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Secretary's Message

July 11, 2014

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

As I shared with staff last week, I am sincerely grateful for the hard work and steadfast dedication to this agency from those who work in juvenile justice across the state. As Secretary Walters did, I want to continue to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice and that of our partners. 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 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).


Christy Daly

DRAI Statewide Workgroup

I was honored to kick off the first meeting of the newly formed Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) statewide workgroup and training team this week at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Quincy. This team collaborated on improvements related to DRAI issues, policy and procedures, training, curriculum and exam revisions. Selected DRAI trainer candidates also began the certification process to become master level regional trainers.

I would like to thank the following team members for all of their hard work during this initial meeting:

Joni Wimmer, Assistant Secretary for Probation and Community Intervention; Dan Kirkwood, Office of the General Counsel; Minnie Bishop, DRAI Master Trainer and Chief Probation Officer (C-2); Cathy Lake, Chief Probation Officer (C-9); Marcia Reightnour (C-14) and Geeta Loach-Jacobson, Assistant Chief (C-15); Mark Greenwald, Director of Research and Planning, Katie Taylor Data Analyst (not pictured); Annie E. Casey Foundation JDAI FL Technical Assistant Danielle Lipow -Jeff Wenhold Detention Services Chief of Policy and Development (not pictured)

DRAI Trainers Latawun Bess (Miami Dade JAC), George Connelly (C-19), Tahirah Jones and Geeta Loach-Jacobson (C-15), Omar Bohler (C-9), James Garner (C-13), Jennifer Cristiano-Czaja (Hillsborough JAC), Tim Denton (C-4 JAC), Joshua Bess (C-7, JAC), Fred Womack (C-14).

JDAI Coordinators Vicki Burke (Duval), Scott Buchanan (Hillsborough), Gina Gibbs (Pinellas), Kathy Demosthenes (Palm Beach), Andrea Webster (Broward), and Colleene Scott (Statewide) -Staff Development Curriculum and Evaluation Supervisor Sandi Coker, Curriculum Designer Kenny Reeves, Learning Consultant JPO Academy Trainer Christie Ash

Circuit Advisory Board Chair Spotlight

I am pleased to highlight Julia Hermelbracht  this month in the Circuit Advisory Board Chair Spotlight.  Julia, the Chairwoman for Circuit 10, is a graduate of the University of South Florida and has been employed with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for 32 years.  She is a certified Public Manager and currently serves as the Circuit 10 Community Development Administrator for Polk, Highlands and Hardee Counties. Ms. Hermelbracht has experience in all programs areas with the majority of her career in child welfare.

Julia has served on a number of councils/boards to include the George Harris Youth Shelter Advisory Council, Children’s Services Council, Early Learning Coalition and Career Source Florida Boards.  She currently serves as Chairwoman for the Circuit 10 (Hardee, Highlands and Polk Counties) Department of Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and the Circuit 10 Human Trafficking Task Force.  Julia currently is mentoring two youth in the Florida Youth Leadership Academy.  

Prevention Update

Youth from the Prodigy Program at the Florida Institute for Community Studies (FICS), a DJJ Prevention Provider, attended the Red Bull BC One Cypher on June 7 at the Full Sail University in Orlando. The competition brought 16 dancers from around the world to compete for the title of “The One,” which is a coveted accomplishment in the music and dance community. In order for a dancer to become selected for the Red Bull Battle they must display extraordinary artistic skills, outstanding character, and a good reputation in the community.

The Prodigy youth watched these dancers battle it out as well as participated in dance lessons and mini freestyle competitions. The youth were able to earn special recognition for themselves and for the Prodigy /FICS program. All the youth had an awe-inspiring experience at the Red Bull Dance Battle and were able to bring back skills they learned to the breakdancing and dance classes they participate in at the Prodigy Cultural Arts program.

Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson provided a vocational training session in collaboration with the Fifth Street Baptist Church of Key West on June 28. Thirteen youth from diversion and probation programs took advantage of the opportunity to participate in a financial instruction session provided by Wells Fargo. In addition, the youth worked with church members on an ongoing project, continued work on resumes and work ethics as well as enjoyed donuts and pizza.  The July session will include a presentation by a licensed electrician, work on Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) certification, and to further enhance their vocational skills,  the youth will begin a wood working project utilizing power tools.

On Tuesday, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III attended the Steering Committee meeting of 50 Large. 

50 Large is a DJJ Prevention provider and an affiliate of the Leon County School Board established in 2008 through a Gang Free Schools and Communities Grant from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  50 Large is a recent recipient of a DJJ gender- specific award to provide services to at-risk male youth. Those services will include life skills, social skills, family engagement, self-esteem and education training. The group provides young men with training and employment programming designed to enhance academic, employability and life skills. 

This program, targeting at-risk youth, aims to service and graduate at least 30 youth a year. Their target is middle and high school students.  A major focus will be coordinating community mobilization to effectively plan and implement prevention and intervention activities for youth.

Residential Update 

Nonsecure Residential Programs Provide More Homelike Environments and Community Experiences

Lake Academy, a nonsecure residential program for females, ages 12 to 19, that is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, in Hillsborough County, has adopted several practices to help create a more normal environment for the residents.  Recently, the girls were issued new uniforms and the dorms were redecorated with new furniture and wall decorations to give the living spaces a bright and friendly atmosphere. 

Last month, Frances Walker Halfway House (FWHH), a nonsecure program for females, ages 13 to 18, operated by Aspire Health Partners (formerly known as The Center for Drug-Free Living, Inc.), provided the residents with a field trip to the Brevard County Zoo.  Five staff members and 11 girls enjoyed a day of exploring the different “continents” portrayed within the zoo.  They fed the giraffes, goats and the birds, enjoyed the wonder of having butterflies landing on them in the butterfly house, and spent the day interacting with all of the zoo’s creatures.  The girls took advantage of the opportunity to spend time with nurses and counselors in this beautiful community environment.  They behaved impeccably as they participated in this healthy, pro-social and fun trip.  This field trip was funded through a generous donation by a Frances Walker Community Advisory Board Member who wishes to remain anonymous. 

Probation Update

SJPO Amanda Lopresti and JPOs Charmaine Duverne and Edwardo Sanchez from Circuit 13 participated with the Hillsborough County Sheriff District II in Operation Partners of the Community. The probation officers partnered with the Sheriff’s deputies and conducted curfew checks and home visits for 15 supervision youth. The ride along with the officers allowed juvenile probation officers the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with law enforcement and show a united front against crime in the community. 

The Bureau of Quality Improvement recently conducted a Fidelity Review in Circuit 5 for the facilitators of the Life Skills Training curriculum. The review was very complimentary; DJJ trainers JPO Tianna Greene and JPO Andres Gaeta were found to be enthusiastic, knowledgeable and confident while demonstrating a great use of motivational interviewing skills. The fidelity monitor also noted the trainers wonderful rapport with their group of youth and further noted the teamwork and delivery of the material, which was above and beyond expectations.

SJPO Natalie West and Reform Specialist Crystal Brown from Circuit 10 were awarded the 2014 Minerva Community Achievement Awards.   The Minerva Community Achievement Awards, presented by the Lakeland Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., awards remarkable individuals who have made exceptional contributions through volunteer efforts and are unsung heroes in the Polk County community.

In March, Circuit 20 Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq was invited to attend an initial sub-committee meeting with Assistant Vice President for Regions Bank Jessie Metohu and Goodwill Industries Coordinator Estrella Rodriguez to discuss the needs and address barriers our youth face to transition from secondary education to adulthood. 

On June 16, the group met again to continue the conversation began in March as well as discuss providing financial literacy to schools and afterschool programs. The members agreed to name the group the “LIFE Coach Committee” with the goal of assisting youth ages 15-18 who are transitioning from secondary education to life events.

Last Tuesday, the LIFE Coach Committee held their first youth orientation kick off at the Youth Haven in Naples.  Lut, Jessie and Estrella led the orientation by providing nine youth two different surveys including questions on individual needs and the barriers youth face in the community. SJPO Francoise Petit and JPO Nicole Migut participated in the discussion on topics such as the lack of summer activities, after-school hour’s activities, job applications, resume-writing, job interviews, financial literacy goal-setting, decision-making and additional services from which youth could benefit. The meeting with the youth was very successful and provided Youth Haven the opportunity to recruit youth to participate in their planning of a teen lounge. The youth were also given community service hours by attending and participating in the discussion. 

I am excited to announce that the Florida Council on Crime & Delinquency, Chapter II has selected  Circuit 2 Reform Specialist Liz Phillips as the 2014 President’s Award Winner.  Liz will be honored at the FCCD’s annual awards banquet on July 24. In a letter sent from FCCD President Lynn Garst informing Liz of the award, she said that Liz was selected based on her contributions to the FCCD in both her professional and personal life. To read the letter in its entirety, click here. 

Detention Update

The Volusia RJDC honored Assistant Superintendent Captain Irma Terry with the inaugural Chief’s Award.  Irma was selected as the first recipient due in part to her consistently high level of performance and willingness to train others across the region. Irma stands as the longest serving Assistant Superintendent in DJJ, and I would like to offer my congratulations for this honor recognizing her many years of hard work. 

Bay County Sheriff’s Deputy, and former JJDO at the Bay RJDC, Montrez Potter has been making regular visits with the youth at Bay Detention speaking with them on the dangers of gun violence and gang activity. Potter has used this opportunity to provide guidance on legal and appropriate means of conflict resolution. Montez is taking the opportunity to speak with our youth to help them make a positive connection with law enforcement and understand that law enforcement can be utilized as a preventative resource.  Deputy Potter interacts easily with our youth, and we appreciate his dedication to helping youth make better choices.

There is nothing more amazing than the smile on a child’s face when receiving therapy from a pet therapy dog. Such was the case on June 21 at the Okaloosa RJDC when Jeri Gosh and Angie Goodpaster from Pet Partners of Okaloosa County stopped by the facility. 

On Friday June 20, 2014, installation began on the Hydroponic Garden Project at The Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center. The project has been in the planning phase for more than a year and has garnered immense support from the community, including the 15th Circuit Judiciary. Several youth were “sow” excited to participate in the installation and did a great job! Once completed, the garden will allow the youth to have a hands-on approach with planting, maintaining and gathering vegetables, fruits and herbs. The youth will also have an opportunity to learn how to cook with these ingredients, thanks to a local culinary school. This project was graciously funded by an OJJDP grant. 

Education Update

Students from AMIKids at Big Cypress began their CORE Construction 101 classes last week. The youth began using hand tools and power tools to reinforce what they have been learning in the classroom. Their instructor, Mr. Knowles, taught the kids the proper handling and technique of the skill saw and the students were very eager to use the saw as well as other tools. The students pictures here are working on the construction of saw horses and once completed they will be used to build benches and tables for the students to sit on in the recreation area. According to one of the students, “This is so much cooler than reading about it in a book.” 

Today, the DJJ Electronic Educational Exit Plan will be released as a new module in the JJIS. The purpose of this plan is to help streamline a student’s reentry process from residential commitment back to their home school districts.  DJJ and the Department of Education collaborated with several school district DJJ transition contacts and private provider education program specialists to develop this statewide Educational Exit Plan.

Currently, students’ plans are being reviewed with JPOs and other stakeholders in community reentry team meetings.  This new module will allow for students’ educational and transition data to be tracked to determine trends and positive outcomes.  The DJJ Education Office will review program and school district transition data to identify programs and school districts successfully meeting students’ academic/transition needs and to target those struggling to meet students’ needs.  These reports will allow DJJ’s Education Office to plan technical assistance and effectively target the programs and school districts that need the most assistance.

I would like to congratulate the schools listed below as they were awarded funding from the 2014-2015 Perkins Grant.  These funds will be used in the areas of Culinary Arts, Building Construction Technology, Information Technology, Hospitality and Tourism, and Business Education and Information Technology.  The DJJ schools below are awarded between $35,000- 64,000 based on their requests.  This totals over $385,000 for career and technical programs for our students. 

Melbourne Center for Personal Growth; Cypress Creek Academy; Liberty JUST; Joann Bridges Academy; Martin Girls Academy; Eckerd Youth Alternatives; Milton Youth Academy