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Secretary's Message

May 29, 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 Sargent Costarica Jose from the Hillsborough West Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the facility’s Employee of the Month for the month of April. Sargent Jose always goes above and beyond her normal job duties and takes initiative in being proactive whenever a problem arises. She is a great mentor for the youth at Hillsborough and is always ready to assist when called upon.

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer Ronnie Evans from the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named the Office of Detention Services Central Regional Employee of the Month for the month of April.

Detention Facilities Celebrate Mother’s Day and Honor Students of the Week

The Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center (BRJDC) hosted a Mother’s Day celebration at the facility. BRJDC sent out invitations to all of the parents and posted one in the front lobby where parents could see when they checked in for visitation. The moms in attendance were treated to a wonderful luncheon, a Mother’s Day card and a rose. Youth whose parents did not attend were treated to cupcakes. All of the moms were very appreciative of the gestures, and the youth really enjoyed spending time with their families.

The St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center continues to celebrate students of the week at their facility. Youth JC and JP were selected by all four of their teachers at St. Lucie for their hard work, dedication and positive attitudes. JC and JP have both worked hard to maintain their level three status and received a certificate to take home as well as a treat.

In addition, the staff at St. Lucie held a birthday celebration for youth JP who turned 18 on May 19 and has recently had consistent behavior. During his detention stay, JP has been respectful and always maintains a positive attitude. JP had a special visitation with his family members and was celebrated with cake.

The Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted the Circuit Advisory Board meeting for Circuit 2 on May 17. The meeting was catered by 2nd Helping Catering and lunch was served to the board members by Captain Sherell Cummings, Administrative Assistant Isay Gulley and Sargent Nacoya Sproles.

PACE Center Girls Observe National Denim Day, Take Spirited Girls Course

The PACE Center for Girls South Florida Reach program, which is located at the Broward and Palm Beach campuses, observed National Denim Day on April 25 to raise awareness for Sexual Violence and Prevention. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Denim Day is a call to action for all people to come together by wearing denim as a visible sign of protest against sexual violence.

The girls participated in lessons with their counselors and therapists to learn more about the issue and how each girl can make a difference.  The girls were also given the opportunity to decorate jeans with powerful slogans and engage in an outdoor chalking activity on the PACE Broward campus.  The jeans were then displayed in the Broward and Palm Beach buildings to show support for the important cause.

On National Denim Day, people are encouraged to wear jeans to support sexual abuse survivors while educating themselves and others about the unspoken epidemic of sexual assault.

The Circuit 17 Faith Community Network hosted a meet and greet at the Mount Zion AME Church in Oakland Park. The purpose of the “Meet and Greet” was to educate faith communities and faith-based organizations about the Faith Community Network and to recruit additional faith partners. Six new faith partners were recruited to serve the youth and families in Broward County through the Faith Community Network.

The Faith Network is a combination of individuals, ministries, organizations, and congregations from all faiths who are working collectively in each judicial circuit to help prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency across the state of Florida, by providing direct services and advocating for youth. A special thanks to Dr. Mark Johnson, Marie Boswell, Winsome Batiste, Alicia Gomez, Jackie Curnow, Pastor George Hardy, and Pastor Rosby Glover for contributing to the success of this event.

Pictured above: Pastor Rosby Glover speaks to the attendees at the Circuit 17 Faith Community Network “Meet and Greet” Breakfast.

The PACE Center for Girls of Polk County is proudly facilitating a new course for their young ladies entitled, “Spirited Girls.” The required course looks to equip and empower young women with self-confidence, leadership, and overall life skills. Mrs. Lewter, the Spirited Girls teacher describes the class as “a unique program allowing each girl to have a voice in a comfortable setting while truly honoring the female spirit.”

There are six domains that guide the Spirited Girls curriculum; the physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, and relational. Mrs. Lewter has creatively incorporated all aspects of girls’ lives into her classes.  This is evidenced by their interactions, personal growth, and increased self-esteem.  The Spirited Girls curriculum is equipped to teach each student many different life skills, but what truly makes PACE Polk stand out is the partnerships they have with many community organizations, which enhances the girls’ experiences.

Participating are groups from the Girl Scouts who teach about leadership in the community; Selah Freedom providing education on sex trafficking and prevention; and Interact Alliance informing girls of the harmful effects of substance abuse. They also have a volunteer, Ms. Genesis, who works with the girls on self-esteem and recognizing the true beauty within themselves. This program is unlike anything that is available in the public-school setting and it is essential in fulfilling the nine values and principles that guide PACE as an organization.

Probation Staff Rolls Out EPICS in Circuit 8, Participates in Crossover Meeting

DJJ probation staff rolled out the Effective Practices in Community Supervision (EPICS) curriculum to Circuit 8 probation staff May 8-10. The Circuit 8 rollout represents the eleventh of the twenty circuits to receive training in the intervention designed for use with moderate-high to high risk supervision cases. The trainers for this rollout included: Michelle Galloway, Circuit 3 reform specialist, Heather Nowell, Circuit 14 reform specialist, Melanie Kretzman, Circuit 8 reform specialist, and Donna Collins, Circuit 4 reform specialist. The trainers were being observed by Kara Thompson from the University of Cincinnati Corrections Institute who was there to evaluate the trainers on delivering the training according to the fidelity of the model. 

I would to thank Jeannie Becker-Powell, director of policy and programming; Wanda Jackson, statewide reform coordinator; Gwen Steverson, North Region director; Jill Wells, Northeast region manager; Rebecca Rogers, Circuit 8 chief probation officer; and Sandi Brannan, Circuit 8 assistant chief probation officer for their attendance.

DJJ Crossover Champions participated in a joint meeting with the Department of Children and Families Crossover Champions in Ocala on May 10. I was pleased to attend the meeting and to be joined by DCF Secretary Mike Carroll. Together we recognized the important efforts by the Champions on behalf of crossover youth and dually-served youth in Florida.  The meeting focused on the tremendous work being done to enhance services for this population of youth in both systems and identified plans for continuing the improvements moving forward.   Also in attendance from DJJ were Deputy Secretary Timothy Niermann, Assistant Secretary Paul Hatcher, Director of Policy and Programming Jeannie Becker-Powell, Statewide Reform Coordinator Wanda Jackson, South Region Director Terria Flakes, Central Region Director Cathy Lake, North Region Director Gwen Steverson and Northeast Managing Director Jill Wells. Gubernatorial Fellows Erica Wells and Jamaal Harrison attended as well.

Circuit 1 Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Rousan Davidson held a staff appreciation luncheon for the newly developed Unit 104 on May 21. Unit 104 opened last August on Spring Street in Pensacola and was fully staffed by November. Each staff member has adjusted quickly and has done an outstanding job meeting contract standard all while demonstrating great team work under the leadership of Supervisor Davidson who is new to the Department.

During the luncheon, Supervisor Davidson paid tribute to Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Ernest Curry, a fourteen-year veteran of DJJ who has demonstrated great leadership and mentorship to the new staff members. In addition, Davidson also acknowledged administrative staff members Barbara Knight and Kim Moorer for their daily administrative support. The staff enjoyed a “build your own taco” lunch and walked away with a game plan to tackle the start of the Summer with the youth we serve in Pensacola.

Juvenile Probation Officer Melanie Hopes (pictured second from the right) from Circuit 13 will appear on a billboard that will run from May 21-July 5 throughout the Tampa Bay area. The billboard features representatives from the United States Armed Forces and Hopes is a veteran of the United States Army.

Thank you, Ms. Hopes, for your service to our country!

One of the service hallmarks of DJJ’s North Region transition provider, Twin Oaks’ Project Connect, is the use of restorative justice circles, called Family Reintegration Circles, to engage the family in the overall transition/service plan.  Project Connect is trained by and partners with the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding who are experts in the restorative justice field.  The aim is to get the family and youth on the same page early in the transition process in order to achieve a more thorough, long lasting and effective transition.  Project Connect also connects youth to community mentors called Life Coaches who provide mentorship to each youth and assist them in accomplishing the goals on their individualized service plan.     

Pictured left (from left to right): Parent, Transition Specialist Stacy Baker, Youth and Life Coach Brandon Holsey. 

Recently, in Circuit 5, Transition Specialist Stacy Baker and Life Coach Brandon Holsey conducted a Family Reintegration Circle for a family on Mrs. Baker’s case load.  One of the family goals identified by the circle was that the youth’s father would sit down and play cards with the youth once each week.  Mrs. Baker and Mr. Holsey decided to join the game on a recent week and reported the success of the goal in breaking down barriers between the youth and father as trust and respect was built from their interaction.  Both father and son have enjoyed the schedule time together and have even played cards at times beyond the times stated on the service plan.         

Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee from Circuit 13 hosted a DJJ resource table during a ministry resource fair at the 34th Street Church of God in Tampa. The fair was hosted by the Faith Community Network Steering Committee and featured 18 local vendors.

DJJ Students from the Marion Youth Academy Participate in Brain Bowl

Two DJJ students from the Marion Youth Academy were selected as participants in the Unjammed Brain Bowl competition on May 23, presented by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS). The competition included students from eighteen facilities across the country. While our two students did not take home the top prize, they finished second and third respectively. My thanks to all the facility staff members and to the education department at Marion for getting these kids ready for competition. CEEAS’s Unjammed is a year-round program that is centered on a multi-day intensive training on blended learning.

Residential Facilities Celebrate Mother’s Day

As Mother’s Day approached, the staff at the 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, supplied the youth with materials to make their own Mother’s Day cards to send home to their loved ones. With the help of some colored pencils, markers, and various stickers, the youth used their creative juices to make some great “Thank you” and “I love you” cards for their moms. 

Hastings and Gulf Academy also celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week.  The Employee Morale Committee decided to show teachers at the facility a little appreciation. They started the week off with an assortment of breakfast goodies such as donuts, muffins, cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, and juices. Teachers are an invaluable resource to the youth and they strive every day to make sure the youth are learning at the highest level. They celebrated all teachers at the facility and around the world for their dedication to making a difference in lives of youth.

On Friday May 11th, 2018, Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel, held a Mother’s Day Lunch for the mothers that work at the facility. The menu included chicken, steak and potatoes. Additionally, all the mothers received roses and enjoyed an afternoon of fellowship. It was a very wonderful event. One of the staff also performed poems that he wrote for the mothers.

The following day, nine youth from Duval Academy attended the March of Dimes Walk in Jacksonville Florida. They enjoyed walking for an important cause. March of Dimes fights for the health of all moms and babies. They walked with members of the Duval Academy Advisory Board and staff from Duval Academy.

Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, hosted its Inaugural Mother’s Day Celebration, to allow the youth to honor and show love to their mothers on this special day. The youth presented by song, video and kind acts of love throughout the day. Special thanks to guest speaker, DJJ Commitment Chief Virgil Wright, for delivering a remarkable message to remember.  We would also like to thank Cassandra Leverett, President of Mothers Standing in the Gap, for allowing her organization to participate and give testimonies of their struggles & successes with their very own sons.

The staff at Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, participated in a stress-free day in late April. Since April is National Stress Awareness Month the Central Pasco Girls Academy Employee Moral Committee transformed the conference room into a "Stress-Free Zone." The area included soothing music, aroma therapy, Mandala coloring, and stress relief sensory motor items. An ice cream bar was also set up, because stressed spelled backward is desserts! Staff could come in the room on their break and unwind. The youth also participated by wearing smiley face stickers to remind them to smile (which releases the feel-good endorphins) and have a positive day!

Central Pasco Girls Academy staff and youth rescued three kittens on the facility grounds on 5/3/18. Central Pasco Girls Academy is heavily populated with feral cat colonies, which are constantly producing litters throughout the year. Central Pasco Girls Academy has teamed up with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to participate in the Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return (TNVR) Project, which provides free veterinary services to feral cats. This will help reduce the breeding and control the overpopulation of feral cat communities, as well as prevent the spread of diseases to neighboring pets.  These kittens have also all found homes, so that is a few less animals without a home.  

For the week of April 30th – May 4th, the Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, staff and youth participated in a spirit week. The week consisted of a Crazy Sock and Hat Day, Super Hero Day, Biggest Fan Day, Wild and Funky Hair Day, and to cap it off, May the Fourth…Star Wars Day.  Youth were given an item each day of the week, including crazy socks and Star Wars jelly beans, to participate in spirit week along with the staff.  The clinical staff also incorporated these themes into their mental health groups and displayed the youths work in the facility.  The staff that dressed up during the week were judged by the youth for first through third place and received prizes for their participation. 

Palm Beach Youth Academy, a secure program for boys, ages 15 to 21, which is operated by Sequel, welcomed the ladies of Mother’s Against Murderers Association (M.A.M.A.) for the annual Mother’s Day Luncheon. M.A.M.A. is comprised of women who have lost children due to gun violence. The young men adopted a mother of M.A.M.A. for the day and welcomed each lady with a rose, card and a hug before escorting each lady to her seat in gentleman-like fashion. Through tears of grief, each mother shared their stories of loss while the boys provided comfort.  The mothers soon had their spirits lifted with a special program prepared by the talented gentlemen including poetry readings, art presentation, and musical performances. The boys engaged in conversation with the mothers over a delicious meal of oxtail, green beans, and rice prepared by the kitchen staff. The boys took pride in catering to their adopted mothers by making sure their drinks were filled and cake slices delivered.  The young men were honored to bring Mother’s Day cheer to an amazing group of women who may need it the most during this time of year. The ladies left with teddy bears in their hands, warmth in their hearts and smiles on their faces!