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Secretary's Message

June 14, 2013

I am so proud to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice, and I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our colleagues and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase DJJ employees and the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich your communities. I know there is even more going on that 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.
Sincerely,

Wansley Walters

2013 Children’s Advocacy Award
I was humbled to receive the 2013 Children’s Advocacy Award Wednesday night in Miami, presented by Florida’s Children First, an organization whose mission is to protect the legal rights of at-risk children. The Children’s Advocacy Award was given in honor of the work I have done as part of this department, as well as my contributions to the Commission of the Legal Needs of Children. On behalf of our agency, I would like to thank Florida’s Children First, specifically Howard M. Talenfeld, President, and Christina Spudeas, Executive Director, for recognizing our ongoing efforts to protect the rights of at-risk youth, as well as Carlos J. Martinez for his heartfelt introduction. I would also like to thank all of you; your diligent work with Florida’s youth is the reason we have been recognized, nationally and internationally, as outstanding in the juvenile justice field. To learn more about Florida’s Children First, visit http://www.floridaschildrenfirst.org/.

Executive Leadership Team Update
Please join me in welcoming DJJ’s new Director of Education, Julie Orange! Julie joins DJJ with more than 15 years of experience in education. She began her career teaching special education at the middle and high school levels and has served as a Quality Assurance Reviewer and Director of Education for the Juvenile Justice Educational Enhancement Program (JJEEP). Most recently, Julie served as the Project Manager for Educator Preparation Programs at the Department of Education. Julie is excited to help champion educational success for DJJ students and looks forward to working with her DJJ colleagues again.

Legislative Update
Chief of Staff Alex Kelly and Legislative Affairs Director Jon Menendez were in Jupiter yesterday to meet with stakeholders from the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA) about crafting and drafting comprehensive revisions to Chapter 985 of Florida Statutes. The presentation Alex and Jon made will help frame FJJA’s discussions about what they will recommend to DJJ for inclusion in Chapter 985 revisions. About 35 FJJA members attended and contributed excellent comments, questions and suggestions regarding the three-dozen topical considerations that were under review. In addition to the 985 re-write, they also discussed the upcoming legislative budget request process, the release of the ITN for JDAP and the ongoing development of the Department’s new in-house learning management system, which is set to launch January 1, 2014. I want to thank Donny Read, FJJA President, and Cathy Craig-Myers, FJJA Executive Director, for inviting us to participate. 

Probation Update
Kudos to JPO Regenia Johnson (pictured left with Dr. Ken Davis Criminal Justice Director at Everest University) from Circuit 7 who was invited to speak at Everest University about the role DJJ plays in increasing public safety and helping at-risk and troubled youth throughout the state. Johnson focused on a JPO’s duties and talked about the many opportunities for employment at DJJ where students could pursue a career that would enable them to truly impact the lives of Florida’s youth.

 

 

From Circuit 4, kudos to JPO Mark Edwards for mentoring a youth at Camp Blanding for the past six months. Edwards made regular contact with the youth and his efforts paid off as the youth graduated last Saturday. JPO Edwards has been an excellent mentor for this young man and has gone beyond the call of duty in his participation with the inpatient program.
In Circuit 6, ACO Donna Butt met with Port Richey Police Chief Dave Brown May 30 to discuss increasing referrals to the Civil Citation program. The conversation focused on the benefits of utilizing the civil citation diversion program as outlined in the DJJ Roadmap to System Excellence. Moving forward, the Pasco County Civil Citation Coordinator will meet with all Port Richey officers to explain the dynamics of the program. Chief Brown, a former JPO with our agency, was thrilled to gain better insight into Civil Citation.
From Circuit 10, CPO Jennifer Haynes met with Sheriff Susan Benton, the Florida network and other stakeholders last Tuesday to discuss improved truancy intervention options. Representatives from the Florida Network spoke on the expansion of CINS/FINS, and the group plans to develop a system that offers a continuum of services for youth of all ages at different stages. She also represented the Department at a press conference with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office yesterday for the launch of Juvenile Alternative Work Program, which gives youth who violate probation the opportunity to contribute to their communities instead of serving time in a detention facility. The Lakeland Ledger covered yesterday’s event and included a number of positive quotes from the youth participants; to read it, click here.
On June 1, 2014, Circuit 11 partnered with the City of Miami Gardens and Councilman Rodney Harris to host a college fair day. The fair provided high school students the opportunity to view college presentations, receive applications and earn community service hours. This was a great collaboration between city leadership, police and social service providers who are focused on bringing a positive change and directing area youth to a more productive life, and I’m proud DJJ was a part of it.
From Circuit 7, I was touched when reading this letter from a parent concerning JPO Christopher Massey from St. John’s County. The letter expresses beautifully just how important JPOs are to the children in our system. It reads:

I am the parent of a child who made some bad choices and ended up in the Juvenile Justice system, not once, but three times. As you can imagine, that is an extremely heartbreaking situation to find yourself in. The last three years have probably been the hardest years of my life. I’ve experienced every emotion possible - fear, anger, frustration, and just raw hurt and pain. People find strength to cope in many different ways – some through their faith in God, others through family members and/or friends. I found mine through Chris. Obviously, it is not your proudest moment as a parent when you meet your son’s probation officer, but Chris treated me with kindness and respect. He never made me feel like a bad parent or like I have a bad kid. In spite of his case load, he was there to listen when I needed someone to talk to and I truly believe he cares about my son and his well-being. While firm in performing his duties, he also has the ability to really connect with his kids. My son was absolutely fearful of consequences as he should have been, but on the other hand, actually liked Chris and looked at him as a role model. I am sure it is not easy to achieve this balance. Chris provided him with guidance and offered suggestions to make better decisions. My son actually looked forward to seeing him if you can believe that! I am truly hoping that my son will make better decisions moving forward, but regardless of what path he takes, I have say that in life there is always that “someone” that makes a difference. I imagine in most cases, your employees strive to do that with their kids. I sincerely doubt that many do that with the parents as well. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this if we were assigned to anyone but Chris and am so very grateful for all he has done for me and my son.

On behalf of the entire agency I would like to thank Christopher for his commitment and dedication.

On behalf of the entire agency I would like to thank Christopher for his commitment and dedication.

Regional Transition Meetings
This week, the Office of Probation and Community Intervention conducted the first of four regional transition meetings in Alachua. Representatives from the Northeastern probation circuits and residential programs were provided with an overview of the new transition rule (63T) and new transition services, which will be offered beginning July 1. Meeting attendees were able to discuss ideas that will assist in our transition efforts moving forward, which will provide an integrated approach and facilitate family engagement. Assistant Secretary Joan Wimmer was in attendance and offered her unwavering support. I am very excited about these new endeavors!

Prevention Update
The Office of Prevention staff continued its Community Conversations tour this week in South Florida. These conversations were held in Homestead, Miami and North Miami in Dade County, West Park, Pompano and Fort Lauderdale in Broward County and Belle Glade and West Palm Beach in Palm Beach County. The purpose of these conversations was to engage parents, youths, juvenile justice officials by allowing them to tell DJJ which services and resources are needed in their local communities to prevent kids from making contact with the juvenile justice system. Each conversation was well attended and provided DJJ staff with numerous engaging comments. In addition, Prevention staff worked with partners in Circuit 15 to have Prevention brochures translated into Spanish and Creole for South Florida residents who do not speak or read English.
I would like to thank everyone who made these engaging events successful, especially Office of Prevention Assistant Secretary Wanda Finnie and her team, and let you know that I look forward to bringing you more insight into the Community Conversation tour in the coming weeks.

Residential Kudos
Youth from the Marion Juvenile Correction Facility were featured in Wednesday’s Ocala Star-Banner for planning a garden at their facility. This garden was nurtured and cultivated by 11 youth who tend to the plants two to three days a week in 45-minute sessions. To date, the garden has yielded onions, snap beans, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash with a crop of sweet corn and tomatoes soon to harvest. The youth hope to yield enough crops to produce a meal for all 42 residents at the facility. Special thanks to Juvenile Educator Dale Wade for teaching the youth the benefits of cultivating a garden and instilling valuable life skills such as patience and confidence. To read the full article, click here.
You may remember that in February we that announced DJJ had partnered with D & D Asphalt, Marion County Public Schools, Oldcastle Materials and Youth Services International to offer hands-on vocational skills at Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility (if the details have slipped your mind, click here). In less than four months, we’ve already had 10 youth graduate from the NCCER construction trades program. These youth earned both their NCCER and OSHA certifications and several of them are already adding other areas to their construction trade tests. This is a tremendous achievement that will certainly will help the youth pursue careers after they leave the program, as well as a great example of the power of partnership. I’d also like to mention Antonio Vasquez who has been an outstanding and dedicated teacher who has not only operated the vocational program, but has added to the rest of our program with suggestions and assistance.



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