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Secretary's Message

September 28, 2012


Wansley WaltersDear DJJ team members:

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


SUMMIT A SUCCESS: On Monday, Sept. 24, more than 250 concerned state and community leaders and advocates attended Florida’s first Human Trafficking Summit, presented by the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet and the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. Another 300 individuals participated in the live online webcast of the event. The summit presented information about human trafficking in Florida, what the state is doing to prevent it and what people can do to help victims in their own communities. Click here to read media coverage of the summit.


Click here to listen to a radio interview about the summit.

Group Photo from Summit

Pictured left to right: DCF Secretary David Wilkins, Sandy Skelaney and Trudy Novicki (Advocates of the Year), Rep. Erik Fresen (Florida Safe Harbor Act bill sponsor), Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle (Prosecutor of the Year), DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Tina Frundt Summit Audience

Tina Frundt, anti-human trafficking activist and executive director of Courtney’s House, served as keynote speaker before a standing-room-only crowd at the summit.

Service Provider Session

Service Provider Session, panelists (l-r): Sandy Skelaney, Giselle Rodriguez, Kristin Stablein, Sally Senitz and Lowell Senitz

The event included panel sessions on law enforcement, survivors, service providers, and identification and research. If you would like to view the summit, a link to the recorded webcast with PowerPoint presentations from the event is available here. For the Twitter feed, search #trafficking2012. If you are interested in joining anti-human trafficking efforts in your community, please check the last pages of the Human Trafficking Summit program booklet to find contact information for human trafficking coalitions, task forces and workgroups throughout Florida. Thanks to all the participants, attendees, webcast viewers and staff who made this event a great success.


SAVING TIME AND MONEY: Kudos to Mark Russell, a DJJ contract provider, for developing software that allows faster and paperless transmission of information for the Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ). Troubled youth under DJJ supervision who enter or leave Florida are tracked under the ICJ. The software, ICJ Facesheets, enables staff to electronically store entire youth files in a database, eliminating the need for hardcopy storage. ICJ Facesheets has greatly improved effectiveness and efficiency by reducing paperwork processing time from weeks to minutes and has eliminated the costs associated with hardcopy documents and postage. In addition to saving DJJ an estimated $35,000 annually, the national ICJ technology committee is reviewing Florida’s technology as a model for a nationwide system. Thanks to Mark for helping us reduce costs and paperwork!


PROBATION KUDOS: Thanks are long overdue to Juvenile Probation Officer Gwendolyn McLeod for participating with Fort Pierce Mayor Robert Benton III and other local dignitaries in Reading Day at Weatherbee Elementary School. Since that event, Gwendolyn has also given a presentation to the youth at PACE Center for Girls of the Treasure Coast. Below is a message of thanks from the program.


Thank you again for coming out to our center on May 23, 2012, and having a discussion with the girls about life skills, the importance of making healthy and wise choices/life decisions, healthy relationships, and career/vocational goals for the future! You presented a wonderful talk to the girls, and when you shared your own personal life experience and journey to the girls, and why each one of our young ladies has the potential to follow her dreams, ignore the naysayers in her life, find her voice, and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity, and grace, you were able to grab the girls’ attention. It was also clear that the girls were all able to take away some valuable lessons and advice after you had spoken to them! It was truly a pleasure to have you at our center, and I hope you will be able to come out again and have another discussion with the girls soon! Thank you again!




Trinita Verano, Counselor


PROBATION KUDOS II: Below is a letter commending Melissa Villa, a senior JPO assigned as the court liaison in Circuit 9, from Judge Donald A. Myers, a juvenile court judge in Osceola County.


I am writing to let you know what an outstanding job Melissa Villa is doing in my courtroom, and to express my appreciation for her continued assignment as our Courtroom Liaison in the delinquency court in Osceola County. As you know well from observing the courtroom proceedings, it is vital that the Court have immediate access to accurate information concerning juvenile defendants. Untimely and inaccurate information not only slows the process, but can also lead to incorrect or poor decisions. In many areas, responsibility for providing this information falls to the DJJ representative in the courtroom. Ms. Villa has done an excellent job in her role as DJJ Courtroom Liaison. Ms. Villa is proactive in preparing information for the Court, and she is highly competent and knowledgeable in the various areas of DJJ’s responsibility. The information that she provides is current, on point, and trustworthy. And, whenever an unexpected circumstance arises, Ms. Villa is highly responsive and quick to obtain needed information for the Court. I also appreciate the fact that when Ms. Villa does not know the answer to a question, she humbly lets the Court know, and promptly seeks out the information. I know that DJJ is working very hard maintain high levels of service in the context of ever-tightening resources. As you evaluate the best use of those resources, I want you to know how much the Court appreciates and values Ms. Villa in her role as the DJJ Courtroom Liaison. She is a great “face” for DJJ in our court. Thank you for all of your efforts in working with the Courts. Do not hesitate to call if you wish to discuss Ms. Villa’s excellent performance further.


DETENTION APPOINTEE: I am pleased to announce the appointment of Superintendent Dixie Fosler of Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) to Acting Detention Regional Director for the North Region effective Sept. 30. Dixie has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from St. Leo University and master’s degree in Management from Webster University. She has worked for the state 27 years and served previously as a Detention care worker, community youth leader supervisor and assistant superintendent. Dixie and her team have been recognized internationally for implementing a trauma-informed care approach at Marion RJDC. She is also active in her local community, where she is the chair of the Take Stock in Children Council and mentors three girls. Please join me in congratulating Dixie on her appointment.


WELCOME ABOARD: On Oct. 12, John Beck will join the Office of Health Services as a Detention senior behavioral analyst. He will be responsible for monitoring, technical assistance and training of mental health and substance abuse services at the eight Detention centers in the North Region. John has both administrative and clinical experience in the delivery of mental health and substance abuse services. His most recent position was at the Florida Department of Health in the Bureau of Medical Quality Assurance, where he worked over the past eight years. John received his Master’s degree in Counseling from Eastern Michigan University. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a Certified Addictions Professional. Please join me in welcoming John to DJJ!


FAREWELL: We offer our hearty congratulations to two team members leaving DJJ this week. We will miss them.


Rick Bedson, Detention regional director for the north region, is retiring at the end of this month after 35 years of exemplary service to the state. During his tenure at DJJ, Rick served as a Detention superintendent, program administrator, juvenile justice manager, Detention chief, and Residential program director. Rick’s leadership, institutional knowledge and amazing ability to multi-task have made him instrumental in the successful evolution and current reform of Detention services. We join Assistant Secretary Julia Strange and Detention services in offering best wishes for a very restful, well deserved and rewarding retirement.


Nicole “Nikki” Blanton leaves DJJ today, having accepted a position with a private law firm in West Palm Beach. While serving as coordinator for the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Human Trafficking Summit and assisting with the ongoing juvenile justice statute rewrite, Nikki studied for the Florida Bar exam and passed on the first try. Nikki officially joined DJJ in May after serving the agency as a Gubernatorial Fellow in 2011. During her time as a Fellow, she wrote a Juvenile Accountability Block Grant proposal that was successful in launching the Child Sex Trafficking Victim Identification Project in three Florida counties. Thanks to Courtney McCowan for assuming Nikki’s role as Human Trafficking coordinator. We wish Nikki continued success and thank her for her service and commitment to Florida’s youth. 


Thanks to all employees, providers and stakeholders. By collaborating to improve the lives of at-risk and troubled children, we are making a difference in the lives of all Floridians.




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.