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Secretary's Message

October 5, 2012

Wansley WaltersDear DJJ team members:

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

DETENTION KUDOS: Kudos to Dr. Gladys Negron, South Region director for Detention Services, for deciding to relocate the south regional office to recently vacated space in the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC). Scheduled for later this month, the move will save the state nearly $268,000 yearly. As a bonus, the office will be co-located with one of the region’s largest juvenile justice facilities, placing regional detention staff closer to DJJ employees and staff who work for the county, which will allow greater collaborative efforts.

HOME BUILDERS INSTITUTE (HBI) MENTORING: HBI uses a career-focused approach to mentoring. HBI Mentoring matches teens, ages 13-18, with industry mentors recruited from home builders associations, National Association of Home Builders Student Chapters, business organizations and local communities. Tadar Muhammad of HBI recently updated me about a partnership in Jacksonville between DJJ, Daniel Inc. and HBI to train youth for work and link them to resources to help them find jobs. Please click these YouTube links for details: HBI Mentoring: Jacksonville Case Study and Jacksonville Best Practices. Including Florida, HBI Mentoring is currently available in 11 states. There are many benefits to children who meet regularly with a mentor. They are more trusting of their parents and guardians, and less likely to skip school, use drugs, and drink alcohol. To find an HBI mentoring program, click here. Mentoring requires a commitment of only a few hours a month and HBI mentors receive comprehensive training prior to embarking on a mentoring relationship with a youth. For information on becoming a HBI mentor, click here.


RIGHT INTERVENTION AT THE RIGHT TIME: Probation and residential staff are making significant progress in reducing the number of youth at low and moderate risk to reoffend who are referred to DJJ residential programs. DJJ recommendations are often followed when the court decides whether a youth should be committed, and in March 2012 probation and residential offices made a joint decision to cease recommending low risk youth to residential programs. As a result, September had the lowest numbers of youth in low- and moderate-risk commitment programs since tracking began in January of 2011. The trend is more dramatic when a greater span of data is examined. During the first nine months of 2012, there was a 54.2 percent reduction in low risk commitments and a 42.4 percent reduction in moderate risk commitments compared to the same time period for 2011. DJJ seeks to provide each youth the most appropriate and least restrictive intervention services. This is a more effective approach to reducing delinquency as we work to increase public safety and responsibly manage taxpayer resources.

DETENTION SPOTLIGHTS VOLUNTEER: Barbara Waiters-White has been a volunteer chaplain at Manatee RJDC for approximately 18 years. She coordinates volunteer activities with other faith- and community-based organizations and personally visits with youth at the center on Sundays. She began volunteering there while she was a school truant officer in Manatee County, where she worked for 27 years. A mother of seven, grandmother of 34 and great-grandmother of four, Barbara originally began volunteering through Manatee Youth for Christ, a non-church affiliated faith group that focuses on mentoring and recreational clubs for young people. Barbara says, “I try to ‘speak life’ to children…So many of the young people (at the detention center) are hurting and broken, and others just made the wrong decision. I love challenging the kids to do better with their lives. It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding…I love the staff at the juvenile detention center.” Our staff have high regard for Barbara, and this summer sponsored a local 13-year-old (not involved with DJJ) to spend a week at the Southwind Young Life Camp next to the Ocala National Forest. Thanks to Barbara for her volunteer service to DJJ youth and to Superintendent Edwin Kelly and the Manatee RJDC officers who helped send a child to summer camp: Jenetta Dasher, Reginald L. Davis, Frank Gargett, Jon Loftheim, Cordell Nelson, James M. Ogle, Katanga F. Perkins, David R. Pierre, Christopher G. Purington, Sherman Rackley and Glenn Searls. Your reciprocal relationship of respect and generous service to youth strengthens the community.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING: DJJ is partnering with Duval and Marion county public schools and residential providers to establish sustainable vocational training programs to prepare youth for future employment in projected high-need jobs. Through the partnerships, DJJ is implementing industry-recognized certification programs from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) at Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility (JCF) and Tiger Success Center. NCCER is a not-for-profit education foundation that provides training for the construction industry in more than 60 craft areas with more than 4,000 locations nationwide. The residential providers will offer NCCER Core Certification and skills training in communications cabling (internet and cable TV wiring), blueprint reading and tile setting. Using federal Juvenile Accountability Block Grant funds, DJJ Education will purchase the start-up tools, curriculum and consumable materials. Marion JCF and Duval County Public Schools have each funded a part-time vocational instructor to teach the curriculum to the students, and Marion JCF and Tiger Success Center are assuming the costs to establish an on-site workshop area for hands-on skills practice. Kudos goes to Education Director Joan Wimmer and her team for creating this opportunity for our youth.

PROBATION KUDOS: Kudos to Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Harold Dixon and Seminole County Sheriff’s Sergeant Chris Stronko for assisting a youth and his mother during a moment of distress, which is detailed in the letter below from JPO Sarah Bachmaier. Everything worked out fine and the youth is safe. Thanks to Circuit 18 CPO Dan Rodgers, JPO Bachmaier’s supervisor, for sharing this story.

Hello Dan,

I’m so impressed with the help I received yesterday that I have to share. I had a kid that was in route to the Addictions Receiving Facility for substance abuse evaluation in downtown Orlando. Mom missed the exit and ended up in Altamonte Springs. She ran out of gas and awaited money to be wired so she could fill up. The youth took off on foot. Mom was distraught and the initial police contact she made did not result in needed action. I called JPO Harold Dixon who provided me with a good contact for law enforcement. Sgt. Stronko took the mom’s phone number and assisted her. He was able to get law enforcement to respond and the youth was immediately found. Medics assisted as the youth was impaired. I was completely elated that everyone pitched in to get the job done. The youth is safe at a nearby hospital and I cannot imagine how things may have turned out if he was not found. 

Sarah Bachmaier, JPO Drug Court Specialist

ANNUAL CHARITABLE CAMPAIGN: Sept. 1 marked the beginning of the Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign (FSECC) season (the start dates for local efforts may vary). If you have not already received an FSECC pledge book, you may expect to get one soon from a local United Way liaison. Also, effective July 1, each donation made must be designated to a specific charitable organization. For fundraisers, this means each time a person donates (for a cookie, hot dog, cake sale, etc.,) he or she must designate the charity to receive that donation. Please consider supporting this year’s campaign. Thank you for your generosity.

OPEN ENROLLMENT 2012: This year, open enrollment begins Monday, Oct. 8 and ends Friday, Nov. 2. Any changes you make will take effect Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. If you have not already done so, you must complete the address verification and dependent(s) certification processes. Even if you do not plan to make any changes you are strongly encouraged to review your documents. Remember that you can also use your home computer to access the system at https://PeopleFirst.Myflorida.com. Please contact Morrison King at Morrison.king@djj.state.fl.us or at 850.921.0850 if you have any questions.


I am grateful to all staff for the progress we are making in juvenile justice around the state. Let’s continue putting youth and their families first in all we do.


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.