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Secretary's Message

May 18, 2015

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Last week was a full and productive time for our agency and providers as we continued our work in serving Florida’s at risk youth and families.  I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our agency staff, our colleagues, and the youth in our care.

As always, 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.


Christina K. Daly

Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court Meeting 

Last week, I attended the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court (FCC) Meeting in Orlando. The FCC is a steering committee of the Florida State Court System whose work has guided courts around the state as they endeavor to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of family court operations. The family court initiative is to establish a fully integrated and comprehensive approach in the handling of cases that involve children and their families.

During this meeting, the Committee discussed school-justice partnerships and other issues facing families and children in the courts.  

Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Meeting

Last Wednesday, I attended the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet’s meeting at Indian River State College in Port St. Lucie. During the meeting State Representative Larry Lee, Jr. spoke to the Cabinet about the new Literacy Jump Start Pilot Project scheduled to debut in St. Lucie County. In addition, Cabinet members gave an update on the legislative session and State Representative Gayle Harrell presented information concerning Level II background screenings.

Created in 2007 by legislation signed by the Governor, The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet is charged with promoting and implementing collaboration, creativity, increased efficiency, information sharing and improved service delivery between and within state agencies and organizations. 

Statewide Council on Human Trafficking

The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking’s Criminal Justice Committee, of which I am a member, hosted a conference call this past Thursday.   During the call, the Council spoke about implementing a strategy for coordinating with the State Attorney’s Office on their prosecution efforts, suggested improvements for law enforcement awareness, and discussed setting up regional task forces. The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking was created to support human trafficking victims by enhancing care options available.

Detention Update

I am very excited to announce the appointment of Mr. Jeff Wenhold as the North Region Director for Detention Services effective May 15th.  Jeff began his career with DJJ in 1997 as a juvenile probation officer and from 2000-2012 he served in many different roles within the Bureau of Quality Assurance and in 2012 joined the Detention Services Headquarters team.  Jeff was promoted to his most recent positon of Chief of Policy Development and Planning in 2013.

Jeff holds a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and has 25 years of experience working with young people in both the private sector and state government.  Jeff is a certified public manager and a certified Prison Rape Elimination Act auditor for the Department of Justice.

Jeff’s management experience and 18 years of institutional knowledge have allowed him to serve as a leader in detention reform.   I am confident that Jeff will continue to lead North Region Detention Services in providing exemplary services to our youth.

Please join me in congratulating Jeff on his new position! 

I am pleased to share this letter of gratitude sent to Broward RJDC Superintendent Joseph Seeber and Assistant Superintendent Kelly Kollen. Joseph and Kelly provided a tour of the facility for two criminal justice interns who are working with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. It reads:

Hello Major Seeber and Captain Kollen, 

Thank you again for taking time today to provide a tour of the Broward JDC for the two criminal justice interns assigned to our team. 

I have been to JDC previously to assess a few high risk youth, but was pleasantly surprised today by the significant improvements that have been made within the facility.  The painting of the walls in the dormitory and recreational areas, the gardens and reading nook, the digital fish tank, all represent a compassionate leadership.  The milieu appears less correctional, and more therapeutic.  The staff were not only friendly and cordial to us, but toward other visitors in the facility as well. 

I know that quality improvement is a continuous process, but I want you to know that your efforts are clearly evident. 

With great appreciation,

Sarah Gillespie Cummings, LMFT.

Broward Sheriff's Office

Treatment Manager

Juvenile Assessment Team

In our continuing efforts to make over our Detention and Residential facilities into a more trauma informed environment, I am happy to share this picture from the Collier RJDC. The facility recently updated their dining room to a softer setting and the youth at the facility are enjoying the upgrade.

Youth from the Leon RJDC celebrated Mother’s Day with their mothers and grandmothers on May 10th.  Leon staff including Captain Sharon Smith, Sargent Sherell Dancy, Sargent Brandon Jennings, Sargent Micah Youmas, Sargent Julian Smith, Sargent Rexford Sirmans and JDO Mamie Davis helped our youth prepare cards, flowers, and cupcakes for all of the mothers in attendance. Sherell and Rexford helped to decorate the dining hall with beautiful bags and various artwork that created a festive environment. All of the mothers were very surprised and expressed their gratitude to the caring and professional staff at Leon.

I’ve been excited to share the many stories concerning motivational speaker Tonier Cain as she has made her way across our state touring our facilities and speaking to both our youth and staff. As you may already know, Tonier is an expert in the field of trauma-informed care and the importance in recognizing trauma in the youth that we serve.

Recently, Tonier was in the Central Region touring and providing technical assistance and training at Hillsborough, Orange, Volusia and Pinellas detention centers. She stood as an inspiration to both the staff and youth whom she spoke with at all four facilities. The tours showed Tonier how our agency is changing the environment in our facilities through beautification projects to help reduce any traumatic experience our children may feel when entering a detention facility.

Prevention Update

On May 5th , girls from the PACE Center for Girls of Pasco County made a trip to Tallahassee to support their teacher Daniel Sibol who received an award from Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet. Daniel, a math teacher at PACE, received the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award for his community service and philanthropy efforts.  At the presentation Daniel’s dedicated service, including his time worked with Motiv8, AmeriCorps VISTA, City Year and other organizations was highlighted by Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman. Three PACE Pasco girls attended the meeting to see their teacher honored and meet Gov. Scott and the Cabinet members. Volunteer Florida's Champion of Service Award was established in 2013 to honor individuals and groups for their outstanding efforts in volunteerism and service.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell attended the “Let’s Talk II,” teen and parent summit on May 2nd in Miami Gardens. During the summit, local Chef Paul Griffin provided a workshop for parents on “Money vs. Bling.” The workshop was geared towards financial planning and budgeting. Student Minister Nuri Muhammad presented a workshop titled “Weapons of Mass Distraction: Mis-Guided & Mis-Educated.” Both speakers were very inspiring and motivating.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III, Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain, Reform Specialist Elizabeth Phillips, Gubernatorial Fellow Abigail Novak, Statewide Reform Coordinator Lauren Maldonado and Juan Youman from Monitoring and Quality Improvement attended the 2015 Social Services Bazaar which was sponsored by the Department of Children and Families on May 8th.

Verla, Elizabeth, Abigail and Lauren set up a DJJ display showcasing agency initiatives. Other DJJ team members assisted during the day. Onazina, Juan and Craig answered questions, distributed brochures, discussed DJJ’s programs, and Prevention and Probation’s implementation of the SNAP program to other attendees.  Over 40 different agencies attended the bazaar to provide information about their services and answer questions. A foster parent appreciation bake sale was also held.

In the above photo (from left to right): Lauren Maldonado, Statewide Reform Coordinator; Juan Youman, Monitoring & Quality Improvement; Verla Lawson-Grady, Community Engagement Coordinator; Elizabeth Phillips, Circuit 2 Reform Specialist; Onazina Washington, III, Prevention Specialist; and Abigail Novak, Gubernatorial Fellow.

Probation Update

CPO Greg Starling, JPOSs Valerie Bryant and Althea Cameron, SJPOs Kennetta Osborne, Charlene Moxey and Joann Williams, Reform Specialist Shirlon McCarty and JPOs Keith Rudnick, Christine Rouse, Halina Wlodarczyk, Bridget Rodriguez, Re’Shaw Exilien and Shaday Peeples from Circuit 15 participated in 5th annual Palm Beach County Youth Summit on April 25th. This year’s summit, entitled “The Weight of My Words and Actions,” provided local middle and high school aged youth with an unique opportunity to explore areas of concern that are directly impacting them. Over 450 local youth attended the summit which featured interactive workshops focused on violence, health, education, and employment.

The Summit was presented through a collaborative effort from the following partners: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Urban League of Palm Beach County, School District of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition, the Department of Children & Families, the city of West Palm Beach, Molina Health Care, Eta Phi Beta Sorority, our agency and other community partners.

The Tallahassee Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) team is currently recruiting interested individuals to serve as SNAP group facilitators. These facilitators lead groups for the young boys and their parents, refine group skills, conduct assessments, and lead cognitive behavioral interventions for children and families. A facilitator will need to commit to five hours per week during a thirteen week cycle. The community response has been extremely overwhelming. If you are interested in becoming a SNAP facilitator, please contact Lauren Maldonado or Elizabeth Phillips no later than May 29th

Youth from the Paxen Community Connections in Brevard County purchased roses for their mothers and grandmothers on Mother’s Day with points they earned for good behavior as a part of Paxen’s token economy. Several youth had expressed that they did not have the financial means to get their mother's a gift and were excited to have the opportunity to purchase roses with their points.

Last week, Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq made visits to several local elementary schools to present Know the Law and Career Options for their respective career weeks. On Monday, she spoke with a group of students from Franklin Park Elementary in For Myers about making the right choices and decisions and the importance of education and reaching their academic goals.

On Tuesday, Lut spoke to 120 third and fourth grade students at Edgewood Elementary School in Fort Myers. These students were very engaging and asked many good questions concerning consequences. The guidance counselor and teachers thanked Lut for presenting the Know the Law, especially discussing the importance of staying in school and listening to their teachers. 

I would like to recognize JPO Andrew Weader from Circuit 16 for his excellent and timely work in getting a probationary youth in his care much needed services immediately. The youth was arrested on April 30th and although he didn’t meet the detention criteria, Andrew spent two hours assisting the youth’s mother. The youth had his intake the following day and saw the Juvenile Drug Court therapist on May 4th, then entered into Drug Court the next day. 

Youth from the AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute help set the swim course for the Gulf Coast Triathlon at Panama City Beach over Mother’s Day weekend. For well over a decade now, the boys at PCMI have set the swim course with buoys that guide the swimmers through the 1.2 mile ocean swim course. That said this year’s race was much more challenging because the venue was changed to a new location about a mile away. That required the construction of an entirely new course with new buoy locations and new anchors!  A huge effort was put underway to gather all of the materials and get them out to the new location.  Several volunteers and local businesses helped AMIkids PCMI to get all of it in place for race day when 1400 swimmers entered the water in waves and swam the course in ideal conditions.  

Residential Update

On May 13th, the Department hosted the training Think Trauma: A Training Curriculum for Staff in Juvenile Justice Residential Settings, which is an initiative of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN).  The daylong training was held at the Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex in Ft. Pierce.  More than 50 professionals—representatives of the residential programs’ Champion Teams, regional residential services staff members, representatives from detention services, and executives from residential provider corporations—participated in the daylong, interactive training.

The “Think Trauma Training” is part of the Trauma Responsive Practices (TRP) Project, which is a continuation of the Roadmap for System Excellence and an adjunct component of the Juvenile Justice Systems Improvement Project (JJSIP).  As part of the Department’s contract with Georgetown University for JJSIP, DJJ is working with three nationally recognized experts in trauma responsive services within the juvenile justice system to implement a TRP process. 

Monique Marrow, PhD, (shown on stage at the May 13 training, in the photo to the left) one of the TRP consultants, helped develop the “Think Trauma Training” curriculum and conducted the training for DJJ.  The following DJJ residential programs are a part of the pilot for the TRP Project and members of their Champion Teams participated in the training:

  • Martin Girls Academy, a high- and maximum-risk program for females that is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, in Circuit 19;

  • Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, a non-secure program for males that is operated by AMIKids, Inc., in Circuit 18; and

  • Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility, a high-risk program for males that is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., in Circuit 15. 

The TRP Project focuses on working with direct care staff to more effectively address gender-related trauma responsive services for youth who have an increased likelihood to re-offend.  The “Think Trauma Training” is part of Phase III of the TRP Project.  Think Trauma: A Training Curriculum for Staff in Juvenile Justice Residential Settings is a modular, skills-based, interactive trauma-focused training curriculum for frontline staff, educators, administrators, and others who work directly with youth.  The curriculum contains four modules (each between 60 and 120 minutes) that can be implemented continuously as a one-day training or individually over time and at the convenience of the program. 

The primary goal of the training is to help sites develop a common understanding of trauma and trauma responsive practices and prepare them to begin working in their groups regularly to identify ways to strengthen trauma responsive practices across their program.  Following this initial training, a train-the-trainer (TOT) workshop will be offered (likely in late August or early September) to the three sites so that they may train the remaining staff members in each facility.

Last weekend, the residents of Union Juvenile Residential Facility (JRF), a non-secure program for males, ages 12 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, began another meaningful community service project.  This project also helped the boys apply some of the construction skills that they learn in the vocational education classes.  They sanded cabinets for the Union County Housing Authority (UCHA), which will be stained and returned.  

The UCHA’s motto is “Building the community one family at a time.”  The cabinets will be used in one of the community’s many projects.  As a provider of affordable and low-income housing services, UCHA offers vital support to Lake Butler residents.  The goal is to provide dignified assistance as a means of improving the livelihood of an entire community.

At the Charles Britt Academy, a non-secure residential program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by Youth Services International, Inc., the administration places an emphasis on improving staff morale because the staff members spend more time at work—around co-workers and youth—than they do around their own families.  The philosophy is that when staff members are happy, the residents are happy.  Therefore, the administration makes it a habit to have cookouts, potlucks, and off-site events as often as possible to keep everyone fresh and to keep the mood in the facility light. 

Last week, the PACE Center for Girls Pinellas visited the program to learn first-hand about this culture at the Charles Britt Academy.  They quickly discovered another facet to the quote, “The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.” (Fanny Fern—1811-1872).

When the staff from Charles Britt Academy and the PACE Center for Girls came together for a cookout, everyone learned that Louise Fresco may have said it best:  “Food is as important as energy, as security, as the environment.  Everything is linked together.”

The collaborative cookout gave the PACE staff an opportunity to see how other programs operate.  It also provided an environment for both staffs to share amazing ideas on how to help the youth each organization serves.  The lasting lesson was “Team work makes the dream work!”

PREA Update

Congratulations to the following programs for passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Audit:

  • Challenge Juvenile Residential Facility
  • Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center 

Completed PREA audit reports are on the Department’s Web site and you can view them by clicking here.