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Secretary's Message

February 28, 2014

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, both DJJ employees and those who work for our contractors, and the youth in our care. I am always looking for opportunities to showcase 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

Out and About

Earlier this week I along with Assistant Secretary of Residential Services Laura Moneyham, Residential Northwest Region Director Mary Mills, Program Monitor Supervisor Lori Jernigan, and Deputy Communications Director Heather DiGiacomo, had the pleasure to visit and tour two residential facilities in Northwest Florida. Thank you to Lori for working so closely with the programs on arranging our visit!

Our first stop was Escambia Boys Base where we met with four of the boys who shared their experiences at the program and the many community service projects they take part in around the Pensacola community. Two of them are very talented artists who shared their sketch books and pieces they had painted at the facility.

We also visited the Walton Youth Development Center in DeFuniak Springs where, again, four youth gave us a detailed tour showing off all the hard work they have done in assisting the program to implement its normalcy plan. The wonderful art that is found throughout the facility was done by two of the boys we had the pleasure of spending time with on our tour. Most of the art includes inspirational quotes to remind residents to stay on the path to success.   

It was an incredible day and I thank all of those involved in hosting our team, especially our tour guides at each facility. I am just so proud of what our programs are doing and the difference it is making to these kids. Special thanks to Mr. Oliver Jones, Program Director at Escambia Boys Base and Hayward Golden, Vice President of Operations, AMIKids, for assisting in our visit to Escambia Boys Base. And,  special thanks to those at Walton Youth Development Center, especially Melanie James, Program Director; Antonio Potter, Assistant Program Director; Shannon Trueitt, Master Therapist; Michael Shack, Teacher, Walton Learning Center; Dr. David Jeselnik, Director of Education for Walton Learning Center; Jeanette Jackson, CEO Gulf Coast Youth Services, Inc.; Angela Forward, Home Builders Institute; and Chris Goodman, Home Builders Institute.

Above - Escambia Boys Base: Hallway at facility; art by resident; AMIKids logo painted by resident

Above – Walton Youth Development Center; Pictured here with me is a resident from WYDC. We are in the “candy store” where youth can buy treats or items by using the tokens they have earned. The art pictured is from throughout the facility and was painted by the two young men pictured in the WYDC Café.

Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Meeting

On Tuesday, I was honored to preside over the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet’s monthly meeting at the Capitol here in Tallahassee. This was my first meeting serving as the Chairman of the Cabinet since my appointment to the position by  Governor Scott.  The highlight of the meeting was a presentation by Florida Youth Commission (FYC) member Blake Maier who discussed the status of the FYC and its goals and objectives for the coming year. The FYC represents youth across the state as an advisory body to the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. A Youth Commission representative attends all Florida Children and Youth Cabinet meetings and provides updates to the Cabinet on current issues facing Florida’s youth.

The Cabinet also heard presentations from Surgeon General John Armstrong, FSU Center for Autism Director Dr. Amy Weatherby, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and the Governor’s Office of Adoption and Child Protection Director Zackary Gibson. The vision of the Children and Youth Cabinet is for all children in Florida to grow up safe, healthy, educated and prepared to meet their full potential.

Anti-Human Trafficking Update

Deputy Secretary Christy Daly attended a two-day training this week at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville entitled: “The Psychology of Human Trafficking: Healing Community Responses and Action.”  Also attending on behalf of DJJ were Donna Webb, Circuit 4 Probation; Dwight Poole, Circuit 3 Residential; Sharon Coplin, Circuit 19 Residential; Melissa Johnson, Circuit 13 Residential; Gwen Nelson and Oleta Riggs, Circuit 4 Residential; and staff from all of G4S Youth Services’ girls programs.  This informative meeting was designed to increase knowledge about human trafficking including the nuanced factors that make girls and young women particularly vulnerable to the crime of human trafficking. The event was led by Michelle Contreras, an international expert in trauma and human trafficking, who facilitated a space and tools that encouraged community and multidisciplinary responses focused on gender, trauma, and culturally-responsive models to work with trafficked girls and women.

On Wednesday, The Salvation Army Tallahassee Corp hosted an awareness event entitled “Saving our Youth: Faces of Human Trafficking.” Tyson Elliott, DJJ Human Trafficking Director participated on a panel as part of this event. The panel was moderated by John Robertson, Program Services Director of Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, and included representatives from FDLE, DCF, the 2nd Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office and a local advocate. Over 100 people were in attendance for the event, who also heard from the U.S. Attorney, North Florida District, Michelle Gaines, Florida Department of Education and Ralph Bradley, Homeland Security Investigations. Judge Lynne Tepper, 6th Judicial Circuit, closed the event with the “Call to Action” to work to end human trafficking.


Cedric’s Closet 

I am pleased to share with you the story of Cedric’s Closet. In 2011, Circuit 4 JPO Jennifer Waldrop had a youth on her caseload that came from a home in a residential program. When she met him, he was wearing the same clothes he went into the program in that were discolored and too small. The youth humbly asked Jennifer if she could help him with acquiring clothes. There began the inspiration to create a clothes closet for other youth in the area, which Jennifer named after him.

Since that time many of the youth in our care from Circuit 4 have been able to come to “Cedric’s Closet” to get clothes for court as well as school. It has also serviced youth who are returning home from commitment who might have grown a few sizes since entering the system. Since its inception, “Cedric’s Closet” has grown by leaps and bounds as you can read from this e-mail that Jennifer sent to her fellow Circuit 4 employees:

“The walls have been painted and Cedric’s Closet and our Food Pantry are ready. Cedric’s Closet now has a separate female and male closet; they are located next to each other. We are in desperate need for male clothing again. Believe it or not, the biggest request is boxer shorts from my kids…. If you have individuals that are having issues locating a Community Service Workplace, send them here, there is plenty to do. All the clothes need hung back up…The pantry is currently ready to be stocked and the shelves are located in the Males closet for now. There will be an envelope on the wall or door for kids to take with them while collecting can goods or non-perishable items with DJJ letter head by COB 2/21/2014. Remember Easter is around the corner and I’m sure we have a few families that are in the need. There will also be a sign in and out sheet so we can keep track of items that are used the most. The ACPO spoke with Judge Davis about allowing kids collect goods for the pantry. He replied with, “Of course, we are helping the community, just as long as they don’t keep the food… J “ 

I would like to thank Jennifer for going above and beyond the boundaries of the job. In doing so, she has made a real impact on the lives of the youth we serve. My thanks as well to the many employees from Circuit 4 who have donated clothes and food over the years. 

 Probation Update

This week, trainers from the Child Development Institute in Toronto provided SNAP training. SNAP stands for Stop Now and Plan and is an evidenced based, gender-specific, cognitive behavioral and family focused intervention, designed for boys and girls ages 6-12. The program effectively strives to teach children how to stop and think before acting, helping to keep them in school, and out of trouble. Local implementation teams from Tampa, Gainesville and Tallahassee participated in the training. These local teams consist of school resource officers, CINS/FINS providers, DCF, school district personnel and court funded programs. Reform Specialist and a JPO from each of these circuits make up DJJ’s involvement in the program. 

Circuit 20 Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq conducted a Civil Citation refresher training course last Friday to members from the Ft. Myers Police Department. Fort Myers Police Department is currently serving 45% of eligible youth within Lee County. Fort Myers Police Department and the Department of Juvenile Justice continue to maintain a great relationship as well as focusing on the need of at-risk youths.  

On February 4, the Circuit 16 Mentor Program held a meeting between JPO Stephen Meredith, Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson, mentor John DiRenzo and a probation youth and his father. Elaine, who has been instrumental in getting the circuit’s mentor program off the ground, was approached by Stephen who was looking for a specific type of mentor for a youth in his care. John, a major in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and a member of the Joint Interagency Task Force South, offered his services to the family as time between the father and son was scarce. After three weeks of mentoring, John provided the following update:

“K.S. has been attending the CAP meetings and now we are hoping he will join.  Two weeks ago we took him glider flying with the other cadets at Homestead. I also wanted to let you know, I coordinated a job for him.  My friend, Nick runs a seaplane business, and occasionally asks me if I know any young people interested in washing the airplanes.  K.S. seems to like the work.  I saw him there last night washing airplanes.”

I would like to extend my thanks to Stephen, Elaine and especially John for their efforts in turning this youth’s life around.

Last Friday, Circuit 20 JPOS Kelli Mukaddam spoke with members of the Lee County Sherriff’s Department and the Lee County Leadership Group regarding the role of our agency in the Ft. Myers area. Kelli discussed our prevention efforts, Civil Citation, diversion and the court process. Furthermore, she reviewed probation services and our efforts to redirect youth in a positive manner.  Also discussed was the relationship DJJ has with the JAM units from Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Fort Myers Police Department and how important it is to have their assistance monitoring and encouraging youth to make good decisions in the community. Kelli also spoke about Healthy Harvest Farms and how the program not only helps the community by donating food but also through their desire to assist youth who volunteer by mentoring them and guiding them to make better decisions.

Recently, DJJ Probation Staff, Detention Staff and AMIKids staff from Circuit 14 helped a youth returning to his community by donating new clothing before returning to school. This youth’s family had other challenges as they were living in one room of a home shared with another family. Accordingly, our staff referred him to the Bay District Schools Homeless Liaison to assist with academic support and work to ensure his success at school.  The assigned JPO and transition specialist are working together to coordinate services to help the family explore other housing options.

Last Saturday, Circuit 13 ACPO Sandra Pinkney participated in a ride-along with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), facilitated by HCSO Deputy’s Tyler Martin and Craig Roberts. It was designed to conduct curfew checks on area youth. These ride-along opportunities have become a great collaboration with HCSO and DJJ and serve as an opportunity to build trust and mutual respect.

Keep Manatee Beautiful Beach Cleanup

Last Monday, to support the “Keep Manatee Beautiful” campaign, Circuit 10 Advisory Board members, JPOs Janice Hetzel, Irene Royo, Ivana Ruiz, Adam Wiegand and probation youth participated in a beach cleanup project at several Bradenton beaches in Manatee County. The event was coordinated by SJPO Mitzi Petty and JPOS Heather Ferrara. Ten probationary youth participated who earned over 100 hours of valuable community service.  The project was designed to reduce and eliminate trash and other forms of litter on the coastal beaches. The probation officers select youth, either as a court-ordered sanction or as a way to complete community service work hours, to clean up litter on the beaches. The cleanup helped eliminate approximately 15 pounds of trash off of local beaches. 

 Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee took part in a Bridging the G.A.A.P. Conversation at the Tarpon Springs Recreation Center. G.A.A.P. Conversations are designed to provide a foundation for area youth to foster positive relationships and open lines of communication with law enforcement officers in their communities. They also work to create a well-balanced understanding of today’s youth by law enforcement

(from left to right): Tarpon Springs Police Officer Emmanuel (Manny) Magoulis, Pinellas teen Jasmen Colon, Tarpon Springs police Officer Matt Geer, Pinellas teen Tamiya Jones and Sgt. Larry Hordge from the St. Petersburg Police Department attend the Tarpon Springs GAAP discussion.

Last Sunday, Procurement Manager Teresa Millan volunteered with the Tallahassee Junior Women’s Club to help sew, stuff and draw faces on Blue Bears. The bears are given out to children by firefighters and EMS staff to provide comfort following tragic events such as a fire or auto accidents. This event helps support local emergency management services. 

(left to right):  Women’s Club member Eryn Calabro and Teresa Millan, a Women’s Club volunteer, display the teddy bears that were made for EMS workers to distribute to children involved in traumatic accidents.

Federal Grants Manager Yvonne Woodard assisted with the Delta GEMS (Growing and Empowering Myself Successfully) during the Omega Lamplighters Etiquette Workshop last Saturday at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center in Tallahassee. These are two youth groups in Leon County supported by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. The etiquette workshop was held to educate the youth on proper business etiquette as well as appropriate dining etiquette. Youth engaged in discussions on dating, networking, and appropriate dress.

On Wednesday, Prevention Services providers attended a meeting at the Hartman Building in Tallahassee to hear updates on DJJ Prevention related initiatives. Providers were welcomed by Deputy Secretary Christy Daly and Assistant Secretary for Prevention & Victim Services Wanda Finnie before they heard presentations by Mark Greenwald, Director of Research and Planning; Al Lewis, Data Integrity Officer Supervisor; Denny Clark, Director of Staff Development & Training (SDT); Cina Wilson-Johnson, Deputy Director of SDT and Erika Gaeta, Prevention Research Analyst. Among the topics discussed were JJIS Prevention Web, the Prevention Assessment Tool, SkillPro, Confidentiality of Records, Program Management and Monitoring and the Staff Verification System. About 20 providers attended in person and 20 listened via conference call. Twenty DJJ staff attended the training in person.

Residential Update

What is Love?  The young men at RAM-C, a low- and moderate-risk program in Madison County that is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development Inc., answered this question on Valentine’s Day at an event sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club (BGC) of Tabula Rasa. 

All the youth had the opportunity to participate in fun games throughout the day and a program that the youth put together.  The program consisted of poems read by the young men, encouraging thoughts shared, and a skit performed by the residents that focused on making positive choices and decisions.  The youth at the program had an awesome time.  The best part for most of the young men was being able to fellowship with their peers in a positive environment. 

The BGC of Tabula Rasa is a charter held by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc. and is a member of the National Boys & Girls Clubs of America.  There is a BGC chapter located on-site at each of the Twin Oaks programs.  Each youth is a member of the BGC while in the program and following graduation.  The activities provided by BGC staff enhance youth activities and provide structured after-school activities such as tutoring, certifications and learning opportunities to improve interpersonal skills.

The Residential Services Northeast Regional Office hosted its quarterly meeting of residential program directors and staff in Carl’s Café, a multipurpose room at Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program.  The meeting was led by Billy Stark, Jr., acting deputy director, and included a review by the program directors of their progress toward each program’s goals for normalization, an update on the Program Monitoring and Management (PMM) system, and a training by Statewide PREA Coordinator Gene McMahon on the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). 

More than 40 representatives of residential providers and DJJ offices attended the daylong meeting:  Philip Amorgianos, Impact House; Darrell Bacon, DJJ; Keith Banks, G4S; Torris Bennett, Cypress Creek; Lonnie Bennett, Jr., Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility; Paul Brown, Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility; Keenan Bullard, Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility; Javonte Crenshaw, Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility; Robert Cummings, Cypress Creek; Vicki Donaldson, Alachua Academy; Andy Eldridge, Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program / Gulf Academy; Tracy Emery, Challenge Juvenile Residential Facility; J. Patrick Girdner, Challenge Juvenile Residential Facility; Larry Gresham, Duval Academy; Ann Hamilton-Clark, DJJ; Kristine Harshaw, Union Juvenile Residential Facility; Katina Horner, DJJ; Regenia Johnson, DJJ; Craig Jones, Duval Academy; Edith Jordan, DJJ; Karl Knighten, G4S Youth Services; Rebeca Kovar, Alachua Academy; Paul McIntyre, DJJ; Gene McMahon, DJJ; Karen McNeal, DJJ; Gwen Mitchner, DJJ; Brent Mobley, Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility; Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham, DJJ; Gwen Nelson, DJJ; Kristina Picone, DJJ; Florence Pitts, DJJ; Oleta Riggs, DJJ; Stephanie Sanford, DJJ; Mike Smith, Union Juvenile Residential Facility; Gwen Steverson, DJJ; Susan Stormant, DJJ; Larry Veatch, Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility; Winslow Wheeler, Impact House; Stuart Wolcott, DJJ; John W. Wright, St. Johns Juvenile Correctional Facility; and Virgil Wright, DJJ.

The Orange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Youth Academy, which are programs for males that are operated by G4S Youth Services, hosted a “Career Day” sponsored by the Orange County Public School System (OCPS) and coordinated by Tawanda Smith, education advocate for OCPS.  This was the first of many career days planned for the future.  Guest speakers included Tameka Hylick, marketing director for the Central Florida Educators Credit Union; Anthony Davis, director of the Boys and Girls Club; Michael Wells, barber and hairstylist instructor at Anthem College; Edwin Shiver, on-the-job training teacher and owner of a T-shirt business; Captain Muhammad, Orange County correctional officer at 33rd Correctional Facility; Garrett Turner, CEO of Pristine Clean Maintenance, LLC; and Kathy Mills from DeVry University.  Each speaker shared their educational backgrounds and career paths.  The students were able to listen to all of the presenters, ask questions and glean information from them.   

Email Received from a Graduate of the Charles Britt Academy

To:  Novell L. Chestnut, Program Director

Hey Mr. Chestnut: 

I just wanted to contact you to let you know how I am doing outside the facility.  I’ve been applying for so many jobs for the 3 weeks, and as of today I got hired at Sonic.  I really appreciate all of the things you and Mr. Downing did for me, and the other youth at the facility.  I can honestly say that you have one amazing team.  They were there whenever I needed them, funny, and they’re also very supportive.  I think I was very lucky to have been sent to your program.  If I was never there then I don't know where I would be now.  Please tell the floor staff I said hey and that I will be calling them soon.

Detention Update

I would like to welcome Dr. Delores Truesdell as the new Dietician for the Office of Detention Services. Delores comes to DJJ from a teaching position at the University of North Florida/Florida State University. She has also previously worked with Children’s Medical Services, United Cerebral Palsy of Tallahassee and Apalachee Center for Human Services.

This week, youth from the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center surprised Debbie Koch, the facility’s volunteer media specialist, with handmade cards in honor of her birthday. Debbie has been volunteering at the facility for nearly ten years now and has installed a streamlined process to keep the library in order. All of the youth at Marion visit the library each Friday where Debbie shares information on current events, holiday and then helps youth check out books. The youth and staff look forward to their time with her each week. 

Staff Development and Training Update

DJJ Staff Development and Training (SD&T) Director Denny Clark, Deputy Director Cina Wilson-Johnson and Samadhi Jones presented an overview of the SkillPro learning management system to Prevention providers on February 26. Attendees learned that SkillPro’s interactive online courses are media rich, providing a multisensory learning experience that is proven to increase student engagement and content retention. Also, SkillPro makes it easy to find individual training records, collect training data, and find and register for instructor-led sessions throughout the state. Since the content created by DJJ is designed to comply with Florida’s statutes and administrative rule regarding juvenile justice, using SkillPro reduces the risk of liability for providers. Providers were also interested to learn that their feedback had resulted in the creation of SkillPro’s Custom Content Library, where they can upload courses and materials they create. This feature makes it easy for programs across the state to share training materials and techniques.

Denny Clark answered two important questions providers have about SkillPro:

Q.           Why does SkillPro cost $35 per user annually? What is the money used for?

A.           The $35 helps to defray the cost to build and maintain the online platform (the SkillPro program), and for data storage (the servers) and records archiving (CORE). SD&T is seeking to create a world-class workforce, and in the future the fee will help with developing new courses and implementing other learning resources.

Q.           What about problems with the system?

A.           First, if you are having a problem, we want to know what it is so we can get it resolved.

If you are asking about our process, there are several ways to get help. Inside SkillPro are tutorials to help users learn to navigate the system. If you are having a problem, the “Get Help!” feature allows you to submit a description to the SkillPro Team. If you can’t get into the system, you can email SkillPro@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 488-8825 and the SkillPro Team will assist you.

It has been three weeks since the system rolled out. Although we have had some “birthing pains” we are working through them as quickly as we can, and I am proud of the work my team has done. Overwhelmingly, people find SkillPro easy to use; but as with any change, some users have needed a little extra help to adjust.

A very important point to note is that the conversion to SkillPro is forcing a data clean up in the Staff Verification System, or SVS. The user information is pulled from the SVS, so some of our providers have had to make sure that their staff are entered accurately in in that system, including an email address so they can receive automated system messages.

We have internal meetings daily to check the status of issues and make sure that requests are being addressed quickly, and we regularly meet with our counterparts in MIS and with the DIOs to resolve issues that require the help of their team members.

In a few months, after the initial culture shock from the change wears off and the initial go-live issues are resolved, we are going to be able to get some reliable feedback about the system. We plan to survey users to find out what’s working and what needs work.

SD&T employee Samadhi Jones and her dog, Jake, have been accepted into the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) Animal Therapy volunteer program. Animal Therapy Teams are trained according to the standards established by Pet Partners (formerly the Delta Society), an international sanctioning organization focused on improving human health through positive interactions with therapy, service and companion animals. Jake, Samadhi and Dharma, her daughter, will undergo training over the next six weeks . After Jake successfully completes his Pet Partners evaluation, he will be able to brighten the day of people at more than 50 local facilities. Samadhi says, “We hope to also volunteer at juvenile justice facilities and elementary schools in the Tallahassee area. We are looking forward to this experience because of the joy it will bring to others, as well as us.” Samadhi learned of the volunteer opportunity from her DJJ co-worker and longtime animal therapy volunteer, Bruce Morton.