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Secretary's Message

August 24, 2012

Secretary Wansley WaltersDear DJJ team members:

Welcome to my weekly letter. Please allow me to share some recent news and announcements.

TROPICAL STORM (TS) ISAAC UPDATE: As of this morning, the Florida Division of Emergency Management reported that the trajectory of TS Isaac is shifting northwest and is anticipated to eventually make landfall somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and southeastern Louisiana. There is a 25 percent chance that TS Isaac could become a hurricane before reaching the Gulf coast and a 40 percent chance it stays a tropical storm. Since much of Florida remains in the anticipated storm path, please continue to review readiness plans and monitor weather conditions. Reach out to your respective areas and offices to ensure that phone trees and the Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) are updated and ready for use. Thank you for your cooperation and please remain vigilant and careful.

WORKING TOGETHER: When it was discovered during her commitment review that a 14-year-old girl did not have a Social Security number, several people from DJJ and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) joined forces to help her obtain one, which required resolving a mistake on her birth certificate that had left her without a legal name. Helping the girl was even more challenging due to medical and mental health issues with her parents, who alternated between being unable and unwilling to assist in the process. Due to the diligence of those helping the child, she was able to obtain a legitimate birth certificate, a Social Security card and a state identification card, as well as qualify for Medicaid while in DJJ care. The following individuals deserve special recognition for service above and beyond the call of duty to help a youth: Omar Bohler and James Nelson, juvenile probation officers (JPOs) for Circuit 9; Lytha Belrose, Residential statewide Medicaid liaison; Cheri Smith, DCF Child In Care Medicaid specialist; and Heather DiGiacomo, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation. Kudos and thank you!

DETENTION KUDOS: For the second time this year, Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) arranged for students to have the opportunity to earn certification in food handling. Dr. Marjorie Moore from the University of Florida Bay County Extension Center taught the three-day class to six eager students. They learned about food contamination, pest control, temperature of foods and kitchen hygiene. All six passed the certification class with flying colors, with two students achieving a perfect score. Congratulations to the students, who will have an advantage as they seek employment in the food industry. Thanks to Bay RJDC for creating this useful opportunity for youth to prepare for a successful future, and to the Bay County School District and educational liaison Anne Martin for arranging the Title 1 funding for the training.

PROBATION KUDOS: Congratulations to Circuit 7 Senior JPO Mark Brooks, who recently won first place in his age category (50+) for two mountain bike race series – the U.S. Cup Southeastern Regional Championship and the Georgia State Championship. He will participate in a more competitive category in the Florida race series in September. Mark says the discipline, perseverance and patience that make him successful in mountain biking are qualities he tries to encourage as he motivates and mentors troubled youth. “When I meet with youth, I always remind them to do the right thing, to make better choices, and stay away from drugs and negative peers. I also try to encourage them to participate in positive activities, such as sports or other hobbies that interest them.” Thanks to Mark for helping kids stay focused and work towards a better life. Mark is pictured below.

Mark Brokks Mark Brooks Mountain Bking

PROBATION KUDOS II: Circuit 19 Chief Probation Officer Wydee’a Wilson recently received the following letter of commendation for Senior JPO Betty Preble.

I just wanted to send a quick note and say "Thank You" to one of your probation officers, Ms. Preble. I am a LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) contracted to do comprehensive behavioral health assessments through United for Families. Ms. Preble was extremely helpful with getting me information about a child, and returned my phone calls quickly. She knew the child's case and case information which allowed me to complete my assessment with current information. I truly appreciate her time and attention in helping just one child from what I am sure is an (extensive) active caseload that she must carry.


Jacqueline A. Byrnes, LCSW


LRPP UPDATE: DJJ’s Long Range Program Plan (LRPP) for fiscal years 2013-14 to 2017-18 is scheduled for release next month. The LRPP is a legislatively mandated report that provides a five-year framework for agency policy and budgets. It explains agency priorities in achieving the state’s goals and objectives, quality of service and intended benefits to Floridians. The new LRPP will include DJJ’s reform efforts to align Florida’s juvenile justice system with evidence-based practices that:


  • Reduce juvenile delinquency;
  • Redirect youth from the juvenile justice system;
  • Provide appropriate, less restrictive sanctions for low-risk and misdemeanant youth;
  • Reserve serious sanctions for those youth deemed the highest risk to public safety; and
  • Focus on rehabilitation.

The report is expected to be complete by Sept. 30 and will be available on the DJJ website. If you have questions regarding the LRPP, please contact Beth Davis at 850-414-8818.


TRAFFICKING UPDATE: DJJ launched a Child Sex Trafficking Victim Identification Pilot Project in Broward County on August 23. Approximately 60 stakeholders, including contracted service providers, victim advocates, and community organizations and staff from DJJ and the Department of Children and Families, were trained on the only research-based tool successfully proven to identify child victims of sex trafficking in a delinquency system: INTERVENE. INTERVENE is a two-tiered, trauma-informed assessment developed by Shared Hope International in collaboration with victims and advocates. The goal of this pilot project is to enable DJJ to better identify and serve this population by incorporating the INTERVENE tool into the intake process. Two additional counties (yet to be announced) will participate in the pilot and undergo similar training later this year. Also, the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet will cohost a Human Trafficking Summit on Sept. 24 in Tallahassee. For more information or to sign-up, please visit the summit website at http://www.flgov.com/humantraffickingsummit/.


DETENTION UPDATE: Detention directors met this week in Tallahassee to discuss reform and alternatives to secure detention. The directors identified strategies to improve workforce performance and enhance services. Also, the new director for the south region, Dr. Gladys Negron, was formally introduced to the Detention team. I commend Detention leadership team and all support staff for their continued diligence in advancing juvenile justice reform in Florida.


To all employees, thank you for your continuing service to at-risk and troubled children, and please remain vigilant during TS Isaac.




Wansley Walters






PS: Please send any noteworthy or newsworthy items for consideration in my weekly letter to Communications Director C. J. Drake at cj.drake@djj.state.fl.us or call 850.921.5905. Submissions are considered on a space-available basis and may be edited for clarity and length. Thank you for your cooperation.