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Secretary's Message

July 12, 2013

Secretary Walters’ Weekly Letter

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 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 (submissions after that time will be considered for the next week’s letter).


Wansley Walters

Reform Specialists

Our goal of establishing a system of excellence for the care of at-risk and delinquent youth continues. Over the last two months, DJJ has been working to identify and appoint a Headquarters Reform Specialist along with Reform Specialists statewide in each circuit. By retooling existing positions, this enhancement to our probation and community intervention services reinforces our commitment to engaging providers, families and communities-at-large to assure that we have the right combination of services and sanctions, in the right place, at the right time, as we care for each youth and keep the public safe.

Reform Specialists will serve as community liaisons connecting the local juvenile justice offices and staff with community providers and services. They will be particularly focused on transition services, community re-entry, alternatives to secure detention and diversion programs; this includes increasing the utilization of existing programs, coordinating with stakeholders to develop new programs, and coordinating between referring agencies and service providers. Additionally, these Specialists will work in partnership with the Prevention Specialists to ensure that current community services are in line with the agencies reform efforts while also identifying gaps in services. 

As you know, the agency is also committed to utilizing data and outcomes to develop a model that results in improved results for youth, families and communities. Specialists will be analyzing circuit data such as the Delinquency Profile, the Probation Performance Indicators, and data related to the Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT) to assess service delivery and outcomes. These assessments will assist in bench marking and implementing tasks from the Roadmap to System Excellence and assist in continuing to enhance services.

It is important that as DJJ continues its reform efforts we look for opportunities to continually improve our team and the services we provide. The addition of Reform Specialists is but one example of identifying a better use of resources to work towards our mission of reducing juvenile delinquency.

Monroe County Tour

This week Deputy Secretary Christy Daly and I drove down to the Florida Keys for a tour of our facilities in Monroe County. I was fortunate to meet with many of the probation officers from Circuit 16 pictured left. 

During our tour we stopped at the Monroe RJDC for a luncheon with probation and detention staff along with community stakeholders in Monroe County.

Among the probation officers we met was senior JPO Jay Glover from Circuit 16 pictured here with myself and Christy Daly.

And here pictured with the probation staff in Islamorada. From left to right: Paul Armstrong (JPO supervisor), Karen Knight, chef JPO,  Elaine Thompson (reform specialist), Kathleen Bautz, JPO. Monroe County is making great strides in helping our young people, and I would like to thank all of the people we met for their continued hard work. 

Prevention Update

I am pleased to announce that Daniella C. DelVento (Dani) has joined the DJJ Prevention team as the Statewide Coordinator for Circuit Boards and County Councils, soon to be replaced by Circuit Advisory Boards. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Florida State University and a Jurist Doctor degree from Florida Coastal School of Law.  Prior to coming to DJJ, she worked in the General Counsel’s Office in the Executive Office of the Governor.  Her wide range of experience makes her perfect for interpreting and implementing new legislation while embracing the vision and mission of the department.  

Community Conversations

The Office of Prevention has been traveling the state to host community conversations which are designed to offer parents, youths, community advocates and juvenile justice officials the opportunity to let us know what services and resources are most needed in local communities. On Tuesday the group was in St. Petersburg at the Enoch D. Davis Community Center. Staff on site said that the meeting was well attended by community members and juveniles alike. 

Wednesday morning the team was in Clearwater for a meeting at the JWB Children Services Council. Prevention staff was on hand and answered questions from over 40 members of the community.

Wednesday afternoon saw a meeting in New Port Richey in Pasco County. Prevention staff met with community leaders and families to discuss specific needs and concerns. Pictured above are: Pat McGhee, Prevention Specialist; Melissa Fuller, JPO Supervisor; Mike Shoemaker, JPO Supervisor

Finally, I mentioned two weeks ago that Prevention Staff was in Lake City for a community conversation (Pictured left). That meeting encouraged the Lake City Police Department to have their own community discussion on juvenile issues which was held yesterday. Our own Eugene Morris was in attendance as Lake City moves more towards community engagement. We know that family and community engagement are critical to preventing kids from making contact with the juvenile justice system, and I am proud that we have agency-wide representation to send a strong message that we are fully committed to helping Florida's families and communities thrive.

Pictured from left to right are Brent Musgrove (Prevention),Eugene Morris (Prevention), Christina Ash (Probation), Dani Delvento (Prevention), Frederick Wilkerson (Prevention), Tom Witt (Probation), Cici Battle (Prevention), Verla Lawson-Grady (Prevention) and John Hancock (Probation). Circuit Chair and SAG member Curtis Jenkins arranged the meeting location and assisted with coordinating the photo. 

Probation Update

Terrisa Anderson from the Office of Probation and Community Intervention will host Tallahassee Movies in the Park on Saturday August 10th at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee. This family-friendly event is designed to motivate and entertain youth before beginning the new school year. The movie will begin at sunset, but pre-movie festivities include a live DJ and other fun activities. The event will also host a school supply drive that will benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Big Bend. 


Special projects coordinator Jill Gould and commitment manager Liz Gattarello from circuit six provided a facilities tour Monday for Judge Todd and Michelle Jameson, Alternative Sanctions Coordinator, from the Unified Family Court. Todd and Jameson visited the Wildwood Juvenile Probation Unit, HBI, PAXEN Learning Corp, Charles Britt Academy and AMIkids Pinellas. The tour proved to be very informative as both spoke with youth in these programs.

I would like to send kudos to JPO Craig Stone from circuit eight for his dedication to the Community Resource Center Pilot Program. This project is designed for officers to spend more quality time on intake cases in order to enhance diversion and decrease those cases intended to go to supervision. JPO Stone was assigned several youth with arson charges and went the extra mile on  a difficult case with multiple defendants. Stone’s support and engagement with these families are certainly recognized, and I thank him on a job well done.

JPO Raelene Cleveland from circuit 12 has been helping a youth that was being housed at a local YMCA shelter. The youth was a 16 year old Native American who is a member of the HO-Chunk Indian Tribe, and her family in Wisconsin never knew that her father had moved her to Florida. The father gave her up, and she was placed into the DCF foster care system. Raelene made contact with the child’s case worker Amber Salley from the Safe Kids Coalition in Sarasota. Thanks to their efforts, the child was returned to her family this week two months ahead of schedule and just in time to start summer school.

Residential Update

I am always delighted to read letters sent to our probation officers and facilities from parents whose kids wind up in our system. Letters like the one below from the Sandy Pines Residential Facility in circuit 18 only strengthens our commitment to family engagement. It reads:


A very belated thank you to you all for the support you have shown for my son. Denise, Diane and Deb you have been there for him and I for quite some time and I appreciate all that you have done on his behalf.  There have been lot of hard decisions to make over the last few years and with your help and support I was able to make some difficult choices regarding his well-being. Paul and Kathleen you made a frightening situation in to one that gave me some hope.  All of you went to bat for him and made sure that he got the help that he needed.  I cannot even begin to say how grateful I am for what you have done for him. 

My son is doing well at Sandy Pines.  Some steps forward and some back but I really think he is getting the help he needs there.  I appreciate your support and I am thankful for all that you have done for him.

Art Projects from Volusia County

I would like to share several pictures sent to me from Maria Carroll from the Volusia County RJDC. These were art projects completed by several of the students at the facility. I am proud to know that we have so many talented kids that come through our door. 

Cost-Savings Kudos

I would like to extend my thanks to the new Maintenance Superintendent Rocco Degenova in Miami-Dade. Rocco and his crew were able to fix a broken tractor and purchase new edging and trimming equipment. This will allow the crew of both facilities in Miami-Dade to cut the grass themselves and save the Department nearly $62,000 dollars a year from contracting regional lawn maintenance services. This was Rocco’s idea and has an immediate cost savings impact.

Free Financial Planning Workshops

I am excited to announce that the Division of Retirement will be hosting two free financial planning workshops on July 23 and 24. These workshops are tailored to those employees enrolled in the Florida Retirement System. The workshops will focus on the following topics:


10:00 a.m. to Noon ET

1:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Using the FRS to Plan for Retirement

Cash and Debt Management: Smart Spending & Saving for Retirement

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nearing Retirement in the FRS

FRS Investment Plan: Understanding Your Benefits

Employees wishing to register for these workshops should call 1-866-446-9377, or register online by clicking here. Employees who sign up to attend an online workshop will receive details for logging in and participating a few days prior to the workshop. Employees in the Tallahassee area can attend the workshops in person at the State Board of Administration, 1801 Hermitage Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32308. For more information please contact Lorna Jackson (850-717-2656) in the DJJ Bureau of Personnel.

Farewell to Wanda Harper

Finally I would like to send kudos to Wanda Harper (pictured left with Deputy Secretary Daly) who is the Chief of Policy Development and Planning in the Office of Detention. Wanda has served with the Department for an amazing 35 years, and it makes me sad to report that she is retiring this week. Wanda has held down many positions such as transportation coordinator and assistant superintendent. In her farewell letter to the Executive Leadership team, Wanda praised her superiors Assistant Secretary Julia Strange and Deputy Secretary Christy Daly. On behalf of the entire agency, I wish Wanda the best of luck with retirement and commend her for the outstanding leadership she has given the Department.