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Secretary's Message

July 16, 2018

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Governor Rick Scott has proclaimed July 15-21 as Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week in Florida. This week, we have the opportunity to honor and thank our community corrections professionals for the important role they play to ensure public safety around our great state.

In recognition of this week, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to our juvenile probation officers who work diligently to serve our young people. Our juvenile probation officers work with our community providers to deliver services and referrals to help get our youth back on the right track, but their dedication for our kids goes so much further. Many of you serve as role models, ready and willing to lend an ear and support our youth and families during a time in their lives when they need it the most. Thank you for the commitment and compassion you have for Florida’s youth and for helping to make our state a safer place for us all. 


Christina K. Daly

Restoring Families Graduation Ceremony

Recently, I had the great opportunity to take a part in the Restoring Families graduation ceremony at the Gadsden County High School. Restoring Families provides prevention and intervention services for at-risk youth with parents who have been incarcerated. The program is operated by the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with the Gadsden County School District, through a grant provided by DJJ’s Office of Prevention. The program’s goal is to divert youth from the juvenile justice system by offering life coaching, social support groups, educational assistance and social services to prevent juvenile delinquency. In its first year of operation, Restoring Families saw 75 youth complete the program.

In attendance at the ceremony was Florida State Representative Ramon Alexander, Congressman Al Lawson and Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young. Our DJJ Prevention Policy Chief Marcus Smith was also in attendance.   

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer (JDO) Gerald Hilaire from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center for being named the facility’s Employee of the Month for the month of June. JDO Hilaire was recognized by Major Adrian Mathena and Captains Reginald Allen and Louise Quick for his hard work and dedication.

Congratulations to Captain Reginald Allen who was recently named the new Assistant Superintendent for the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Captain Allen was honored by Orange Superintendent Adrian Mathena

Congratulations to Circuit 2 Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Heather Hawkins who was recognized as the circuit’s Employee of the Month for the month of June. JPO Hawkins is ambitious and consistently displays a willingness to learn and to help others. She continuously exceeds the requirements and expectations of a juvenile probation officer. JPO Hawkins was presented with

a certificate of appreciation and a gift card.

Take Part in a Survey from the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is dedicated to offering resources that are as effective as possible in helping leaders and decision makers achieve better outcomes and brighter futures for kids, families and communities. The Foundation has hired a consulting firm, The Collective Good, to gather feedback from professionals like you. If you have read one to three of the Foundation’s publications (excluding KIDS COUNT publications), would be willing to take a brief survey and possibly participate in a short interview, please click HERE by July 20, 2018 to get started. The responses will remain anonymous and will be reported in aggregate. Thank you for helping the Foundation continue to improve the usefulness of their publications! 

Prevention Staff Volunteer with Track Meet and Celebrate Families

Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, and Chief of Policy and Programs Marcus Smith joined more than twenty other DJJ staff members to volunteer at the 2018 Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Regional Track and Field Qualifier on the campus of Florida State University. Assistant Secretary Sims organized the event, which served over 650 youth from Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The top athletes will compete at the AAU Junior Olympics to be held in Des Moines, Iowa in August. My thanks to all of our staff members who made time in their busy schedules to come out and help these young people excel in track and field.

Pictured above: Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and Assistant Secretary Alice Sims

Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Policy Chief Marcus Smith, JDAI Coordinator Minnie Bishop, State and Federal Director Eugene Morris, and Federal Grants Manager Racquel Piper attended the 2018 Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) conference, the Council of State Advisory Groups Meeting and Hill Day in Washington D.C. Assistant Secretary Sims led the Florida delegation that attended the CJJ Conference on Capitol Hill. The theme of the conference was “At the Intersections: How Federal, State, and Local Partners Can Work Together to Improve Juvenile Justice.”

After they were welcomed to the meeting by Judge Steve Teske who serves as national chair of the CJJ, the Florida delegates attended workshops and received a federal policy update from Caren Harp, Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and Dr. TeNeane Bradford, Associate Administrator, Core Protections Division, OJJDP.

The conference focused on the latest research, developments, opportunities and challenges facing the field of Juvenile Justice. CJJ assembled exciting panels, speakers, and workshops that delved into key emerging issues and discussed how practitioners and stakeholders could use new research to improve outcomes for youth.

Pictured above (from left to right): State/Federal Director Eugene Morris, Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, SAG member Steve Hope, JDAI/DMC Coordinator Minnie Bishop, Policy Chief Marcus Smith, SAG member Cheryl Massaro, SAG member Betsy Dobbins and SAG Vice Chair Judge Daniel Dawson at DJJ Conference

DJJ prevention providers and community partners also made presentations at the 2018 Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) conference. Advocacy Specialist Alyssa Beck and Grant Specialist Karson Sanchez, both with the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville, delivered a presentation on girls in the juvenile justice system. Ms. Sanchez is also a member of the DJJ Emerging Leaders Committee.

Amy Donofrio, founder of the EVAC movement and teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, and two of her students, Dequan Franks and Jaleel Everson also presented. The youth explained in vivid terms their stories of overcoming challenges and defying odds. All EVAC students have been impacted by the Jacksonville community’s violence.

Pictured above (from left to right): EVAC student Jaleel Everson; Caren Harp, Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP); EVAC student Dequan Franks; and Dr. TeNeane Bradford, Associate Administrator, Core Protections Division, U.S. Department of Justice, OJJDP. 

President and CEO of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services Stacy Gromatski, Data Analyst Jennifer Abdullah, and CEO and President of the Youth Crisis Center Kim Sirdevan presented on their coordinated response to the needs level of youth charged with status offenses.

The PACE Center for Girls of Broward County recently held their graduation and awards ceremony at the Global Grille and Conference Center in Fort Lauderdale. The Center was honored to award 14 girls with their high school diplomas along with 13 girls who received grade promotions during the ceremony. Day and Reach program graduates listened to a powerful keynote speech given by

This was the largest graduating class in PACE Broward history. The graduates have plans to attend college, begin vocational classes and/or full-time employment. Congratulations to these graduates for an excellent job on exhibiting courage and seeking excellence!

Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and other DJJ staff members recently recognized youth and families as part of their yearlong focus on celebrating families. DJJ recognized 10 North Florida youth from five families that have overcome steep odds to become successful in school and their communities.

All youth have improved school attendance and grades, behavior and attitude as well as become positive role models to siblings and classmates, according to teachers, parents and counselors. Prevention staff recognized the youth at the recent CORE Forum and Resource Fair.

Probation Staff and Providers Help With Wildfire Recovery

On June 24, a devastating wildfire in Eastpoint, FL burned more than 800 acres and consumed 36 houses in the rural north Florida community in Franklin County. Project Connect Transition Specialist Michelle Glisson sprang into action to pull together a multi-agency effort to bring relief to those who suffered insurmountable damages to their homes and their possessions. Many lost everything and with very little warning, barely escaped with just the clothes on their backs. Mrs. Glisson was able to take an overflowing truck load of supplies and clothing to the donation collection center in Franklin County. Thank you to the Circuit 2 Probation Office staff in both Leon and Wakulla Counties; Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc.; the staff of Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp; and Liberty JUST as well as many members of the Liberty County community for teaming up with Project Connect and assisting with donations to the wildfire victims.

The Circuit 7 probation team recently facilitated another community re-entry team (CRT) meeting via Skype video conferencing. The inclusion of the Skype tool has proven beneficial for the CRT as it allows the youth to visually connect with their family while they are in a residential program. The ability to connect with their family aids in the successful transition of the youth back into the community. The Circuit 7 CRT will continue to work diligently to incorporate Skype into their monthly meetings and wish to thank the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth for their help in the recent meeting.

Pictured above (from left to right): Circuit 7 Probation Chief Daniel Merrithew, Nicole Ward (Project Connect), Circuit 7 Asst. Probation Chief Christopher Massey, JPO Dionne Cooper, JPOS Bridget Orey, Reform Specialist Zemetria Anderson, Trevene Christian (parent), De’Andre Gainer (Project Connect), and David Pender (Volusia County School Board

Juvenile Detention Center Celebrates Independence Day

The Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) held a 4th of July celebration at their facility complete with a patriotic feast. There were plenty of games to be played in the recreation yard, which was followed by a cookout. The cookout featured red, white and blue desserts including a star-spangled cake. All the youth had a wonderful time and I would like to thank all our staff at Pinellas RJDC that made this celebration possible.

Office of Staff Development and Training Hosts Youth Engagement Model Workgroup

The Office of Staff Development and Training recently hosted the monthly Youth Engagement Model (YEM) Workgroup meeting. This workgroup contributes to the revisions of the Protective Action Response (PAR) intervention model currently under development. This meeting focused on the review of recommendations for revisions to the first three proposed YEM modules and a discussion of Rule 63H-1 (PAR Rule). The meeting also included a presentation from Master PAR instructors which outlined recommendations for physical intervention techniques to continue the development of the revised model. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Matt Hefelfinger, Stephanie McKinzie, Duane Pace

An observation team from the Youth Engagement Model (YEM) Workgroup viewed a refresher training of the Mandt System, a crisis prevention and de-escalation training, at the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Northeast Florida State Hospital in MacClenny. The team, which consisted of representatives from Staff Development and Training, Residential Services, and Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., observed the relational, conceptual, and technical aspects of the Mandt System in support of the development of the Youth Engagement Model. During the observation, DJJ representatives had an opportunity to work with DCF hospital staff to discuss the importance of prevention and intervention strategies when working with at-risk populations.

Pictured above (from left to right): Andrea Minnis, Cina Wilson Johnson, Charlie Chervanik, and Billy Starke (not pictured: Joe Gerstenfeld)

Residential Facilities Receive A Visit from the Fire Department and Host K9 Exhibition

St. Johns Youth Academy, a secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by Sequel, received a visit from the State Attorney's Office for the Fourth Judicial Circuit’s Juvenile Division and DJJ Northeast Regional Director for Residential Services Billy Starke. Director of the Juvenile Division Laura Lohman Lambert previously visited the program and felt it necessary to bring her entire team to see the program’s operation. The team was greeted by two youth in the transition phase who provided a tour of the facility and informed the group about program services and daily operations. The youth did an excellent job explaining the transition process and the independent living dorm. The youth took a lot of pride in showing off their dorms and the vision boards that are displayed on their doors. The assistant state attorneys had an opportunity to interact with youth that weren’t as familiar with the transition phase during the tour. The interaction was important for both parties as the youth were left with a sense that the attorneys cared enough to check on their placement, while the attorneys had an opportunity to become familiar with services provided to youth after disposition.

Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, held a three-point shootout competition amongst the youth to see who would be the kings of the court. The object of the game is for two players on each team to go against each other, each taking shots around the perimeter of the court, to see who can complete the shots before the other team. While only one duo emerged victorious, all teams had fun and competed hard.

On the 4th of July Hastings and Gulf Academy celebrated Independence Day with a cookout for the youth. Facility Administrator Joseph Shuler was the master of the grill cooking pulled pork, ribs, and chicken. The kitchen staff provided the sides of mac and cheese, baked beans, corn on the cob and watermelon. Needless to say, the youth left with full bellies and smiles on their faces.

Last week, 17 youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by Sequel, went on an outing to the movie theater to see Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. In the days leading up to the outing, all the youth watched the original Jurassic Park movies and the first Jurassic World movie. The movie theater set up a private theater room for Duval Academy and the youth really enjoyed the movie, snacks and drinks.

At the end of June, Kissimmee Youth Academy, a secure program for boys, ages 14 to 21, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, hosted the Osceola County K9 Unit exhibition on the grounds as part of the “Friends in Blue” program. This was a great opportunity for the youth at the Academy to positively interact with local law enforcement. The youth were immediately engaged in the exhibition and marveled at the athleticism of the K9s. There was constant dialogue throughout the presentation amongst Kissimmee Youth Academy staff, students, and Osceola County law enforcement pertaining to the operations of the K9 Unit. The exhibition included a demonstration with K9s, explanation of duties, training regimens, and the professional responsibilities of a K9 Unit Officer. Thank you to the Osceola County K9 Unit for stopping by the program and for the wonderful presentation. The staff can’t wait until next month when the boys take on the Sheriff’s deputies in a basketball game.

Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, brought in the Bartow Fire Department to speak with the youth. Community Case Manager LeVert Threats along with several staff members provided the portable classroom for the youth that were interested in the presentation. The firefighters spoke with the boys about the troubled circumstances that they too experienced when they were younger. The firemen told the boys stories of incidents they have witnessed, talked about what it takes to become a firefighter, and answered the boys’ questions. After the information and Q&A session, the boys were given a tour of the fire truck the firefighters brought along with them. The firemen expressed to the boys, along with the staff, that they’d like to make their visit a regular occurrence. The youth enjoy their interaction with the firefighters and were happy they came for a visit. 

Youth on the Okeechobee campuses were recently surprised by the grand opening of a new game room. Nine youth from Carver Cottage were the first to enjoy the game room and they had a great time! They were there for an hour playing PlayStation, games, cards, and air hockey while listening to some upbeat tunes streaming through the speakers. The evening closed with two youth free-styling a few lyrics of their own. This new game room will allow each youth to spend some more one-on-one time with the facility administrators and superintendent as they can enjoy the games and watch movies all in one place. The kids at the program are loving this new addition to the campus.

Last weekend, Sequel Youth and Family Services was able to partner with the Cre'Von LeBlanc Foundation for their annual "Strap 4 It" football camp to benefit youth in Palm Beach County. Cre'Von LeBlanc, defensive back for the Chicago Bears, is from Palm Beach County and attended college nearby at Florida Atlantic University. Cre'Von has made it a priority to give back to the community in which he came from and is a regular visitor at Palm Beach Youth Academy where he visits with the boys and serves as a mentor. Additionally, his foundation recently sponsored a trip to New York City for some of the program residents as a reward for their involvement in the financial literacy course.

Last summer, Cre’Von hosted a similar NFL dream camp onsite at the facility for all the youth. This year’s camp enabled over 400 kids to spend a day learning about football and life outside of football from many local coaches and former and current NFL players. In addition to being an event sponsor, Sequel Youth and Family Services had a handful of employees volunteer their spare time at the event.