baez, and was honored with balloons and cake. The monthly birthday celebrations at St. Lucie celebrate staff and build staff morale and positive relationships in the workplace.

Office of Staff Development and Training Hosts Youth Engagement Model Workgroup

The Office of Staff Development and Training hosted a Youth Engagement Model (YEM) workgroup on March 30.  The workgroup is tasked with providing guidance and oversight for the revisions to the Protective Action Response (PAR) Intervention Model. Workgroup members provided critiques and feedback on the first two draft modules of the proposed curriculum.  

The dedication to this project is an integral part of our reform efforts to provide safe environments for our youth and staff.  I would like to express my appreciation to those who are currently serving as members of the YEM Workgroup: Amanda Boser (BAYS Florida), Andrea Minnis, Angee Hastings (AMIkids, Inc.) Barbara Campbell, Billy Starke, Brent Musgrove, Charlie Chervanik (Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc.), Duane Pace, Garrett Tucker, Holly Queen, Jeanette Jackson (Gulf Coast Youth Services), Jeff Wenhold, Kenny Reeves, Marcus Smith, Matt Hefelfinger, Maureen Honan, Sonny Peacock, and Stephanie McKinzie.

Residential Youth Hold Weekly Fitness Challenge, Attend Job Fair

Jacksonville Youth Academy (JYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral, are getting fit! Several youth from JYA participated in the weekly fitness challenge which included push-ups and sit-ups. The youth were given 1 minute per exercise to complete as many push-ups and sit-ups as possible. This week’s crowned Champion completed 72 push-ups and 80 sit-ups!

Youth from Jacksonville Youth Academy that are currently in transition got dressed up in their shirts and ties to participate in a job fair hosted by AMI Jacksonville. The job fair offered youth the opportunity to talk with and conduct real interviews with employers like McDonalds, Subway, Chipotle, Daily’s, Circle K and others. Special thanks to AMI Jacksonville Activities Coordinator Joshua McNair for the invitation and putting together a great event.

March was another amazing month at JUST, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 17, which is operated by Twin Oaks. First off, they’d like to congratulate one of their fellow campers on receiving his GED. Congratulations Camper Gates! The youth and staff went to the Jack McLean Community Center and took part in various activities such as ping pong, pool, basketball, air hockey and they even played the Xbox. After all the fun, they hit the buffet at the Golden Corral and stuffed their stomachs. While they were having fun at the community center the rest of the boys were on campus having their own fun. They hosted the K9 squad from the Liberty Correctional Institute. A group of boys would lay a track with one officer while another group would track them with another officer and the dogs. The boys learned how they train the dogs and how they are maintained. Afterwards they played with the dogs and had their pictures taken with the dogs.

A few weeks later Mr. Davin hosted a kickball tournament for the JUST boys. He created an elimination bracket. It was a brutal battle between the dorms. It ended in triumph for the Blue Dorm by beating Green Dorm two games in a row. We would like to thank the staff that joined us on the field: Mr. Shuler, Ms. Graham, Ms. Hailey, Ms. Robinson, Mr. Cuyler and Mr. Davin. While we fought it out on the field Mrs. Boone was busy preparing us a delicious feast!! We enjoyed hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, brownies, Watergate salad and punch.

Mrs. Graham gave out awards to some of our fellow students this month and one of our team leaders. It was the end of the nine-weeks and we had five students on the A/B Honor Roll.

The Education Department started a new program and will be honoring a team leader each nine-weeks that goes above and beyond in the classroom or in vocation. The recipient receives a certificate and a $25 gift card. The first recipient of the Team Leader of the Nine-Weeks Award was Ms. S. Owens. She is a team leader on Mr. Gardner’s shift. Way to go Ms. Owens!!

Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel, is in discussions with Shear Finesse Hairstyling Academy to integrate barber classes at the facility. At the end of March, nine youth were taken to school for haircuts to educate them on personal grooming.

Challenge Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Eckerd, hosted guest speaker, Melissa Walsh. When Melissa was 18 years old, she made the worst decision of her life. She was with some friendsand decided to have a few drinks and then get into her truck and drive home. It was the last time she would ever be able to drive a vehicle, she flipped her truck 8 times and ended up being ejected from the truck. She broke several bones, including her neck in several places. That decision made her a paraplegic for the rest of her life. Over the last 10 years, Melissa has used her story to encourage young (and old) people alike, not to drink and drive. The boys at Challenge Youth Academy were captivated by her story and Melissa’s willingness to share had a positive impact on the youth. The youth asked many questions and many of them vowed to never drive a vehicle if they’ve been drinking alcohol.

Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program, for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral, brought in a local pastor for the youth. Staff, LeVert Threats along with Tori Palma, provided the gazebo for the youth that were interested in this presentation. The youth appeared to enjoy the event as evidenced by the interactions that occurred during the event. Pastor Gundy spoke about his past trials and tribulations and answered several questions that came from the boys. Pastor Gundy also sang for the boys upon request. This presentation appeared to stir plenty of excitement among the boys. They appeared to interact very well with Pastor Gundy and seemed very receptive to his visit.

For Easter, the youth at Bartow Youth Academy celebrated in Life Centered Education group by decorating sugar cookies with spring-themed decorations and by coloring Easter pictures while listening to some gospel music. The groups enjoyed reminiscing about past Easter holidays and discussed how their families celebrate differently while learning skills of cookie decorating to include proper use of resources. They were delighted to receive goodie bags of Easter treats to enjoy as well.

All youth at Orange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Academy, both of which are non-secure program for boys that are operated by TrueCore Behavioral, had the opportunity to participate in an Easter Egg Hunt at the facility. The youth were very appreciative and gave 100 percent participation. This was a great time for everyone!

During the 2018 Spring Break, 8 youth from Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral, participated in bringing joy to thousands of children in partnership with Calvary Church of Kendall, where the annual helicopter dropping of thousands of plastic colorful eggs onto to the church grounds occurs. Over one thousand families attended the event. For their contributions helping at the event, MYA youth were treated to a snack from one of four food trucks.

Specials thanks to MYA Transition Services Manager Ms. B. Ashley and Recreation Therapist Ms. A. Deverson for helping ensure the youth were able to give through community service for the benefit of other children. This event would not be possible without the efforts of Calvary Church Kendall and its member and MYA Steadfast Mentor Mr. J. Molina, as well as I AM Affiliated founder Mr. G. Reynaud (whose group works with Dade campus youths).

A few days later, 17 youth from Miami Youth Academy who are college ready had the opportunity to visit one of four Miami Dade County based colleges and universities. Spring break week was the grand time for our youth to further explore the next step in their quest to gain knowledge and make important decisions for their future. Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens; Johnson & Wales University in North Miami; Miami Dade College in Kendall; and Florida International University in Sweetwater were visited and tours were provided. Each youth received a welcoming packet from the respective institutions of higher learning.

Okeechobee Intensive Halfway House (OIHH), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, has officially opened the Marshall Cottage Honors Dorm at OIHH. The inaugural cohort of eight youth have moved into their new dorm. The youth were all excited about their upgraded surroundings, incentives, and new recreation clothes. OIHH and Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center youth have an opportunity to move to the honors dorm as they demonstrate positive behavior, treatment progress, and serve as role models among the program youth. The Marshall Cottage Honors dorm has already demonstrated itself to be an effective addition to the Positive Performance System.