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Secretary's Message

June 11, 2018

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

In recognition of June 12th marking the 2-year anniversary of the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub and as we recognize Pride Month, I believe it is important to remember our commitment to respecting the dignity and equal rights of all individuals. We do this every day by providing the necessary and individualized care and program services to all youth who come into contact with our system, regardless of who they are. It is our agency’s mission to provide the very best services and meet the individualized needs of our youth so that we can help turn around their lives for the better. By understanding the unique needs of the LGBTQ community, we can better provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all, regardless of their background, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It is just as critical that we extend the same affirmation and supports to our staff and colleagues.

I am proud of the strides this Department and our staff have made to ensure we continue to serve youth where they are in their life, at a time that can often be one of the most challenging for them. I encourage each of you to take a moment this month for reflection and renew your commitment to the service of all our youth and their families.    


Christina K. Daly

National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community

Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims and a host of DJJ team members attended the 33rd National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community earlier this month in Jacksonville. DJJ team members joined more than 1,500 attendees including law enforcement officers, local, state and federal government officials, and the faith community. The conference brings together attendees in order to identify crime-related issues affecting black communities.

Pictured above (from left to right): Community Engagement Specialist Verla Lawson-Grady, Operations and Training Coordinator Yvonne Woodard, Prevention Specialist Tekoa Pouerie, Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson, Operations and Training Specialist Shanteria Randall, Procurement Specialist Melba Floyd, Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee, and Program Assistant Travis Ligon.

At the opening session, Chief of Staff Schuknecht explained the DJJ reform efforts and stressed the importance of working with all communities to promote safer neighborhoods. Also speaking at the conference were Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit Melissa Nelson, and Public Defender Charlie Cofer.

Others delivering opening remarks were: Melinda Coonrod, chair, Florida Commission on Offender Review; Pat Smith, director of community relations and faith-based initiatives, Florida Department of Children and Families; and Dr. Owen Quinonez, senior health equity officer, Florida Department of Health.   

Among the DJJ presenters were Community Outreach Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Audrey “Pat” McGhee, who gave a presentation on “Strengthening Florida Communities by Promoting Florida Families.” Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts also gave a presentation entitled “Even the Numbers with Effective Arrest Alternative Programs.”

Staff Announcements and Kudos

The Office of Detention Services in the South Region recently held a surprise party for Major Dedilia Finlayson from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) to celebrate her 30 years of service to DJJ and the state of Florida. Assistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler presented Major Finlayson with a plaque acknowledging her service and dedication and South Regional Director Kevin Housel honored the Major with a token of inspiration.

The recognition ceremony brought together current and former staff members from St. Lucie RJDC, volunteers, contracted providers, juvenile probation officers and youth who have worked with Major Finlayson.

Congratulations to Florence Doggett and Devi Pinjala for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for April 2018.  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.

Office of Prevention Hosts Implicit Bias Training

Statewide Training Coordinator Tekoa Pouerie conducted a training seminar, entitled “Understanding Implicit Bias,” in Jacksonville as a leadup to the national conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community. The opening remarks for this training session were given by Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims.

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and political correctness. Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection. The training involved various components including: the notion of fair and impartial policing, implicit bias exercise, implicit bias versus explicit bias, open discussion and strategies for the future.

Pictured above (from left to right): COS Fred Schuknecht, Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, Policy Chief Marcus Smith and Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann.

The Central Communications Center (CCC) and Incident Operations Center recently met with the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services and Prevention staff to discuss improvements and explain the review process on how incidents are handled. DJJ staff and the Florida Network team had a great dialogue on the procedures necessary to close out incident reports.

Those in attendance from the Florida Network were Director of CINS/FINS Contract Operations Terry DeCerchio, Program Services Director John Robertson, Statewide Respite Coordinator Megan Smith; and Project Manager of Research and Operations Tiffany Martin. The Office of Prevention CCC team consisted of: State and Federal Director Eugene Morris, CCC/PMM Coordinator Jean Hall, Procurement/CCC Manager Kenyata Frazier, CCC Specialist Victoria Jackson, and CCC Liaison Trevor Gilmore. They met the Florida Network representatives in collaboration with other DJJ staff including Register Nurse Consultant Michelle Hall, Senior Behavioral Analyst Joy Bennink, IOC Analyst Rachel Robinson, and CCC Supervisor David Gilmore

Pictured above (from left to right): Florida Network Staff Megan Smith, Tiffany Martin, Terry DeCerchio and John Robertson

DJJ Education Programs Help Students Excel in Art Programs

I’m pleased to announce that youth E.R. from the Broward Youth Treatment Center has been named Student of the Month for the month of May by VSA Florida. E.R. was nominated by his school counselor Pamela Smith who says that E.R. has discovered art as an alternative and creative way to communicate, gain understanding of himself, and interact with his peers.

E.R. discovered his passion in the 5th grade but it was his recent experience painting a classroom mural at Broward Youth Treatment Center that gave him the creative environment to demonstrate his visual art skills. E.R.’s work as an artist has enabled him to shine as a leader among his peers.

The VSA Florida Student of the Month program is designed to increase public awareness and recognize the impact arts make on students with disabilities statewide. Students who participate in the arts develop creativity, have increased self-confidence, understand teamwork, have increased language and math skills and are generally more engaged. VSA Florida looks forward to recognizing E.R. and presenting him with a personalized trophy and gift certificate in the coming weeks.

The education staff from RAM-C helped their students come up with a fun project to send home to their mothers and grandmothers for Mother’s Day. Staff helped these young men make their own set of bath bombs to mail home for this special day. The youth measured, mixed, and put together all the ingredients and essential oils to make this relaxing treat for their moms.  This was a fun experiment that involved practicing measuring, following directions, working as a team, and resulted in such a sweet gift.

In addition, RAM-C youth threw a party to honor their art intern Jasmine Dukes on her last day. Jasmine was an intern with the art therapy program at FSU and worked with the boys on a ton of great activities! The final project she worked on was creating murals to brighten up the classroom. The boys came to Mr. Hodge and Ms. Miller to help surprise Ms. Dukes on her last day. The boys used the skills taught to them in the culinary class and baked a cake, decorated the classroom for the surprise party, and celebrated what a great job she did with a tough group. Everyone is so appreciative of her and her hard work to make RAM-C a little bit brighter.


DJJ education staff recently teamed up with the Florida Department of Education to conduct their 2018 regional meetings in Orlando, Palm Beach, Gainesville and Chipley. These yearly regional meetings provide participants an opportunity to reflect on successes from the past school year and focus on goals for the upcoming year. The meetings featured hundreds of attendees representing DJJ programs, providers and school districts. The meetings included DOE updates, Title I Part D, DJJ updates, and career and technical education as well as the accountability measures. 

A special highlight of the day was a video presentation showcasing impactful, life changing opportunities DJJ youth have experienced in various day treatment, prevention, detention and residential programs across the state. 

Detention Staff Participates in Basketball Tournament for Local Charity

Staff members from the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) participated in the Battle of the Badges Basketball Tournament. The tournament was hosted by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office with proceeds from the tournament benefiting the Chris Uhle Scholarship Fund. Chris Uhle was a former center on Ocala’s Trinity Catholic High School basketball team whose life was tragically cut short by a heart attack three years ago.  Our officers from Marion RJDC won their game on June 1, but lost on June 2. Despite the loss, the staff from Marion RJDC had a great experience in this wonderful team building exercise.

In addition, the youth at Marion RJDC were recently treated to a visit by a representative from the Jacksonville Zoo. The youth had the opportunity to touch a wide variety of animals including several wild birds, an armadillo and snakes. The students really enjoyed learning about the different animals.

Assistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler, Major Adrian Mathena, Captain Louise Quick and Acting Captain Reginald Allenorganized a staff appreciation day for our staff members at the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center on June 6. The leadership team at Orange RJDC provided lunch to all of the detention officers on duty to thank them for their hard work and dedication.

Residential Youth Earn First Place in Culinary Competition and Attend Yoga Class

Youth from the Okaloosa Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 19, operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, attended a “I Survived Tropical Storm Alberto” party at the program.  All the youth had excellent behavior while dealing with a lot of rain during our first named tropical storm of the season. The youth did so well, all the staff and youth were invited to an ice-cream party. The program director, assistant directors, case managers, and therapist served the youth and staff.

Youth and staff at RAMC, a non-secure program for boys, operated by Twin Oaks, went to cheer on a former youth at his first football spring game! The young man left the program a few weeks ago so when he invited some staff to his first football game, they decided to make it a big deal! Staff from the Boys and Girls Club, the program therapist, floor staff, staff from the education team, the program’s recreation therapist, transition specialist, kitchen supervisor, and even one of the youth’s mentors from FAMU were all in attendance. He had the loudest cheering section with posters and everything to make sure he felt supported. Youth who were close to our former youth attended the game as well to help show them that if he could do it, so could they. It was a great experience for everyone to see how well he is doing! 

As mentioned previously, the AMIkids Summer Challenge event recently took place at South Carolina State University. Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by AMIkids, came home with 44 medals and trophies, including 1st Place in the culinary competition, science fair, and numerous track and swimming events. The team also won awards for creative writing and tug-o-war. A couple of the staff members from Melbourne also came home with awards.

Many thanks goes to CFO and Managing Director Tom Darnell with Community Champions for donating 16 Dell and Lenovo desk top computers and monitors to Melbourne. Additional thanks goes to Melbourne Board Member Chris Burns and his team at DedicatedIT for putting in the man hours to make sure every computer was updated and had desktop programs installed.

The computers will be awarded to the next 16 youth that graduate the program with their high school diploma or attain their GED while in the program. The computer they receive will also have their resume uploaded as their first working document on the computer.

Last week, the youth at Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, were guided through a yoga flow class by Recreational Therapist Tori Palma and Mental Health Therapist Matthew Antolick. It was explained to the youth that yoga can be used as a coping skill and a form of exercise. Ms. Palma will facilitate the yoga class weekly for the youth that want to continue to practice. 

Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, celebrated another graduation and college-bound youth. Youth M.S. was recently accepted into St. Petersburg College where he plans to study veterinary science after working with Caroline, the program’s resident dog.

To prepare youth M.S. to take an air flight home, he gained his Florida identification card. And to prepare him for college, the program presented him with a new tablet and new clothing.

The first Very Special Artist (VSA) Art Exhibition was recently held for Miami Youth Academy and staff. It was also the unveiling of the newest masterpiece art project. Over recent weeks, Artist Lee has been working with 19 youth to create works of art. 21 works were created and judged by three of the Miami Dade County Schools educators using a scoring rating from 1 to 5.

DJJ Probationary Youth Earn Community Service Hours and Attend Career Expo

Circuit 14 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Laura Garcia and Juvenile Probation Officer Amanda Fowler teamed up with Bay District Schools to provide our probationary youth with a unique opportunity to complete their court-ordered community service hours. The youth reported to the district’s “Bus Barn” to wash school buses. Several of these buses had not been cleaned since the beginning of the school year. Our youth took pride in working together to make sure the buses were in good shape and ready to transport students when school resumes in August.

Three DJJ youth, including our very own 2017 DJJ Youth Ambassador Carlos Leyva attended the 4th annual Second Chance Golf Tournament in Kissimmee.  The youth were excited to be the guest speakers for the sold-out event.  During a question and answer series, they discussed their past, present, and future.  Each youth discussed how Project Bridge assisted them with remaining on the right track and where they would have been without the assistance of DJJ and Project Bridge.  We are proud of our youth for sharing their stories and inspiring others!

Recently, Project Connect Transition Specialist (TS) Nichol Ward enjoyed the long term fruits of her labor when she volunteered to assist the staff of Richard Milborne Academy in conducting their high school graduation ceremony.  Graduating that day was Youth I.A. who successfully completed Project Connect in November 2017 and was a client of Mrs. Ward’s.  With the assistance of JPOs Dionne Cooper and Jeanna Hester and the transition services of Project Connect, Youth I.A. completed all sanctions and was released from probation.  The systems that the collective transition team put in place, including Youth I.A.’s education plan, developed long term connections for him that made permanent the positive changes in his life.  

Student Intervention Specialist Cindy Peaden from the Santa Rosa County School District in Circuit 1 recently took three DJJ probationary youth to the “Worlds of Possibilities Expo,” presented by SkillsUSA. The expo gave our youth the opportunity to explore vocational careers and ask questions of experts in these fields. The youth had a great day learning about the different types of jobs and industry opportunities they could have in the future.

The Circuit 3 DJJ Probation Office held their quarterly all staff meeting at Camp Anderson Youth Camp and Retreat in Old Town. Circuit 3 staff invited members from Project Connect and CareerSource to exchange information that would help further assist youth under supervision. Chief Probation Officer Tom Witt presented staff members with performance award pins and honored Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Tuwuana Rossin as the Circuit’s Outstanding Professional. In addition, Assistant Chief Probation Officer John Hancock provided a mandatory training.

Pictured above: JPOS Tuwuana Rossin (left) and CPO Tom Witt.

Circuit 7 Reform Specialist Zemetria Anderson and Juvenile Probation Officer Lazina Wilson attended the Urban Surf 4 Kids Aloha Gala at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach in support of the organization’s dedication to the youth and families in East Volusia County. Urban Surf 4 Kids is an evidence-based organization which promotes self-guidance and responsibility. The organization also embraces the therapeutic nature of the ocean to turn around troubled youth and gives them the feeling of empowerment through helping others. Using water sports as a catalyst, they teach kids how to have fun and give back to their communities through local service projects.

Entertainment for the gala was provided by Elliot Yamin from this year’s American Idol and by local youth. The proceeds from the gala were used to fund the organizations surf camps, community service projects  and various community events while providing DJJ youth the opportunity to experience new horizons and serve their community.

Pictured above: Reform Specialist Zemetria Anderson and JPO Lazina Wilson