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Secretary's Message

July 6, 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

Circuit 18 Probation Meeting

Last Monday, I attended a county-wide meeting for Circuit 18 probation staff in Sanford. Probation staff members were thoroughly engaged during the discussion which covered circuit and county specific issues. I was also thrilled to meet two of our community partners during my visit when members of YOUTH MOVE and the Federation of Families took time out during the meeting to describe the roles they play in the community. Both organizations have assisted probation staff in Seminole County with family engagement projects and vow to continue their support for our agency and our reform efforts.

In addition, I was able to present JPO Harold Dixon with a hand written note of recognition signed by Governor Rick Scott. The letter is in appreciation of Harold going above and beyond the call of duty while serving his community. Congratulations Harold!

Florida Coalition for Children Conference 

On Tuesday, I traveled to Orlando to take part in the Florida Coalition for Children’s 2015 Annual Conference at the Omni Orlando Resort. This conference was focused on the agencies and individuals who work on behalf of Florida’s abused, abandoned, neglected, and at-risk children. During the conference, I attended a mental health breakout session for crossover youth that was led by a panel that included DJJ’s own Circuit 17 CPO Cassandra Evans.  Crossover youth are often in the child welfare system for long periods of time and may experience numerous placements that include congregate care. The session discussed the use of “wraparound case management”, which has been used effectively with youth who have serious emotional problems that require services from multiple systems. 

Florida Police Chief’s Association Conference

On Wednesday, I was honored to serve as a guest speaker at the Florida Police Chief Association’s 63rd Annual Summer Training Conference and Exposition in Orlando. The theme for this year’s event was “Bracing for Change: Wisdom to Weather the Storm of our Evolving Profession.” I shared our continued work with reform of the juvenile justice system, the recently signed civil citation legislation and the DJJ Human Trafficking Victim Identification tool. Other guest speakers included Emery Gainey from the Attorney General’s Office and Secretary Julie Jones from the Department of Corrections.

PACE Girls Visit Washington, D.C.

Congressional Briefing on Young Women and Incarceration

On June 10, at the invitation of United States Congresswoman Karen Bass, PACE Leon student Haley C. traveled to Washington, D.C. to serve as a guest panelist during a Congressional Briefing on Young Women and Incarceration. Among the other panelists were three juvenile court judges and two young women in their late twenties, making 17-year old Haley the youngest person on the panel.  Haley courageously and powerfully shared her story and emphasized the role PACE played in saving her life. 

Haley shared how the counselors and teachers at PACE didn’t give up on her, even though she felt everyone else had. Haley's poignant testimony resulted in being invited for a private meeting at The Capitol with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the powerful Ranking Member of the US House Judiciary Sub-Committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.  Congresswoman Jackson Lee shared with Haley that the country is behind her and needs the work that PACE Center for Girls is doing to grow and serve girls around the nation.

Haley did not know what she wanted to be when she grows up when she arrived in DC, but after her life changing experience, she wants to be a juvenile court judge.

PACE Center for Girls Collier at Immokalee

The young ladies from the PACE Center for Girls Collier at Immokalee took a field trip to Washington, D.C. where they met  Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner. The girls took a tour of the Capitol Building as well as other sites around the city.

The PACE girls attained the field trip by earning A’s and B’s, having perfect attendance and modeling the PACE Values and Guiding Principles. The principles are to:

  • Honor the Female Spirit
  • Focus on Strengths
  • Act with Integrity and Positive Intent
  • Embrace Growth and Change
  • Value the Wisdom of Time
  • Exhibit Courage
  • Seek Excellence
  • Create Partnerships
  • Invest in the Future

Prevention Update

I am excited to share with you that Gainesville Police Chief and State Advisory Group member Tony Jones was recently featured in an article in the Gainesville Guardian.  In the article, entitled “Once troublemakers, now fledgling community leaders,” Chief Jones is credited with creating a community clean-up project staffed by boys who have been involved with the juvenile justice system. Their program is called the Gainesville Police Department’s Summer Prevention, Intervention and Enrichment Program. To read the full article, click here.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III volunteered for MY LIFE Tallahassee on June 24th at the Palmer Munroe Teen Center.

MY LIFE Tallahassee is a fun and inspiring group for youth between the ages of 13 and 23 who have experienced mental health, substance abuse, foster care and/or other challenges.  MY LIFE’s monthly events feature inspirational speakers, uplifting entertainment, fun activities, free food, and information on a variety of topics important to young adults.  

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell attended a “Teens Matter” Teen Summit last Saturday at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale. The summit was presented by Shakia Burton, Director of Florida All Star Youth. Ms. Burton’s first involvement with the juvenile justice system was with her child. Since that time, she began working with other children involved in the court system and has continued working with at-risk youth. Ms. Burton uses her heart and her personal funds to provide for the needs of these youth.  At the “Teens Matter” Teen Summit, approximately 20 youth and their parents attended. 

Other attendees included Virginia Smith, retired officer from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office; Billie Morgan, 211 Broward; Jerry Ene Gibbons, Church of God in Christ International; and JPOS Eddie Bayonne. They provided the youth with information on crime statistics and the impact of felony offenses on future activities – for example, the leasing of an apartment, attending college or a university and voting. Information was also provided on suicide prevention, the juvenile justice system and services available through the faith-based entities.

Probation Update

JPO Dennis Hall and JDAI Coordinator Vicki Burke in Circuit 4 received two donated bikes from OpenRoad Bicycles’ owner Scott Summey. Dennis and Vicki delivered these bikes to a 12-year old probationary youth in an Alternatives to Secure Detention program and his mother. The boy has been doing extremely well in the program and he and his mother are excited to have an activity they can share outside together. 

Congratulations to ACPO Johnny Alderman (pictured center) from Circuit 9 who was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the local chapter of the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency (FCCD). Johnny received the award for his commitment to  his profession and service to the community.  In addition to Johnny’s accomplishment, Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith was given the FCCD Law Enforcement Award and Orange County Homicide Detective Eric Debose was presented with the Criminal Justice Award.

Circuit 20 CPO Peg LaMarca received this letter of recognition from a parent regarding the JPOs who helped her daughter, including JPOS Tia Williams and JPOs Amanda Donaldson, Shawna Prope and Byron Brown. It reads:

This has been a rough year.  I wanted to make sure you each know how much I Appreciate Each and Every One of You for the help and support you gave me through this trial.  

Being a single mom, I felt like I was losing grip and it was very scary at times.  I am Thankful that I had each of you giving me support and backing me up and helping me not feel so alone and overwhelmed through all this. 

You have a very tough job.  And I am sure at times it can be thankless.  But you each have a special way of talking to these kids.  And while they may not like what they are hearing, KNOW that you are making an impact on their lives.  Sometimes that little seed you plant in their heads doesn't take root right away, it might take years, but KNOW you make a Difference.  Please don't ever give up, these kids need to find their way their own way, right or wrong.  Sometimes all we can do is stand back and let them take their falls. 

But it’s not just the kids you help. It’s the parents who don’t know where to turn. Who are over whelmed at a loss at what to do for their kids. Thank you 1000x's over!  How often I would be at the bottom of my bucket and you all would help me rise up and smile and even laugh at this insanity of parenting.  

Officer Keppin   I really miss seeing you on JAM.  You had such a great way with my kids. (Even my daughter I think likes you SECRETLY!!!)   I really look up to and admire you. You are truly a very Special Person.  Warm Hugs! Stay Safe out there! 

Thank you for listening to me and reminding me I am not alone.  

You all are a Great Team!!  

Stay Safe!  



Shown to the left is a letter of appreciation that comes from a youth who was formerly on the case load of Circuit 20 JPO Shana Feren.  

Ronald, a youth at Eckerd Youth Challenge Program joined the poetry club to work on writing a poem for the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS) national poetry contest.  There were over 1,300 entries from all over the country for the contest.  Ronald’s poem placed in the top 15.  In the next few months, CEEAS will release an eBook of the winning poems, and Ronald will become a published poet! 

The staff at Eckerd Youth Challenge Program is very proud of the young man that Ronald is making of himself.  More importantly, when Ronald spoke of continuing his education and becoming a lawyer at his graduation, it was clear that he was proud of himself and the changes that he continues to make in his life.  His feelings are evident in the following nationally recognized poem that Ronald wrote:


By: Ronald

I leave my comfortable home,

every day at 4:15 AM

Wearing a crooked smile

and ragged clothes.

I strategically place myself between

Success Circle & Wanna-Be Road.

I make it a Habit to

Habitually Harass pedestrians

as they hurry by.

Burly men and Beautiful women

are Beseeched as I


A change; that can domesticate

The wild… mind of An

Attention seeking Adolescent.

A change; that if

taken advantage of, could

be the difference between

Success and Failure.

So, if you see a

Panhandling Panhandler

in the Panhandle State

keep your currency and

Give Him A CHANGE!

Circuit 15 Reform Specialist Shirlon McCarty welcomed Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain and Circuit Advisory Board Liaison Yvonne Maffia for a tour of Department facilities in Palm Beach County on June 16th. They started out the day at the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility in West Palm Beach. The PBJCF staff showed off some of the recent updates to the facility as part of the efforts to integrate nurturing and youth-centered environments into the residential programs. Craig and Yvonne met with upcoming graduates and congratulated them on their accomplishments.

Later that afternoon, the trio hosted a chaplaincy training with community members at the Calvary Chapel in Boynton Beach. The training was not only informative, but sparked significant interest from citizens wanting to work closely with our youth. 

As I mentioned last week, Reform Specialists from across our state convened in Orlando June 23-24 for an EPICS Coder training class. These specialists will play a key role in the EPICS curriculum and will assist with the rollout of this critical reform to community supervision. Moving forward, reform specialists will become EPICS coders to ensure the efficient implementation of the program.  

Human Trafficking Update

On July 1st, DJJ Human Trafficking Director Bethany Brimer Gilot met with Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke as well as other representatives from the Orange County area to provide updates on DJJ’s current human trafficking initiatives and the new human trafficking legislation that passed during the 2015 Legislative Session. Bethany also initiated the conversation on steps that Commissioner Clarke and his team can take locally and how they can get more involved in the statewide conversation.  It was exciting to discuss strategies for acting on the recently passed human trafficking legislation and needs for future legislative requests.  Commissioner Clarke is very passionate about combating human trafficking and participates in the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force. He has invited Bethany back to speak to other groups as well. It is exciting to see the steps our state, county, and city-level leaders are taking to move forward the anti-trafficking movement.


Residential Update

It’s a barnyard at the complex of programs operated by the Gulf Coast Treatment Center/Gulf Coast Youth Services and shared by Okaloosa Youth Academy, Okaloosa Sex Offender Program, and Crestview Sex Offender Program.  The barnyard keeps growing!

Previously, readers were introduced to the rooster, Lord John Snow (shown left), his clutch of hens, and the goat yet to be named upon his introduction.  As a result of the “name the goat contest” among the youth, he has since been named Billy.  Billy now has a fellow goat friend named Larry—and a small flock of ducks. 

As you can see, all the animals have a large enclosed area at the program where they co-habitat and roam free.  Billy and Larry have their own little red wagon, a tetherball, a cowbell on a string and several other balls around the yard to keep them busy.  

fter Billy’s arrival, he made himself a little too familiar with the chicken coop and the chicken feed.  Therefore, the residents and the head of maintenance built an enclosure that allows the chickens to roam freely in and out of their coop while keeping Billy and Larry out.  Now that’s a free-range chicken! 

Shown left, the hen (female duck) is trying to find a good spot to lay and all the drakes seem to be protecting her.  The ducks also have a spot to call their very own, which is a pond to swim in when they are not wandering around.  The pond is currently undergoing some improvements to add filtration, pavers and benches.  This area also will be a serene spot for individual therapy, quiet contemplation or just “cooling off”.

All of these animals provide entertainment for the boys, staff, and visitors.  However, the young men in these programs have benefited the most of all.  They learn about the animals and their care, which includes proper feeding, watering, and physical care. 

They also learn valuable life skills related to responsibility, self-monitoring, control of emotions and actions, compassion, and teamwork while completing their daily responsibilities.  Each youth who participates in the barnyard project also earns extra incentives; they are paid with tokens for completing their daily animal care tasks.  The tokens are used in the token store and for other special incentives.

On a recent visit to the Okaloosa Youth Development Center, which offers specialized services to young men, ages 13 to 18, who have borderline developmental disability and developmental disability needs, Office of Residential Services North Regional Director Mary Mills and SMAII Lori Jernigan saw first-hand the hard work and success of the young men who reside there.  The residents planted and now maintain a beautiful garden of green bell peppers, cayenne peppers, radishes, carrots, squash, zucchini, watermelon, and sweet corn.  The young men enjoy maintaining the lawn around the garden and removing the annoying weeds so it continues to be a “blooming success.”

The young men receive guidance from a staff member who has a degree in Agricultural Sciences from Auburn University.  He teaches the boys about proper planting times, seed germination, watering and fertilizing, maintaining a healthy space for the plants and harvesting. 

They also learn about a variety of planting conditions which include row crops, raised beds, and container gardening.  The young men will be able to take these skills back to their home communities where they can grow their own garden plants—even in the small and confined spaces of inner cities.

The last Friday of June, the staff and youth of Charles Britt Academy (CBA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc, were given the opportunity to serve NBA Superstar Marreese Akeem Speights who plays center/power forward for the Golden State Warriors. 

The youth from CBA participated in the celebration ceremony in St. Petersburg as a community service project.  The boys met many prominent members of the Central Florida community, serving approximately 500 guests who attended the event and witnessing  Mr. Speights receive the Key to the City that was presented by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.  The CBA residents were so excited to be part of such a memorable event that one youth said, “I never thought that I would be able to see an NBA Superstar while being in a program!”

The best part of the evening was when Mr. Speights spoke privately with the boys and posed for a photo with them.  Many of the CBA boys were rooting for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, but after their encounter with Marreese Speights, they all are now Golden State fans.

The Wellness Wire

Please find a link below to the July edition of “The Wellness Wire.” This monthly publication provides calendars of events hosted by providers of Florida State Group Insurance and tips to improve health and emotional well-being. 

Volume 3 │ Issue 7 │ July 2015