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Secretary's Message

February 27, 2018

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Last week, as our state continued to mourn the tragic loss of students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, our capital city hosted survivors and their families from Parkland who met with elected officials to discuss ways to keep our students and schools safe. I applaud these students, their families, and the teachers who traveled a great distance to have their voices heard. Despite the horrific tragedy that they just endured, they had the courage and strength to come together and meet with their elected leaders to ensure that others are safe and that events such as these do not occur in the future.

I also had the opportunity to meet with fellow child welfare advocates and behavioral health leaders as part of Governor Scott’s workshops convened to work on solutions to keep Floridians safe. This meeting focused on ways to expand mental health services for Floridians, especially students, and improve coordination between state, local and private behavioral health partners. Our agency stands ready to assist in any way that we can to also ensure that we are protecting Florida’s students and schools. 


Christina K. Daly

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Corporal Joyce Dix from the Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who retired from the agency after thirty years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. Corporal Dix began her career as a juvenile detention officer back in 1988 and has always been a positive role model for the youth and staff at Alachua RJDC. Staff members from Alachua presented Corporal Dix with a plaque and a cake. We wish Corporal Dix all the best in her retirement.

Congratulations also go to Sergeant Reginald Allen from the Orange RJDC who was recently named the facility’s Employee of the Month for the month of February. Sergeant Allen works on the night shift and has done a great job keeping the facility clean and safe each night that he works.  Sergeant Allen’s observation skills and attention to detail have kept the evening shift focused and on point.  The employee of the month award was presented by Major Mathena and Captain Hill.

Pictured above (from left to right): Captain Louise Hill, Major Adrian Mathena and Sergeant Reginald Allen

I am pleased to announce that Gwen Steverson has been named the new north regional director for the Office of Probation and Community Intervention effective March 2. Ms. Steverson will transition into the position during the final month of current North Regional Director Jill Clemens tenure as Director Clemens is set to retire from the agency on March 31.

A graduate of the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Steverson has spent the last eighteen years in leadership roles as an advocate for youth and families. She served as the statewide girls initiative coordinator, chief probation officer for Circuit 4 and most recently as the operations and program manager for the Office of Probation’s Northwest region. Please join me in congratulating Director Steverson on her new position.

I am pleased to announce that Christopher Massey has been named the new assistant chief probation officer (ACPO) for Circuit 7.  ACPO Massey began his career with DJJ thirteen years ago as a juvenile probation officer and has spent his entire career working with the youth in Volusia County. In addition to his distinguished career with our agency, ACPO Massey has served as the chairman for the Circuit 7 Human Trafficking Task Force and was named 2017’s Statewide Human Trafficking Advocate of the Year. Congratulations ACPO Massey on your promotion.

Circuit 18 Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Tim Scarborough has been a distinguished active member of the Florida National Guard for almost 30 years. Last month, JPO Scarborough was given a letter of recognition from Major General Michael A. Calhoun for his service during the Florida National Guard’s largest activation in state history in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Congratulations JPO Scarborough and thank you for your service!

Bureau of Information Technology Reminds You to Stay Aware During Tax Season

We are well into 2018 and one of those constants in life we all must deal with is upon us—tax season!  This time of year brings an increase in different types of scams focused on trying to steal your personal information.  Please remain aware of strange phone calls, emails and social media posts focused on obtaining your personal information.  Scammers continue to use these avenues because many people continue to fall for them.  Below are some tips for avoiding potential scams you may encounter.  Please keep in mind the Internal Revenue Service will NOT:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will they call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at (800) 829-1040.  The IRS workers can help you with payment issues.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at (800) 366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov

  • You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Impostor Scams.”  If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Remember, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue(s).  For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

Probation Provider Awards Deserving Student with a New Computer

Congratulations to youth ED from the Project Connect program in the North region who was recently awarded a HP laptop computer through the Project Connects HP Computers in Transition Program.  Youth ED has been on supervision with Project Connect since August 2017 and is currently on track to successfully complete services within the next 30 days.  Project Connect provided Youth ED with a Project Connect laptop computer in September 2017 to aid in his academic and job search endeavors.  He is currently enrolled in a local high school supplemented by Plato and Florida Virtual with an anticipated graduation date of May 2018.  Youth ED is involved with the ROTC Program at school and attends weekly church services. He registered and completed the 4 hour drug and alcohol on-line course offered by Project Connect and has completed life, employability and social skills courses offered through Project Connect as well.  Anytime Lead Transition Specialist Major and the youth’s life coach and mentor contacts Youth ED, he has always displayed a respectful demeanor and willingness to progress in his individualized service plan.  Youth ED enjoys strong support from his parents who are proud that he earned this award.  Project Connect is also very proud of the hard work Youth ED has put in and is excited to be able to offer him to keep this laptop through the HP Computers in Transition Program.  We hope that he uses it to continue his academic and vocational endeavors.  

The Circuit 16 probation office recently hosted their 15th annual Youth Success luncheon on February 9. This great event hosted over 50 youth, their families, stakeholders and Department staff. Seven youth were recognized for their accomplishments while on supervision and another eight were recognized for their recent entries into the poetry, essay and poster contest.

The Northeast regional probation office in Alachua recently hosted the first Probation Advisory Team (PAT) meeting of the new year on February 13. North Region Director Jill Clemens opened the meeting and welcomed all the new members for 2018. Director Clemens explained the purpose of the PAT and how it can be an instrument of positive change in the lives of our youth, their families and the community. All of the PAT members were motivated to share their ideas about making improvements to the services our agency provides while our youth are under the supervision of probation.

The PAT team members include Circuit 4’s Debbie Sisk, Erik Lash and Emily Guzman; Circuit 5’s Cheryl Oxford, Kim Schneider and Tianna Greene; Circuit 7’s Ellen Newton, Devon Whitten and Deanna Johnson; and Circuit 8’s Andrea McAnally, Dollie Wygant and Kelly Baldwin.

The Circuit 5 probation team recently held a going away party for Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Christina Joseph who will be leaving Circuit 5 to serve as a juvenile probation officer in Circuit 6. Starting with the agency in 2014, JPO Christina Joseph served as a juvenile detention officer at the Marion County Regional Juvenile Detention Center prior to becoming a JPO with Marion County Probation in 2016. JPO Joseph embraced her role and provided mentorship and community services to the youth and families she served. Thank you for your service to the Circuit 5 probation team and we look forward to all that you will accomplish in Circuit 6!

Recently, Circuit 6 Chief Probation Officer Melissa Fuller, Circuit 6 Assistant Chief Joyce Clay, Monica Gray and Eris Womack from the Pinellas RJDC, and JDAI Coordinator Karin Popkowski gave a presentation on the DJJ continuum of services during the Circuit 6 Guardian Ad Litem meeting. The presentation led to a great discussion on ways to collaborate and help build relationships across agencies with the goal of improving the support system for youth in the circuit.

Circuit 13 Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney recently teamed up with Outreach Specialist Khalilah Daniels-Escalera from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to speak to the girl’s leadership group from the D.W. Waters Career Center in Tampa. The purpose of their discussion was to speak to the girls about personal safety. The leadership group meets once a month under the direction of teacher Kameisha Collins.

In addition, Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney worked with Jemima Jeanmary from the Tampa Housing Authority (THA) during the Sligh Middle School Cougar Prowl. The Cougar Prowl is a conference night and community event at the Springhill Park Community Center. Ms. Pinkney and Ms. Jeanmary distributed information about our agency and the THA Youth and Family Services.

DJJ youth with the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge program in Circuit 19 took part in a fun activity which was sponsored by Melvin Jones, president of the Fort Pierce Shrine Club of Musad Temple #69. The youth had the opportunity to see the movies Black Panther and Jumanji. Students who saw Black Panther were accompanied by their mentor Mr. Beauford, who tied the movie into a celebration of black elegance in honor of Black History Month. Youth who saw Jumanji were accompanied by their mentor Mr. Malik, and opened up their imaginations during this fantasy flick. All of the youth enjoyed popcorn and drinks during the movie and were treated to lunch at McDonalds afterwards.


Prevention Employees Host G.A.A.P. Discussion and Meet With Local Law Enforcement

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Andria George recently conducted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) Conversation at the Jacksonville Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The conversation between youth, officers, and agents was a very lively, at times serious, and at times comical interaction.  The youth witnessed different scenarios on a video screen and then discussed the officers’ reaction as well as the individuals being arrested. The youth voiced their opinions in a respectful manner and were also able to hear the officers’ perspectives as well.

Officers from the Jacksonville Sherriff's office participated in the discussion. The youth who participated were all from the evening reporting center and Save our Son's Difference Makers, which are both under the direction of Andrew George. The evening reporting center is a place for young men who are currently on probation to spend their afternoons and evenings. At the evening reporting center, the youth have mentors and tutors. There are community service projects for the youth to participate in and they even have dinner together around a table. Difference Makers is a mentoring program for the youth who participate in Pastor John Guns' Save our Sons mentoring program.

The G.A.A.P. Conversation was featured in this fantastic article from the Florida Times-Union

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson and Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady recently met with officers from the Fort Myers Police Department’s Community Service Bureau. The purpose of the meeting was to build relationships with the Fort Myers Police Department as part of the Department’s Roadmap to System Excellence.

While meeting with the police, Sandra and Verla discussed collaboration with DJJ for future Bridging the G.A.A.P (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) Conversations and planning community events for youth and families within the Fort Myers community.

Pictured above: Sandra Ferguson (far right) and members of the Fort Myers Police Department. 


Central Communications Center (CCC) Coordinator Jean Hall conducted CCC reportable incident training at various provider sites throughout the state. The CCC is a user-friendly call-in center operating 365-days a year, with an emphasis on assisting Department, provider, and grant staff with collection, retention, and dissemination of information related to the care, safety, and humane treatment of all youth served by the Department, providers, or grantees. Citizens with complaints related to Department operated facilities and programs can also make reports to the CCC.

The purpose of this training was to stress the importance to provider staff of timely reporting of incidents, nature of incidents to report and how the process operates. The trainings were well received by staff at each program, which has begun the trend of fewer error-related incidents. Additional CCC trainings are being planned for the coming months.

Detention Facility Opens New Multipurpose Room

Major Conrad McCray from the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) officially opened the facility’s newly renovated multipurpose room during a ribbon cutting ceremony on February 16. The ceremony welcomed a bevy of distinguished guests including Leon School Superintendent Rocky Hanna, Donnie and Tony Read from Project Connect, ELT members Dixie Fosler and Alice Sims and many other distinguished guests and DJJ staff members. The multipurpose room offers a space for the Level III youth at Leon RJDC to celebrate their accomplishments with their behavior and in the classroom. Major McCray signed a proclamation which officially opened the room. 

The St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a Valentine’s Day party for the youth at the facility. The facility provided food, a cake and drinks and the party provided youth a chance to show off their talents with singing, dancing and karaoke.

The Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted professional football player Marcus Roberson to the facility to speak to the youth. Marcus, who grew up in Broward County, shared his life story of struggle and how he used that to drive him to become a professional football player. Marcus and his life mentor Harlem spoke to the youth about choices in life, struggles and how to overcome them by being focused, having goals and aspirations in life, and not allowing anyone to sway them from achieving those goals.  

Residential Youth Tour an Aerospace Facility and Attend a College Basketball Game

Earlier this month, the Alpha youth at Crestview Youth Academy, a boy’s program for ages, 13 to 21, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, took a trip down to the Aero Space Industry in Fort Walton Beach. This particular company manufacturers parts for NASA, Walt Disney World, Epner Contact Lenses, the U.S. Navy, and oil companies. They also possess the only Mazak machine in the entire world. The company uses CNC Mill machines that are programmed to manufacture parts. They also use water jet machines to make special symbols for Navy air crafts. The director of operations conducted the tour and talked about how some of the machinists started out as janitors for the company and worked their way up. The youth had previously attended the tour of the machinist's training program at the local college the week prior, so they were able to connect the dots from getting their certification, up through the collegiate program, and applying it into an actual career field! The tour director showed the youth the seat belts from "The Tower of Terror" in Universal Studios, which were constructed in their facility. They also showed them a one-of-a-kind machine that is used to build window pieces for the Osprey aircraft.

In addition to the tour, another youth from the Alpha dorm ventured off campus for a job interview with a local landscaping company. This particular youth is currently finishing up the program’s Hall of Fame level. Upon his release, he is determined to gain employment and use his specialized skills in landscaping to create a future for himself and his family.

Even though it’s only February, it has been a busy year for JUST, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13-17, operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development. Recently, two students graduated from the program with one youth earning their high school diploma and the other completing their GED program. This is a major step in the journey of their lives and should be recognized for its immense significance. A high school diploma is a great tool to possess and opens many doors of opportunity. We are extremely proud of these young men.

With all the freezing weather they faced last month, the youth at JUST turned their garden into a scene out of the movie “Frozen”. Of course, they took advantage of it and turned it into a learning experience. The youth made icicles, learned about temperature, and the different states of matter. The boys really enjoyed this fun and educational activity. 

The youth have also been working very hard to maintain the rapidly growing hog habitat. With assistance from Mrs. Hardin and Mr. Simpson, the youth maintain this beneficial project by watering and feeding the hogs and keeping the pens secure. The program has had several little piglets that have joined the habitat and the children enjoy watching them grow.

Earlier this month, the Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys and are operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, took five youth to a basketball game between Flagler University and Georgia College. The youth watched a tense game in which the hometown Saints fought back from being down 12 points in the last 3 minutes to overcome the visiting Bobcats. The youth had a great time rooting for the home team, listening to music, and seeing a competitive game.

Hastings and Gulf Academy also celebrated Valentine’s day by showing a bit of love to the staff. The employee morale committee gave all the female staff their very own rose to help celebrate the day of love. One female staff said, ‘nothing brings out smiles like a fresh smelling rose.’ The program will continue to share the love and hopes everyone enjoyed a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Recently, Kissimmee Youth Academy (KYA), a secure program for boys, ages 14 to 21, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, facilitated a gang prevention group for residents who have been identified as gang members. The prevention group was facilitated by Program Director Samont Washington.

The youth had an opportunity to watch a film titled First Time Felon, inspired by the true story of Greg Yance. In the film, Greg Yance, who is played by actor Omar Epps, goes to jail for possession of drugs. He is given a choice: 5 years in jail or a couple of months in boot camp. He chooses boot camp and finds out it is tougher than he thought it would be. He braves it through and comes home a better man. He then must deal with the real world, and never gives up no matter what the odds. After watching the film Mr. Washington and the young men discussed the film and how various scenes related to their lives. All youth were fully engaged and were glad they participated. Extra thanks to Mr. Washington for enlightening our youth about gang culture and how to make better decisions in life.