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Secretary's Message

June 16, 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

AMIkids Wins 2015 Nonprofit of the Year Award

DJJ Provider AMIkids Inc. was named the overall winner of the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2015 Nonprofit of the Year award during a ceremony on June 11th at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. AMIkids also received a $10,000 donation from SunTrust as the overall award winner.

“The honor of winning this award is a testament to the dedication of our tireless staff and hundreds of board members throughout the country in providing the opportunity for kids to distance themselves from their troubled pasts and discover their full potential,” said Mark Criser, National Chair of the AMIkids Board of Trustees. “With the ever-increasing issues of crime, mistrust, and negativity facing our Nation, it is important for all of us to change the conversation from blame for the issues we face to discovering positive solutions.”

“With over 45 years of experience, AMIkids is a proven solution of changing the lives of kids here in the Bay Area and throughout the Country,” added Criser.

The awards had over 250 nominees and 60 finalists for eight categories, covering Arts, Culture & Humanities, Crisis Resources, Education, Environment and Animals, Family Services, Health and Human Services, Health and Human Services over $10m, and Public and Societal Benefit. AMIkids also was awarded the 2015 Nonprofit of the Year award in the Family Services category.

On behalf of our entire agency, I would like to congratulate AMIkids on this tremendous honor! 

Coalition for Juvenile Justice Annual Conference

Congratulations to Joshua Kuch on being elected  as the National Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Coordinator at the annual Coalition for Juvenile Justice Conference in Washington, D.C.  Josh will represent and advise all states by providing DMC guidance for strategies, policies, and various programmatic committees.  The conference, co-hosted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,  was attended by practitioners and stakeholders from around the country and focused on the latest research, developments, opportunities and challenges in the juvenile justice field.  Several DJJ team members and members of the Florida State Advisory Group (SAG) attended the conference to share best practices and reform efforts taking place in Florida.

National Convening on Trafficking and Child Welfare

Also last week, Bethany Brimer Gilot, DJJ Human Trafficking Director, had the honor of travelling to Washington DC to present on a panel at the National Convening on Trafficking and Child Welfare hosted by the White House and the US Department of Health and Human Services. Florida is consistently being recognized as a leading state in regards to the efforts we are taking to combat human trafficking and Bethany, along with representatives from two service providers and the DCF Statewide Human Trafficking Prevention Director, were asked to speak on Florida’s current initiatives. In attendance were representatives from the judiciary, service providers, state employees and law enforcement from each of the 50 states.  

Bethany had the pleasure of speaking about the work that DJJ is doing to address human trafficking with a focus on our Human Trafficking Screening Tool, which is currently being used throughout the state in our intake facilities. There was interest from many different states about the screening tool and she was able to speak one-on-one with many states about assisting in the creation of a screening tool to be used on their juvenile populations. It was a very exciting opportunity for those representatives of the state of Florida, but it was also a wonderful opportunity to share about the work being done here at DJJ on a daily basis.

I look forward to seeing the impact that these meetings will have on the development of human trafficking-related policies at both a national and state level.   

Probation Update

Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Clayton attended the graduation ceremony for AMIkids in Jacksonville which is the first of its kind at AMI since becoming accredited. Former state Senator Tony Hill gave the graduation address which was followed by a few words from Duval County Sheriff’s Officer Ken Jefferson. AMI Director Stephanie O’Brien-Gadd applauded the many students who received awards for their outstanding achievement at the facility. It was a proud moment for the parents of the graduates as well as those in attendance and it shows that AMIkids continues to separate a trouble past from a bright future.

In the above photo from left to right: Stephanie O’Brien-Gadd (AMI Kids Director), Ken Jefferson (JSO), AMI Kids Board Member, M.E. (graduate), AMI Kids Board Member, AMI Kids Board Member, Donna Clayton (Reform Specialist), Gage Frost (graduate), AMI Kids Board Member, and former Senator Tony Hill. 

Reform Specialist Shirlon McCarty and JPO Eugene Babb from Circuit 15 participated in the annual Youth Empowerment Summit at the Pahokee Middle and High Schools in Pahokee. The summit, which was designed to help our at-risk population in the Glades area, featured the Mayor of Pahokee Colin Walkes, school board members, and local law enforcement. The youth in attendance participated in breakout sessions which addressed financial readiness and dressing for success. Students from Alexander Dreyfoss School of the Arts Elision program entertained the youth with remarkable A cappella singing and the Seminole Ridge High School theater program presented a thought provoking performance of the play ‘Weight of the Words’, which addresses the effects of bullying. The youth enjoyed the panel talk, the breakout sessions, the play, and entertainment.  

Circuit 20 Reform Specialist Lut Clarcq completed her first Life Skills Class at Island Park High School in Fort Myers on May 26th. The fifteen week class, which began on February 24 saw five area youth graduate and receive certificates. Lut will conduct another Life Skills Class this summer in Lehigh Acres.

On May 27th, Lut represented DJJ during Career Day Activities at Harns Marsh Elementary School in Fort Myers. Lut addressed a group of 2nd- 4th graders who walked around the lunchroom asking questions pertaining to their career of interest.  She spoke with the students about careers with our agency and the type of education and training it takes to become a juvenile probation officer.   Many other careers were represented during the event including bankers, bakers, sheriff deputies, wildlife officers, fitness instructors, nurses and even an Air Force pilot.

Circuit 20 JPO Shana Feren organized a bike drive in conjunction with the Cape Coral Police Department (CCPD) to help distribute bicycles to those youth in need. Shana has been working closely with CCPD over the last few years to ensure that the bike charity program remains successful.

Probation and Prevention staff in Circuit 6 concluded their nine week session of the Juvenile Justice Citizens Academy on June 4th.  This Academy allows the public the opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of the systems and processes within our agency. During this nine week class, citizens were provided an overview of CINS/FINS Family Resources, services at Bethel Community Foundation, Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center, a civil citation type initiative through Juvenile Arbitration and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the court system, Pinellas Juvenile Detention Center, Pinellas County Jail, DJJ probation services, PAXEN, HBI, JDAP, and Charles Britt Academy.  In addition to the overview of the services, tours were also provided at each of the facilities. 

I would like to thank JDAI Coordinator Gina Gibbs who organized these classes as well as Reform Specialist Hazel Hudson and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee who assisted with most of the sessions. 

Prevention Update

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain participated in a community forum on violence, gangs, and bullying on June 5 at the Walker-Ford Community Center in Tallahassee. After a rash of recent gun violence, the community forum was held to promote safer streets and crime prevention throughout Leon County. Presentations were delivered relating to gang awareness from the Florida Department of Corrections; narcotics identification and trends, Tallahassee Police Department and anti-bullying, Leon County Sheriff’s Office. The theme of the forum was:  “Let’s stand together in UNITY – Regain, Proclaim and Empower our Communities.”  

DJJ faith partner Living Stones International (LSI) which is operated by Pastor Gary Montgomery and his wife Josephine, were the subject of a featured article on June 4 in the Tallahassee Democrat. “Making friends” is the theme of LSI and Walker Ford Community Center’s 3rd annual Family Fun Day set for June 20. This is a time for children and families to share food, fun, and fellowship while enjoying games, horse rides, face painting, and bounce houses.   

LSI is a children and family outreach organization hosting quarterly special bonding visits between children and their incarcerated parents. Living Stones also offers after school tutoring program, and mentoring. In 2007, LSI was established as a faith-based children and family outreach and social service organization working with "children of inmates and their families."  LSI's programs and services teach fathers and mothers how to be better parents and more active in their children's life; offer children of inmates the tools to overcome obstacles and prevent them from following in their incarcerated parent's footsteps; and advocate on behalf of families to our community and government officials. 

To read the full article, click here.

Recently, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Lydia Breaux-Davis attended the Chipola Healthy Start Baby Shower on in Marianna at the Chipola College Cultural Center. This free event was open to families from Calhoun, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, and Washington counties who were expecting a baby or had small children. Each family was greeted with a bag filled with diapers, care items for mom, and educational literature. All attendees were treated to lunch, and cake baked by the Florida Panhandle Technical College Commercial Food and Culinary Arts program.

During the event, Jackson Hospital, area physicians, state agencies, community organizations, and public service teams provided educational information on topics such as how to have a healthy pregnancy, best practices for keeping babies safe, smoking cessation, early childhood education and development, and how to connect with community resources. Families also received other baby care essentials and over 50 door prizes, were given away during the 2-hour event.

With the support of individuals and community partners throughout the Chipola region the event was a great success.

Detention Update

I am very honored to share with you this picture of our new puppy at the Brevard RJDC who recently came to us by way of the Pixel Fund. She was appropriately named Miss Julia after the late Julia Strange, who as Assistant Secretary for Detention Services and Deputy Secretary for the Department stood as a champion for dog therapy within our facilities. This dog serves as a heartfelt reminder of the legacy our brave friend left behind.

In addition, the Pasco RJDC recently received a new litter of puppies that our youth at the facility will care for until they are adopted. These puppies, seen in a slideshow here, come from the same litter as Miss Julia. I would like to thank all of our detention staff members who have embraced this therapy as a welcome addition in the lives of the youth we serve. 

Last week, Assistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler and Management Review Specialist Naomi Screen attended the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)’s Juvenile Justice Emergency Planning and Technical Assistance meeting in Washington, D.C. 

The OJJDP’s Emergency Planning and Technical Assistance program provides the opportunity for assistance in the development and implementation of an emergency plan for juvenile residential facilities. 

Pictured from left to right are:  Scott Pestridge OJJDP; Lisa Hutchinson with the Center for Coordinated Assistance to the States (CCAS); Stephanie Lampron, CCAS; Simon Gonsoulin, CCAS; Dixie Fosler; Naomi Screen; and Elizabeth Wolfe, OJJDP.

The Bay RJDC welcomed Fish Biologist and Education Outreach Coordinator Michelle Duncan from the National Marine Fisheries last month. Michelle brought with her a “touch tank” full of marine life she scooped herself from the bay waters that morning. She spent several hours with the youth educating them on the different species of marine life and how they interact together to maintain a balance within their environment.  All of the youth in attendance were so excited by the presentation and the opportunity to interact with the marine life. Michelle said that the experience with the youth “made her week” and was looking forward to future visits.

Last week, Director of Policy and Programming for the Office of Probation Jeannie Becker-Powell and Maureen Honan from the Office of Detention Services presented on “Transforming Systems through a Trauma-Informed Lens,” during a breakout session at the Florida Gang Investigators Association Prevention Summit in Daytona Beach.

During the session, puppies from the Teens Assisting Puppies program at Brevard joined in to allow the participants to grasp a fuller understanding of the impact these puppies have on our young people. 

Residential Update

On June 4th, the Residential Services South Regional Leadership Team hosted a facilities tour for Circuits 15 and 19, which began at 9 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m.  The participants included judges, state attorneys, public defenders, and the clerk of the court, staff from Devereux, DJJ probation staff members, ChildNet, and Guardians Ad Litem.  The tour was coordinated to allow the participants to see residential programs by type: secure, non-secure, and gender.

Participants received an information packet that provided the demographics for each facility that was scheduled on the itinerary.  The group traveled from Palm Beach County to Martin County, and to Okeechobee County.  The following programs were toured: Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility (operated by Youth Services International, Inc.), Martin Girls Academy (operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC), Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center (G4S), Okeechobee Intensive Halfway House (G4S), and Okeechobee Girls Academy (G4S).

Tour participants were able to interact with youth and staff at each of the facilities, including lunch with residents of the Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center that included barbecued chicken and ribs, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and a variety of desserts that everyone enjoyed.  Each facility listed on the tour had the opportunity to highlight their normalization efforts and to discuss treatment interventions that are utilized.  It was a busy, informative day especially because many of the participants had never visited a juvenile residential commitment program.

For the past two weeks and most of the spring, a team comprised of staff from the Office of Residential Services-HQ and the Office of Monitoring and Quality Improvement have been conducting unannounced visits to interview youth in residence.  The first week of June, the team conducted youth interviews at 10 programs in the Central Region, which included Highlands Youth Academy (operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC), Spring Lake Youth Academy (G4S), Polk Halfway House (G4S), Bartow Youth Academy (G4S), Les Peters Academy (G4S), Charles Britt Academy (operated by Youth Services International, Inc.), Palmetto Youth Academy (G4S), Youth Environmental Services (operated by AMIkids, Inc.), Kissimmee Juvenile Correctional Facility (operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC), and Orange Youth Academy (G4S). 

The majority of the youth interviewed reported high satisfaction with the program’s services and treatment received.  Youth across all programs reported feeling supported by the staff and described skills they were learning in the programs.  Standouts included community outings that enhance social skills and support a restorative justice model, vocational programming, and the inclusion of a therapy dog.  The annual youth interview project will be completed by the end of June.  Afterward, a report will be compiled that highlights the best practices found in programs across the state. 

On June 9th, Office of Residential Services Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham and Statewide Commitment Coordinator Michell McCarthy presented “The Mysterious Road to ‘Commitment’” to the judicial system participants at the 2015 Florida College of Advanced Judicial Studies, as part of the day-long continuing education program Diving Deeply into Delinquency Jurisdiction.  The agenda also included a presentation by the Office of Probation & Community Intervention JDAI Statewide Coordinator Minnora “Minnie” Bishop, who presented information about DJJ’s Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) and the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).  Approximately 30 judges, new magistrates, and child support enforcement hearing officers comprised the audience as mandated by the Supreme Court of Florida’s Administrative Order No. AOSC14-57.  The Florida Court Education Council (FCEC) developed the continuing judicial education agenda, which provided 6.5 credit hours.  Other members of the faculty were The Hon. Daniel P. Dawson, Juvenile Division Judge for the Ninth Judicial Circuit; The Hon. Jose R. Rodriquez, Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge; and The Hon. Angélica D. Zayas, Juvenile Division Judge for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit.

At the end of May, four residents of the Marion Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., were given a tour of the College of Central Florida (CCF) campus.  The young men were met in a campus conference room where they were briefed about College, college life, and registration requirements.  They then were escorted around the campus where they observed various activities such as student registration, basketball practice, students working in the science lab, and students in the campus bookstore.  They also visited classrooms and spoke with current students and with new students who were registering for the summer semester.  The tour was arranged by MYA Transition Specialist Rodney Lightsey and conducted by CCF Coordinator Keith Bracey.  Each young man shared that he enjoyed the experience and left more motivated than ever to further his education.

PREA Update

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

  • Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center; and
  • DOVE Academy


Completed PREA audit reports are on the Department’s Web site here