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Secretary's Message

April 4, 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

DJJ Employee of the Month

I am pleased to honor Senior Management Analyst Supervisor Jacklyn Colson as DJJ’s Employee of the Month for February 2014. Jackie works in the Bureau of Contracts and is responsible for working with program areas on the development of procurement and contract documents, which is crucial to ensuring that our contracted programs are providing youth with the most effective and efficient services. With several significant changes taking place in the Bureau of Contracts, Jackie has consistently exemplified outstanding performance by meeting every deadline and giving whatever it takes to complete every assignment. She maintains an open door policy and never shies away from anyone in her department who needs assistance even if it means staying late to help. Jackie’s dedication, attention to detail and pride in the service the contracts unit provides is a shining example to everyone here at DJJ, and I want to extend my thanks for her efforts.

Please join me in congratulating Jackie on this tremendous honor!

The Employee of the Month for March will be highlighted in the near future and I would like to remind everyone to please keep sending your nominations for the monthly DJJ Employee of the Month Award. You can do so by clicking here.

FJJA 2014 Awards Nominations


Each year, FJJA recognizes excellence with awards presented at the annual FJJA Adolescent Conference. The awards are given to deserving individuals who work in member or state agencies, and who show youth the “way forward” -- giving much of themselves to enrich the lives of our at-risk youth. 

FJJA is excited to launch the application process for the 2014 Adolescent Conference “The Way Forward: Our Communities, Our Youth, Our Future.” 

To nominate someone and to find awards criteria, click here. Nominations will be accepted online through Friday, April 18, 2014. 

Awards will be handed out for each of the following categories: Public Service Award, Creativity/Innovation Award, Client Service Award, Unsung Hero Award, Leadership Award and the Youth Leadership Award.

The top winners will receive a complimentary registration to the 2014 Adolescent Conference and will be honored at the awards banquet on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - opening day of the 2014 Adolescent Conference.   I am thrilled that FJJA has asked that I present the awards.

Legislative Update

On Monday, Legislative Director Jon Menendez, Director of Education Julie Orange and I met with Senator Bill Montford concerning SB 598 which details our Education Reform. The meeting was very productive and Senator Montford remains a staunch supporter of this bill which is one of our legislative priorities. The bill has two committee stops left before a full vote in the Senate. The House counterpart bill (HB 173) was passed during a full vote of the House on March 12.

Central Communications Center Update

In 2013, the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) realigned existing resources to implement the Incident Operations Center (IOC), an enhancement to our systems of incident management, in order to catalog and track all complaints and incident-related correspondence received by the Department. The IOC is responsible for the daily assessment, closure, or referral of all reported incidents as well as conducting trend analysis. 

The IOC and Management Review Policy and Procedures FDJJ 2020 became effective on 3/31/14 and are posted on the Department’s website.  As part of the improvement process, a Joint Application Development (JAD) session was held on 3/25/14 where work group members effectively reviewed all proposed changes to the CCC system.  Data Integrity Officers (DIO) worked collectively with MIS, program area, and IOC staff to ensure the changes encompass policy requirements while working toward a more user friendly system.  The changes to the system will assist the IOC and program areas in capturing relevant data for trend analysis and monitoring reviews which will provide for increased accountability and transparency. 

Prevention Update

Deputy Manager Rhyna Jefferson (left with

Kim Sirdevan, Vice President of Clinical Services with the Youth Crisis Center in Jacksonville) toured the Youth Crisis Center (YCC) on Wednesday in Jacksonville. Founded in 1974 as Florida’s first shelter for runaway adolescents, YCC, a Prevention provider, offers short and long-term housing and counseling for at-risk teens and young adults. Over the last 40 years, more than 40,000 youth have received free assistance from YCC’s residential shelter and outpatient programs. YCC has been listed among the top five programs in the country by the Youth Policy Institute of Washington, D.C. YCC provides residential shelter, counseling, transitional and independent living programs for children, teens and young adults. YCC provides more than a safety net for those in need, YCC provides hope to hundreds of youth and their families every year. 

YCC has been honored with two Presidential Commendations for Excellence, and has received numerous state honors awards by the State of Florida. YCC has been featured on 60 Minutes, Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, and Wards of the Street, a national documentary. YCC has also appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and Readers Digest, and other media outlets. 

YCC continues to be one of the highest scoring residential programs in the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Quality Assurance process. As a leader in the field, YCC has launched and championed a variety of innovative programs, the most recent of which is Touchstone Village. This unique program is already being studied as a model for effective transitional facility for young adults aging out of foster care nationwide.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee and Reform Specialist Hazel Hudson partnered with Anointed Word Ministries, Pathway 2 Success Inc., Poytner, JAM, Shirley Darling, Gina Gibbs, The Greater Ridgecrest YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club of the Suncoast to conduct the 1st ‘It’s All about the Youth Summit of Hope,’ at two locations in Pinellas County. The purpose of the Summit was to show area youth they are supported and to build positive relationships and to reconnect with youth. A total of 30 volunteers, mentors and mentees attended. The youth enjoyed games, workshops and a pool party.


On Monday, DMC Specialist Craig Swain and Statewide DMC Coordinator Josh Kuch hosted a Revive the Dream Network Meeting at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. The DMC Team hosted a meeting to generate support for the Revive the Dream Network. The network is a coalition of organizations, businesses and individuals who strive to make a substantial impact in the lives of minorities and disadvantaged youth and families in their communities by unifying their actions, resources, skills and abilities.

Deputy Manager Rhyna Jefferson (third from the left)  toured the PACE Center for Girls in Duval County on Tuesday. She spoke with staff members and offered words of encouragement to the girls at the facility. PACE Center for Girls is a Florida-based, nationally recognized not-for-profit organization that provides non-residential, prevention, intervention and diversion services for at-risk girls and young women ages 12 to 17. 

PACE, a Prevention provider, uses a comprehensive and holistic model that integrates social services, education, and career readiness in a safe, gender-responsive environment that reflects an understanding of the lives of girls and responds to their strengths and challenges. PACE provides girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. 

PACE values all girls and young women, believing each one deserves an opportunity to find her voice, achieve her potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace.

Last Thursday, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene coordinated and attended a Bridging the G.A.A.P. Conversation in Lake Placid. G.A.A.P. Conversations are designed to provide a foundation for youth to foster positive relationships with law enforcement officers and create a well-balanced understanding by law enforcement of today’s youth. Twenty-seven youth and five law enforcement officers took part in the discussion. G.A.A.P. is an acronym that stands for Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives.

Last month, the Safe School Youth from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Volusia and Flagler Counties, a DJJ Prevention Provider, took part in two separate events at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. On March 2, youth took part in S.T.E.M. Educational Day to highlight the importance of learning science, technology, engineering and math. Members participated in a day of learning about aerodynamics and how it is used in everyday live from civil engineering to piloting an airplane.

On March 26, youth visited Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to learn and observe future secondary education ideas and job opportunities in the future. The youth toured the Meteorology, Law, Static Aircraft Display and Mechanical Engineering departments. This activity was for the youth to start dreaming and setting personal academic goals and thinking about possible job opportunities throughout the country in the future. This opportunity to visit ERAU was to open the minds of youth for their future.

On Tuesday, the Bright House Spring Hill Boys & Girls Clubs and the Florida Sheriff’’s Youth Ranch Staff, both DJJ Prevention Providers, played group building games with the youth in their care at the Bright House Spring Hill Club. These exercises promote leadership, team building and anti-bullying awareness while simultaneously teaching resistance techniques to everyday peer pressure.

On February 1, Boys and Girls Clubs of Volusia and Flagler Counties assisted with packing food to feed deserving families in Volusia and Flagler counties. To distribute thousands of pounds of excess food to families in need. Safe School participants and the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranch partnered with Farm Share and other local Boys & Girls Clubs for a day of team building, community volunteerism and citizenship. More than 500 vehicles were loaded with food and tons of smiles and encouragement from young people. The most amazing part of this opportunity was that on any given day, some of these very same youth must go home to an empty refrigerator or wake up with nothing to eat before they head to school. But on this day, not one complaint or sad face as these teens gave back to the community selflessly. It is the Safe Schools Program that has helped to encourage this positive attitude among these young people. It has helped them to understand that “if you help other people get what they want eventually you will get what you want.”

On Monday, 2013 DJJ Champion of Hope Award Winner Pastor Gary Montgomery from Living Stones International received the keys to a home that was renovated in a drug- and gang-infested area to operate their community ministry in the Griffin Heights neighborhood in Tallahassee. Renovating the home was made possible with property grants through the City of Tallahassee and with labor provided by First Baptist Church of Tallahassee. The Montgomery's will now be able to move into the neighborhood where they feel called to live. They are the directors of Living Stones International, a faith-based organization that works with the children of inmates at Wakulla Correctional Institution.

"So you had the city, the faith community and volunteers who worked on our behalf so that we can live in a community that we serve. I'm elated right now I just want to say praise God," Gary Montgomery said on WCTV News.

Renovations on the two-bedroom, two-bath home began on Dec. 7, 2013. The Montgomery’s, described as “urban missionaries,” operate a prison, ex-offender and family ministry. Thanks to the hard work of two dozen community volunteers, the Montgomery’s will use the renovated house as their residence and also as a home base for their community ministry. 

Circuit Board Advisory Spotlight

This month I am pleased to highlight Circuit 7 Advisory Board Chair Dana Platas. Dana is the Program Director for Daniel’s Behavior Management and Counseling Program in Circuits 3, 4 & 7. She has served as chair for the Volusia County Juvenile Justice Council for the past four years, vice chair for the Circuit 7 Juvenile Justice Board for the past two years and co-secretary for the Duval County Juvenile Justice Council for the past year. 

Dana is a Florida native and graduate from Florida State University (FSU), with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her career began with the Department of Juvenile Justice, and she has continued to work with troubled youth since 1995.  She is a certified trainer in “Girl Matters: Creating a Culture that Celebrates and Values Girls and Young Women;” keeping the issues of young women in the forefront of all systems of care. She is a mentor, member of the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency, FSU Alumni, Texas EquuSearch (Florida Chapter) and the Circuit 7 DMC Steering committee.  She has also participated in various work groups, including the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project with the Department. Mrs. Platas is also a licensed real estate agent and likes to spend time with her family, friends and dogs.  

The next Circuit 7 Advisory Board meeting will take place at 10 a.m. on May 16 at the Volusia County Health Department, located at 1845 Holsonback Drive, Daytona Beach, FL  32117, Room 516C.

Residential Update

Residential Services: Meeting the Needs of Youth Where They Are

Co-located in Crestview and operated by Gulf Coast Youth Services, the Okaloosa Youth Academy (OYA) and the Okaloosa Sex Offender Program (OSOP) provide treatment services for moderate-risk boys, ages 10 to 15.  Recently, staff recognized the need to create a normal environment outdoors.

In particular, staff noticed that every day during outdoor recreation one of the younger residents repeatedly wandered over to the sand pile in the masonry area.  The masonry area is not an appropriate area for the youth to be in during recreation.  However, the staff members could tell that each time he was redirected away from the sand pile, he was very disappointed.

Nicknamed “Superman,” this young boy inspired a new project.  To meet the supervision needs for all youths in the program and to create a place where younger kids can play normally as children do, the staff and administration of OYA and OSOP decided to build a sandbox in front of the dormitory for the younger boys.  Several of the boys assisted in the design while the older boys worked on the framing crew with Lead Facility Maintenance Manager John Herman, as well as moving and filling in the sand.

As you can see, more than one boy is enjoying the sandbox.  Shown here are the boys making tunnels and building sand castles.  

The residents of Jacksonville’s Impact House, a low- and moderate-risk program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Gateway Community Services, enjoyed two different personal development workshops last week.  Ten young men participated in a development symposium at the Keiser University Jacksonville Auditorium, which was sponsored by City Streets to Student Athletes—a 501(c)3, non-profit organization.  The 12 youth remaining at the program, were inspired by a guest speaker provided by Evangel Church and Mike Self.  At both events, the young men experienced a variety of educational topics such as going to college, academic eligibility, life lessons, the importance of family and having positive friendships, and drug awareness. 

The boys who attended the symposium at Keiser University heard from Coach Ken Jones and others about college athletics and the path to NCAA eligibility.  They also learned about financial literacy from the professionals of the Fifth-Third Bank, which also provided door prizes to those who attended the event.

Detention Update

Last month, the WestCare Guidance and Care facility of Key West, a program funded by the Department of Children and Families, was forced to close its doors due to a structural issue in the building. The closing meant that some of the youth and families in our care would be without the services they so desperately needed. Despite the hardship, the city of Key West valued the services that WestCare provided and many local organizations including our agency stepped up to help this valued commodity in its time of need. The Monroe RJDC stepped up by housing the facility’s guidance and care therapists. Last Saturday, the WestCare facility submitted a letter to the editor of the Key West Citizen thanking local stakeholders, including DJJ, for their support during this difficult time. To read this article, click here

Circuit 18, Chief Probation Officer Don Rodgers holds two puppies from the Brevard Regional Juvenile Detention Center TAPS program.

Pasco RJDC Stages of Change 

The weather change has brought forth changes in the facility. A mental health group was conducted in the girls unit. They were introduced to stages of change on how doing what is right and working towards positive change things can grow in any situation given the right tools.

Each young lady was asked to pick a seed packet.Once this was completed they used Ziploc bags, paper towels, the seeds of their choice, labeled the zip lock bag, moistened the towel and placed the seed on towel. Stage# 1 changing  the seeds environment.

The girls were tasked with watering, watching and ensuring the seeds had a chance to grow. Stage  #2 giving the seeds a chance to change

“This won’t work, how will it grow?” “I will try”

Once they saw the change from a seed to a sprout the girls were then invited to plant the sprouts in a container and again tasked to take care of their seedlings, and sprouts. Stage #3 from seed to sprout, growth occurs with care.

“Wow I never new this could be done this way.” I am going to try this at home.”

Finally the girls and the boys went outside and started work on the garden, preparing the earth to receive the sprouts. With the help of staff the ground is now tilled and the sprouts will be planted this week. Here are some of the comments while gardening. Stage # 4 from seed to sprout, preparing the sprout to grow on its own by excepting help from others.

The girls and boys (pictures not included because their faces are in the picture.) talked about how as one youth stated: “with care and nurturing anything can grow anywhere, including here.”


“I never did this before, so I do not know how.” The way to learn is to try. “I did that, all by myself, look at the way the weeds come out, it’s going to be a great place to plant the garden.”


“See I told you I had a green thumb.” “I know its grass stains but cool huh.”

Stage # 5 seeing hands on success. It is not preached at them, but shown, taught, and hands on that make a difference. Youth learned that like a seed change comes from within.

After a tour the University of Florida (Dr. William Lester) is now helping PRJDC develop the garden to produce food, understand disease, and good and bad insects. Dr. Lester will work with PRJDC in developing a hydroponic garden.

Probation Update

This week, Assistant Secretary for Probation and Community Intervention Joan Wimmer kicked off the Family Engagement training event at Safety Harbor. This training included Chief Probation Officers, Reform Specialists and Prevention Specialists throughout the state along with other staff from DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. The meeting was coordinated by Brenda Posthumus and Kara Ahern and featured guest speakers: Dr. Ed Latessa from the University of Cincinnati, Kathy Lazear from USF and Verlese Pender, Tracy Pellegrino and Crystal Lilly from Florida’s Youth Move. Research and Planning Director Mark Greenwald and Dr. Michael Baglivio provided participants with updates on the dispositional matrix and the Georgetown JJSIP project. 

Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts participated in a Civil Citation Meeting in Circuit 3 in an effort to encourage the implementation of the Civil Citation process by law enforcement in Suwannee County. CPO Tom Witt and Reform Specialist John Hancock represented the Circuit during the discussion. The meeting was organized by key community leaders and concerned citizens in an effort to learn more about the process and prompt momentum for the implementation of the civil citation process. The meeting ended with an agreement for the Suwannee County Sheriff, Live Oak Police Chief, State Attorney and NAACP Leaders to meet again in April to work out a Civil Citation process for Suwannee County.  Circuit 3 is looking forward to assisting Suwannee County in this opportunity to better serve the community and youth.

During a recent town hall meeting in March, the staff from Circuit 17 celebrated those employees who were recognized as employees of the month and the employee of the year for the Circuit. These staff members have embraced and acted upon the founding principles of our agency, and I would like to thank them for their dedicated service. 

Pictured (L to R): Michelle Green, Sharon Wong*, Keith Bennis (for Stacey Dunkel*), Charlie Parker*, Winsome Battiste (for Debbie Cappello*), Jennifer Jackson**, Teves Bush , Adrea Hightower*, Evanjalyst Harris, and Cassandra Evans

Working in Lieu of Arrest (WILA) is a civil citation program in Circuit 5 Marion County that is operated by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.   Youth are required to work five (5) consecutive Saturdays on the Sheriff’s Work Farm.  Marion County Probation Units (402 and 403) volunteer their time to help the deputies supervise youth.  The partnership has given the youth an opportunity to work side by side with deputies and probation officers in a positive light.   Over 3,000 youth have been given the benefit of the program since its inception in 2002.

On March 19, the Children Home Society of Florida and the Families First Network hosted Real Talk: Breaking Barriers Conference for over 130 at-risk males in Circuit 1 ages 12-21. The purpose of this conference was to present real life stories of loss, heartbreak, and success, so our youth can see how others have moved from tragedy to triumph. Based on the inspiring advice given, these youth stated that they realized they will need support from a positive person if they want to make it through the barriers they are facing. All of the youth were provided with Teen Resource Guides. I would like to thank the following DJJ staff members for their attendance and support:  CPO Paul Wallis, JPOs Angelo Tucker, Sam Burgess, Anthony Mallory, Paul Pacheco, and Jonathan Wiggins from AMI Escambia Boys Base.  

Quality Improvement Update

The Bureau of Quality Improvement (QI) conducts an annual review of each state-run and contracted provider program. This is a highly interactive process between the review team and the program, and the focus of these reviews is continuous improvement in services to children and operational processes. Upon completion of each QI review, the program has an opportunity to evaluate their overall QI review experience, including individual QI team members. The feedback DJJ receives ensures fairness and fidelity to the purpose of the review and allows for the continuous improvement of the QI process. Recently, the QI team in Jacksonville conducted the annual review of Probation and Community Intervention, Circuit 8 located in Alachua, FL. Assistant Chief Probation Officer, Diane Pearson offered the following comments to Lead Reviewer, Angela Mills:  

“On behalf of Chief Jill Wells and the Circuit 8 Probation Team we would like to offer our appreciation for the detailed QI review we had last week. It offered us a great deal of insight into some of our practices that needed to be improved and let us know exactly where we stand with procedure compliance. The QI team was very informative and their delivery of the information was clear and courteous.

Thank you for all the feedback during this process.”

Thanks to the Jacksonville QI team and peer reviewers: Janet Hampton, Brad Hatcher, Misty Massey and Angela Mills. Your conscientious commitment to helping programs improve is one example of DJJ’s reform efforts to make Florida a leader in the humane and effective administration of juvenile justice.

Human Trafficking Update

On Monday, Statewide Human Trafficking Coordinator Tyson Elliot spoke with members of the Tallahassee Rotary Club during their monthly meeting. Tyson spoke about some of the basic facts and figures as they pertain to human trafficking. About thirty people were in attendance including some members of Interstate Compact for Juveniles who were there for training themselves. The information was well received by everyone who was in attendance.