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Secretary's Message

May 15, 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 Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer Kevin Johnson from the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the facility’s Officer of the Month for the month of March. Johnson was presented a certificate and gift card from Major Paul Finn.

Pictured above (from left to right): Captain Andrea Akins, Officer Kevin Johnson and Major Paul Finn

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer Gregory Simmons from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was recently recognized with a plaque for his 25 years of dedicated service to the Department. Officer Simmons is a very loyal employee who has made a difference in the lives of so many youth. He is a great role model and active member in the community as he mentors and coaches youth football.

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer Tianna Little from the Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center who graduated from the University of West Florida on May 5 with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Officer Little has been an amazing addition to the team at Okaloosa and has built a great rapport with youth and staff members from her first day on the job. During the ceremony, Little decorated her cap with a special message for all of her fellow criminal justice graduates letting them know that DJJ was hiring. We wish Officer Little continued success serving her community and at-risk youth.

Probation Youth from AMIkids apply for Barista Jobs at Starbucks, Celebrate Graduation

Four DJJ youth from the AMIkids Miami North facility recently completed six weeks of intensive Starbucks Excellence training with the coffee giant in collaboration with the South Florida Cares mentoring group. On April 19, the young men showcased what they’ve learned in front of regional and district managers from Starbucks at their community store in Miami Gardens. Following their demonstration, all four of the youth were interviewed for a barista position with the company. Three of the four youth made it to the second round of interviews where they will meet with individual store managers in their neighborhood.

Congratulations to these youth from the AMIkids Miami North program who graduated from high school and were honored during the facility’s quarterly graduation ceremony. These young men put forth the maximum effort needed to exceed their daily expectations and complete their court-ordered sanctions. These graduates are now eligible for an AMIkids scholarships which will allow them to continue their academic endeavors in a vocational school, two-year college or state university.

The 2018 Florida Gubernatorial Fellows were honored during a recent ceremony at the Governor’s Club in Tallahassee on May 3. Gubernatorial Fellows are selected to serve in various state agencies and two of the twelve fellows this year, Erica Wells and Jamaal Harrison, worked for our agency in the Office of Probation under the supervision of Director of Policy and Programming Jeannie Becker-Powell. Ms. Wells focused her work on crossover youth and divided her time between DJJ and the Department of Children and Families.   Mr. Harrison’s work was centered on transition and assisted in developing transitional housing options for older DJJ youth transitioning home from residential placements. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Erica Wells, Jeannie Becker-Powell and Jamaal Harrison

I was very pleased to be the keynote speaker for the third annual Black Family Summit on April 25 at the St. Johns County Courthouse. The summit brought together local stakeholders and community partners as well as a bevy of DJJ staff from Circuit 7. The summit featured a presentation on prevention services for at-risk black youth by Prevention Specialist Andrea George, Civil Citation by Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts and DMC initiatives by DMC Regional Coordinator Amy Read. The summit ended with a panel discussion regarding the current faith initiatives in place in St. Johns County.

Reform Specialist Michael Byrd from Circuit 2 served as the Master of Ceremonies during an event at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway on May 4 entitled, “State of Emergency Concerning Our Youth.”  The purpose of this event was to build relationships with law enforcement and to promote added awareness within the local community. This event was well represented by DJJ with Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims giving the opening remarks, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady shared the message of celebrating families through outreach and engagement and Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts updated attendees on legislative changes on civil citation statistics in Leon and Gadsden Counties.

Pictured above (from left to right): ACPO Rico Cooper, Statewide Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, Major Conrad McCray, Assistant Secretary of Prevention & Victim Services Alice Sims, NW Regional DMC/RED Coordinator Marybel Cortez and JPOS Lakisha Bush.

Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Teresa Chambliss led the “In the Faith” liturgical dance team while DJJ’s resident harpist William Alexander provided a soothing musical performance. The event closed with a community presentation between youth and law enforcement entitled “Know the Law and Know your Rights.” The presentation was made possible with the help of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Detention Facility Experiments with Aroma Therapy

The Monroe Regional Juvenile Detention Center has begun to utilize aroma therapy after seeing a presentation on the subject at the National Juvenile Services Symposium. The first phase of this therapy was used in the classroom where teacher Lena Bertram began using peppermint oil to improve thinking, concentration, alertness and mental clarity. Bertram says that since using the oil she has seen an uptick in student productivity and participation. Monroe will now begin using oils in the mods that are designed to reduce stress, anxiety and help with sleep.

The Statewide Detention Training Unit kicked off an interactive training series this past February for their supervisors from all detention facilities.  The Phase I agenda includes ‘A Snapshot of a Typical Day’ for a supervisor, ‘Shift Briefings – The Work Day Bridge’, a JJIS refresher for shift reports, and leadership etiquette.

During the day-long training session, supervisors are presented with job-duty best practices and leadership ideas.  Staff are also encouraged to share supervisory techniques that work best for them. This training series consists of four phases, held regionally on a semi-annual schedule.  Host facilities for Phase I have included Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, Alachua, and Okaloosa.  Phase II will begin later this year.

The Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center welcomed agriculture, drug and weapon sniffing dogs from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Protections to the facility on May 3 and May 8. Customs and Border Patrol seek out sites that are uncommon to the dogs so that they can get accustomed to different locations and different scenarios. A total of eight dogs were brought to the facility, however their main work site is the Fort Lauderdale International Airport, the Everglades and cruise terminals. It was a great experience to watch the handlers and their dogs work together and Broward stands ready to assist them with training at any time.

In addition, Broward staff members created a unique experience for the youth bedrooms as the facility with word searches painted on the walls to give a creative and educational touch to their rooms. This activity occupies the youth and as they locate words as an incentive while in their rooms. The youth enjoy their experience and the facility looks to expand the program to new rooms very soon.

Prevention Staff Holds G.A.A.P. Conversation and Attends Services Bazaar

The PACE Center for Girls of Escambia County took part in various activities in conjunction with Believing in Girls Month throughout the month of March. To start the month, they hosted a Believing in Girls Kickoff event at the PACE center. Many thanks to the Krewe of SWAT for sponsoring the event. The girls and staff all donned pink T-shirts with the slogan “I’m a PACE Girl, what’s your superpower?” emblazoned across the front.

The girls noshed on donuts, fried chicken and fruit while talking with Krewe and board members in attendance. PACE Board Chair, Cyndi Warren, read the 2018 Proclamation and discussed its significance. The girls then had the opportunity to paint rocks with colorful and meaningful messages that would be distributed to community partner agencies throughout the month. 100% of PACE girls participated in community service, and throughout the month, they visited and worked with organizations to give back.

On March 9, they participated in the annual Positive Picket on Palafox, generously hosted by Mortgage Trust, Inc. Bearing bright green “Lucky to be a girl at PACE” t-shirts and posters with positive messages, some of the girls visiting with downtown PACE supporters, such as Vibe Salon, Edward Jones Financial, Beggs & Lane, Levin Papantonio and Warren Averett.

Later, the entire group met outside of the Pensacola News Journal offices for a meet and greet and photo with the PNJ staff. The “picket” began at the PNJ office and proceeded down Palafox Street and ended at Palafox Pier for a picnic lunch and games. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson participated in the grand opening of Rob’s Group Home, a homeless teen and transitional living center in Collier County on April 6. Rob’s Group Home is an independent living home for youth ages 16 to 19. It offers a safe and caring environment, self-sufficient sustainable living, a place to sleep and access to case management, nutritious meals, and medical and mental health services.

Rob’s Group Home focuses on high school graduation, job readiness, preparing for higher education and strengthening community connections. The home provides youth a comprehensive assessment, a service plan with targeted intervention strategies; youth are also encouraged to pursue their own goals. Referrals are accepted from community partners. They have a capacity for 12 youth. With several hundred-homeless youth in the area, the home will fill a need.

Operations and Training Director Yvonne Woodard and Specialist Shanteria Randall attended the 2018 Spring Social Services Bazaar on April 26 at the Leon County Human Services Center in Tallahassee. The Spring Bazaar is an informational event, allowing room for partnerships, bringing forth awareness of services for children and families. Yvonne and Shanteria hosted a resource table during the event to share information regarding the Office of Prevention and made connections with other professionals by sharing resources and speaking on future collaborations.

Pictured above: Shanteria Randall (left) and Yvonne Woodard

This event was a great platform to promote the Office of Prevention and Victim Services upcoming C.O.R.E. event. C.O.R.E. (Community Outreach of Resources and Education) is one of Assistant Secretary Alice Sims’ goals to divert youth that pose no real threat to public safety away from the juvenile justice system through programming that will support a safe environment and provide youth and their families with positive alternatives for delinquent behavior.  Yvonne and Shanteria shared the flyer with students, parents, families, and others who were interested in learning more about C.O.R.E and attending the event. There was much positive feedback and support of the initiative.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Program Specialist Trevor Gilmore set up a DJJ educational display during the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day festivities on the 22nd floor of the Florida Capitol on April 26. Youth ages 5 to 18 attended this event.  Students had the opportunity to learn about various careers and educational opportunities, particularly in the fields of science, pharmacy, technology, engineering, agriculture, forestry and math, through interactive exhibits and displays from participants.

Participants included Florida A&M University College of Pharmacy, VISIT Florida, Career Source Capital Region, Department of Emergency Management, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Division of Emergency Management, Leon County Sherriff’s Department and many more. Reform Specialist Michael Byrd from Circuit 2 and PREA Coordinator Jeff Wenhold were also in attendance.

Pictured above (from left to right): Trevor Gilmore, Verla Lawson-Grady and Michael Byrd

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell and Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Natacha Monestime attended the Winds of Change Child Abuse Prevention Picnic on April 14 at Amelia Earhart Park in Miami. The event was sponsored by Our Kids, Guardian Ad Litem, Voices for Children Bikers Against Child Abuse, AMIGOS FOR Kids and Southern Region of Florida Department of Children and Families and was designed to celebrate the countless individuals in the community who work tirelessly every day to keep children safe.

It was a fun-filled family day with food, cotton candy, snow cones., face painting, a bounce house, awards, games and entertainment along with sharing resources in the community to assist youth and their families. The Winds of Change event was supported by The Children's Trust, whose mission is to partner with the community to plan, advocate for and fund strategic investments that improve the lives of all children and families in Miami-Dade County. They envision a community that works together to provide the essential foundations to enable every child to achieve their full potential… “Because All Children Are Our Children.”

Pictured above: Natacha Monestime (left) and Marie Boswell

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) conversation between youth and members of the Fort Pierce Police Department on April 5 at the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Pierce. The teens who attend the program sat down with law enforcement officers to express how social media, television, and their own personal experiences have shaped their perspective of law enforcement officers.

Officers with the Fort Pierce Police Department were also able to share their experiences as law enforcement officers. Assistant Chief Probation Officer Dorothy Malik and St. Lucie Regional Detention Center Superintendent Dedilia Finlayson were also in attendance to support the youth and law enforcement officers during the Bridging the G.A.A.P. Conversation. 

Pictured above: Delinquency Prevention Specialist, Dionne Anderson, C19 ACPO Dorothy Malik, St. Lucie RJDC Superintendent Dedilia Finlayson, Detective Daniela Dreizehnter with the Fort Pierce Police Department with the teens at the Boys and Girls Club.

Residential Youth Attend Job Fair and Ride Horses

The youth at Okaloosa Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 19, which is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, attended the World of Possibilities Job Fair at the Pensacola Bay Center in Pensacola Florida on April 30th.   The purpose of the trip was to expose the youth to local job fairs in the area and to allow the youth to gain experience by talking to employers with open vacancies.  The youth were encouraged to talk to at least ten employers at the fair, and all seven-youth exceeded their goal for the day.  In addition to the employers, every youth was required to network with the local CareerSource One-Stop to get information on the training and support programs that are offered for juvenile offenders and to discuss some of the employment opportunities that might be available in their community.   Many of the youth returned with multiple employer applications, and one of the youth received information on four job opportunities that might be of interest when he is released. 

The end of last month, six youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel, attended the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. 13th Annual Community Pearls Luncheon. They listened to live music, ate great food and listened to inspiring speakers. The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority also introduced their 2018 Community Pearls Honorees and announced the recipients of their 2018 scholarships. The youth had a great time and enjoyed the opportunity to dress in formal clothing. It was a wonderful day all around.

A week after the luncheon, six youth from Duval Academy graduated from the program at Haven Horse Ranch in St. Augustine Florida. The youth attended the program at the horse ranch for six weeks. They learned how to clean the stalls, groom the horses and tack up the horses. They also learned patience, problem solving, leadership and team work skills they can take with them and implement into their lives when they return home. On the last day of the program the youth played soccer on the horses. The soccer match gave the youth the opportunity to show their skills in getting the horses to follow instructions.  They all had a blast during the soccer match!

DJJ Partners with FSU’s Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy on Training

The Department recently partnered with Dr. Mimi Graham and Florida State University’s Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy (CPEIP) to offer training on a research-based, home-visitation curriculum for expectant and new mothers.  The FSU Partners for a Healthy Baby curriculum is unique in that it addresses issues of child health and development within the context of the multifaceted needs of expectant and parenting families.   

This two-day training provided girl-serving residential commitment programs with the knowledge and skills needed to educate the youths who are pregnant or who have children at home.  This training emphasized a baby’s development, how to foster nurturing relationships, recognizing a baby’s developmental milestones, and available community resources.  The skills learned will be practiced and refined in the program and the girls will be able to utilize the skills with confidence upon their return to the community.

Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys and are operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, decided to ask the question, what do you get when you add 50Lbs of ground beef, 200 soft taco shells, 15LBS of cheese, lettuce, a variety of salsa and 30 youth? One awesome monthly incentive. All the youth have been working hard to show consistency in all aspects of the program. Many tacos were eaten and a copious amount of soda was consumed. There was even enough food to feed all the staff that were working on shift.  Great job guys!

Hastings and Gulf Academy’s Employee Morale Committee injected a little happiness into the work day with soda and candy. Staff were recognized for the hard work and dedication they have shown to the youth.  Staff were showered with boxes of candy and soda to show them appreciation and love for all that they do.

The youth from Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, attended The Jacksonville Jaguars Draft Party at EverBank Field. While at the party the youth enjoyed music, food, interactive games, player appearances and live coverage of the NFL draft.

Youth from Jacksonville Youth Academy took a campus tour of Jacksonville University. The youth toured the campus, dormitories, classrooms, sports facilities and the dining hall. The youth also had the opportunity to speak with current freshman about college life.

Two students from the Highlands Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 15 to 19, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, volunteered their time to help the Heartland Horses in Sebring.  A program that helps the disabled to improve their confidence, dignity, mobility & self-esteem. The task for the visit was to clean the stable, help with the horses and give support and assistance to the residents. Mr. C. Gordon, recreation manager, and Mr. J. Gordon, recreation therapist, helped assist the students.

Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, brought in Bartow Police Department’s Officer Taglianno to speak with the youth.  Community Case Manager LeVert Threats contacted Bartow Police Department and Officer “Tag” requesting a speaking arrangement.  Office Tag was very interested in meeting and talking with the youth at Bartow Youth Academy.  Officer Tag spoke with the boys in hopes of giving them a more pleasant experience with law enforcement for a change.  Officer Tag answered questions, shared stories, and explained his experiences with youth in the community.  The presentation appeared to go well as evidenced by the boys’ participation and questions they had for him. Officer Tag would like for this to be a regular occurrence. The youth appeared to interact very well with Officer Tag, as well as seemed very receptive to his visit.

Eight youth at Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, completed their SafeStaff® Foodhandler course administered by Miami Dade County Schools – Office of Educational Alternative Outreach Program, Vocational Instructor Ms. D. Sanchez.

Since 1997, the State of Florida has mandated that all food service workers be trained in food safety. The SafeStaff® Foodhandler Training Program is the contracted program of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and contains the following six mandated key food safety principles: ensuring proper personal hygiene, preventing cross-contamination, controlling time and temperature when handling food, proper cleaning and sanitizing, the causes and effects of major foodborne illnesses and ensuring proper vermin control.

Florida requires all food service employees in a licensed DBPR establishment to be trained on correct food handling and hygiene practices. Only DBPR division-approved training programs are accepted as meeting the training requirement. Thanks to the dietary staff for supporting the youth in gaining valuable food handling experience in the kitchen.

Six youth from Miami Youth Academy experienced camping. They celebrated their quarterly success in their Positive Performance System, having made all three months for 2018 first quarter. In collaboration with the recreational services planned by the Youth Council, Miami Youth Academy staff and supporters accepted the challenge of Mr. Richardson, facility administrator, to help youth engage in camping and wholesome fun. Rain couldn’t stop the fun, tents set up, grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, and of course, S’mores making. Youth enjoyed music, games and movies, concluding with sleeping in the tents outdoors.

Office of Staff Development and Training Holds Youth Engagement Model Training

The Office of Staff Development and Training hosted the second Youth Engagement Model (YEM) Workgroup meeting on May 1.  This workgroup is tasked with providing guidance and oversight for the revisions to the Protective Action Response (PAR) Intervention Model.  This month’s meeting introduced Module 3: PROTECT, focused on feedback and recommendations from the group on the overall process and curriculum, scenario development and defined levels of youth resistance of the proposed revised model.  We would like to send our continued appreciation to the diligent and integral efforts of those involved in the revision process. Your dedication is an important part of our reform efforts to provide safe environments for our staff and youth.

Those in attendance included: Duane Pace, Jeanette Jackson, Jeff Wenhold, Charlie Chervanik, Jean Hall, Stephanie McKenzie, Matt Hefelfinger, Andrea Minnis, Barbara Campbell, Angee Hastings, Garrett Tucker and Holly Queen.