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Secretary's Message

November 24, 2014

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

I am sincerely grateful for the hard work and steadfast dedication to this agency from those who work in juvenile justice across the state and I am proud to share every week the great work occurring here at the Department of Juvenile Justice and that of our partners. I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our colleagues and the youth in our care. 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 (submissions after that time will be considered for the next week’s letter).


Christina K. Daly

Governor Scott Visits DJJ Headquarters

Last Monday, we welcomed Governor Rick Scott for a visit to DJJ Headquarters here in Tallahassee. Governor Scott thanked DJJ employees for their hard work over the last four years, and challenged all of us to put the same effort and dedication into the next four years. During his time here at headquarters, Governor Scott attended a meeting of the Executive Leadership Team and walked around the halls of the Knight Building speaking to employees. Scott said that he “brags about the good work of DJJ all the time,” and we would like to thank him for his continued support. 

50 LARGE Program

Last Tuesday I was excited to give the opening remarks during the stakeholder orientation for 50 LARGE, a DJJ Prevention program, at the Ghazvini Learning Center in Tallahassee. Also attending were Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Wanda Finnie, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and prevention staff. The orientation was held for people to meet youth enrolled in the program and to hear their goals for the future. The youth discussed the history and mission of the 5-year-old local gang prevention program, how they work to steer clear of gangs and why they continue to work so diligently to find opportunities to participate in wholesome activities.

The mission of 50 LARGE is changing lives by inspiring hope, molding character, teaching responsibility, providing real opportunity for young men, ages 11-19. 50 LARGE was established in 2009 through a Gang Free Schools and Communities Grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Thank you to Verla for her help during the event.

Pictured above from left to right: Dr. George Boggs, Florida State University; Interim Secretary, Christina K. Daly and some youth participating in the 50 Large program.

CareerSource FL Board Meeting

On Thursday, I attended the quarterly board meeting for CareerSource FL here in Tallahassee. During this meeting, CareerSource received updates from the Florida Workforce Chair’s Alliance and the Florida Workforce Development Agency. They also discussed their 2014-15 strategic initiatives. I am very happy to sit on the board of CareerSource to help represent all of the youth we serve. 

Probation Update

CPO Karen Knight, SJPO Fred Vrgora, JPOS Paul Armstrong and Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson from Circuit 16 participated in a Bridging the GAAP Conversation last Thursday at Marathon High School. Seven officers from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office also attended the Conversation along with six of our youth. Many of the youth posed great questions and there was a productive exchange of dialogue. Both groups agreed they would be willing to participate in another event.

The Tallahassee Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) team held its final group meeting this week. Parents and students discussed the knowledge and tools they gained during this second group cycle. Parents shared stories about their implementation of the strategies and techniques they have been using to reduce household conflict, while the boys explained how SNAP has helped them make good decisions. After the group cycle had ended, participants, facilitators and volunteers attended a final celebration where our team members awarded certificates to each of the kids and parents.

Mrs. Robyn Mooney is a Project Connect life coach in Circuit 7 in St. Augustine.  She is the owner of The City Coffee Company and gives back to the community by being a life coach to Christopher who is currently on post commitment probation with the Department of Juvenile Justice.  Robyn took the youth to the NAS JAX Air Show. Robyn takes Christopher to the beach, to the local gym, where he is receiving some weight training tips, and to listen to the Air Force Band when they appeared at the Amphitheater in St. Augustine.  Christopher likes cars and just recently they attended a car show that was held at The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Robyn is providing Christopher with opportunities that he would never have had without the connection between a life Coach and their mentee.  Robyn and Christopher are working towards building a relationship that will last a life time. 

Last month, Circuit 14 Reform Specialist Bree Thaxton conducted a training with the local State Attorney’s Office regarding the revisions on Chapter 985 and how it relates to both juvenile justice and our agency’s reform efforts. Approximately 15 attorneys were in attendance which included ASA Quentin Broxton, who has been widely regarded as a great partner and asset for DJJ staff in Circuit 14 for many years. ASA Broxton will be retiring at the end of the year and will be greatly missed. 

JDAI Coordinator Gina Gibbs and CPO Adrienne Conwell from Circuit 6 participated in a panel discussion during a Community Conversation Forum at the Greater Mt. Zion AME church in St. Petersburg. The Forum, which was sponsored by Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers and members of the JDAI Referral Subcommittee, was entitled “Education Not Incarceration,” and focused on alternative approaches to disciplinary actions for youth. The forum was well attended by stakeholders and community members. 

Last Tuesday, Pasco County Probation staff from Circuit 6 were given an educational tour of the Next 24 Church in New Port Richey. In addition to offering recovery night sessions and residential housing for those over 18, the church provides a Student Revolution session that is designed to provide support for those kids in 6-12 grades. Next 24’s Pastor Mike Kirk plans on working with our JPOs to provide faith-based mentoring and support groups for our youth, which will help to enrich the lives of the children and families in Pasco County. 

In Circuit 11, Probation staff recognized Veteran’s Day by donning camouflage outfits, decorating the cafeteria, and posting pictures of our veterans. It was their way of saying thank you to those who served our country admirably and bravely. These veterans include:  Francisco Barahona and Jose Rivera (US Marine Corps), Cora Jenkins, Charles Ogburn, De Forrest Dansey, Curtis Bycofski and Esau Williams (US Army), Nancy Romero (US Air Force) and Kizzy Thomas (US Navy).

C-11 Audrey Strachan, Alicia Borders (Prevention), Joann Law, Patience Joshua, Gary Williams, Claunise Jean-Louis, Pamela Peters also JPOS Valrose Graham & Robin Hunter

Staff from Circuit 15’s Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program (JDAP) hosted a donation drive on November 15 in honor of Homeless Awareness Week. JDAP Case Managers, Circuit 15 JPOs and 15 probationary youth who were fulfilling their court mandated community service attended the donation drive to assist with receiving, sorting, and packing donations made by the community. JDAP received many donations from DJJ staff and community stakeholders. Donations continued to be collected after the drive and the grand donation was made to the local homeless coalition on Saturday.

Prevention Update

The North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS), a DJJ Prevention Provider with campuses here in the state of Florida, was recently named one of the Best Places to Work in 2014 in Outside Magazine’s November issue. NCOBS has been offering challenging outdoor programs in the southeast for nearly 50 years. Their unique approach of ‘learning by doing’ taught by skilled educators has long made them the leader in outdoor education. This year however, the school was highlighted for its work by OUTSIDE’s  Magazine’s Top 100 Best Places to Work. When Corey Hadden, NCOBS Safety and Education Resources Coordinator, was asked what makes the organization unique he said, "Three things: the quality of our student experience, amazingly compassionate educators, and a strong culture of safety!”          

NCOBS helps teens and their families transition their lives in more meaningful and positive directions. NCOBS emphasizes character development, academic achievement and social responsibility to reduce the risk of dropping out of school, substance abuse and future delinquency. Programs consist of 20-day wilderness expeditions and a 20 to 24-day follow up component that takes place in the students’ home and school environments. Parent involvement is required.

“If you’re considering a career change or searching for your dream job, OUTSIDE’s Best Places to Work list is the first place to look,” said OUTSIDE  Executive Editor Michael Roberts. “These companies set the standard for workplaces that really value their employees and offer an experience that’s fulfilling inside and outside the office.”

The PACE Center for Girls of Polk County hosted Florida Southern College’s chapter of the Kappa Delta Sorority for International Girls’ Day last Friday in Lakeland. International Girls’ Day, established by the Confidence Coalition in partnership with Kappa Delta Sorority, celebrates a girls’ true potential and her ability to achieve anything. At the Polk PACE Center, nine ladies of the Kappa Delta chapter at Florida Southern College spent the afternoon with several of the girls discussing their goals, professional and personal dreams and what it means to be “confident.” The Kappa Delta sorority sisters presented the PACE girls with inspirational messages, certificates for their participation, and left the girls with a heightened since of confidence and purpose. PACE Center for Girls believes that every girl should be able to achieve her true potential.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Tina Levene attended the open house for the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA) last Thursday in Tampa. The mission of HCADA is to promote healthy communities in Hillsborough County, free of substance abuse and addiction through education, collaboration and advocacy. HCADA’s vision is a community where youth and families are safe, healthy and free of substance abuse and addiction.

Since 1989, the Alliance identified the need for substance abuse initiatives for adults and children in Hillsborough County.  In 2003, the Alliance formalized itself and re-structured as a 501(c)(3) and emerged as a true coalition. The Alliance’s vision and mission remain the same and the Alliance serves as an advocate for local substance abuse programs.

I am pleased to congratulate KC McWilliams, a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Big Bend who was selected as the 2014 Big Sister of the Year. KC McWilliams has been matched as her little sister Bryanna’s mentor for three years. Bryanna said KC inspires her to do well in school and to be a leader in her school band.

Recently, Bryanna and KC spoke to a room full of hundreds of First Commerce Credit Union employees in Tallahassee at their annual retreat. Bryanna was absolutely charming as she engaged the audience talking about how KC encourages her to always do her best. KC has been selected as 2014 Big Sister of the Year by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend. Congratulations KC, and thank you for your dedicated service to the community.

For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, in communities across the country. They develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported 1-to-1 relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.  The Big Brothers Big Sisters Vision is that all children achieve success in life.

KC McWilliams (left) and little sister Bryanna visit Bradley’s Country Store in Tallahassee. Just minutes before the photo was taken, Bryanna and KC spoke to a room full of hundreds of First Commerce Credit Union employees at their annual retreat. Bryanna was absolutely charming as she engaged the audience talking about how KC inspires her to do well in school and to be a leader in her school band. KC has been selected as Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend 2014 Big Sister of the Year.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee served as a guest speaker during the Great American Teach In event at Melrose Elementary School in St. Petersburg. Pat spoke to third graders during a workshop entitled “What Label are U” where she taught youth to believe in themselves and to be mindful that bad decisions come with consequences. They discussed the importance of a positive label and how it can directly affect their lives through acts of bullying, bad behaviors, disobeying authority, hanging with a bad crowd of youth and breaking the law.   The youth spent time working on several exercises on labeling through creating a logo that represented them and a business card to help market them as young entrepreneurs.

Pat McGhee (standing at rear on left) poses wit students from Melrose Elementary School in St. Petersburg during the Great American Teach In

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady attended a community partnership meeting of Gadsden & Leon Counties’ group of Parents, Partners, and Community Advocating for Children Together (PACT) last Monday in Tallahassee. Participants discussed coordination and collaboration of services and activities, parent and youth engagement, and social media and outreach events. The PACT Parent and Youth Engagement Subcommittee also discussed how to establish a greater presence in Gadsden County.

From left to right: Verla Lawson-Grady; Frank Platt, III Gadsden/Leon PACT Coordinator and Theresa Parsons, Federation of Families of Florida Youth Coordinator.

Office of Program Accountability

This week the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement held their annual statewide meeting at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy located in Tallahassee. The theme for the week was “Building a Statewide Team”.

Topics discussed during the meeting included but were not limited to: 

  • Team building facilitated by Staff Development and Training
  • Girl’s Matter Statewide Initiative and the escalation process facilitated by staff from the Office of Residential Services
  • Safety inspections and how this corresponds to the Bureau’s monitoring efforts
  • An overview of the Outcome-based Corrective Action Plan (OBCAP) process
  • Overview of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)
  • An update regarding Education services within our facilities and programs
  • Program Monitoring and Management (PMM) update and overview
  • Programming and Technical Assistance update
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse rule update and overview
  • Health Services update

We would like to thank the following staff for their presentations during the meeting:

Fred Schuknecht, Chief of Staff; Amy Johnson, Director of Program Accountability; Julie Orange, Director of Education; Dr. Gayla Sumner, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Rosemary Haynes, Office of Health Services Nursing Services Director; Jackie Young, Programming and Technical Assistance Unit Supervisor; Beth Davis, Chief of Contract Management; Jennifer Bailey, Office of Program Accountability; Jacqui Hagan, Professional Development Coordinator; Gene McMahon, Statewide PREA Coordinator; Tommy Blankenship, Senior Safety Specialist; Candy Seifert, Office of Residential Services; Lori Jernigan, Office of Residential Services; Pat Wilson, Office of Residential Services; Patrick Morse, Monitoring and Quality Improvement South Region Supervisor; Kent Rinehart, Monitoring and Quality Improvement Central Region Supervisor; Garrett Tucker, Monitoring and Quality Improvement North Region Supervisor; Heather Broxton, Monitoring and Quality Improvement; Donna Connors, Monitoring and Quality Improvement; Ramona Salazar, Monitoring and Quality Improvement; Central Region Monitoring and Quality Improvement Staff


Detention Update

Recently, the Guidance and Care Center (GCC) of Key West, a behavioral care center which specializes in mental health and substance abuse issues, held their open house following the reconstruction of their facility. During this event, the Center praised the Monroe RJDC for quickly providing office space after their building was deemed unsafe and were forced to move out. GCC’s Regional Director of Clinical Operations Maureen Kempa praised our agency and detention staff for stepping up and helping out the community and its residents during this difficult time. 

From left to right: Senior VP of West Care, Frank Rabbito, Monroe Detention Superintendent Vincent Vurro, Regional Director of Clinical Operations ,Maureen Kempa

I’m so happy to share this story from The Pixel Fund in Brevard County, who supplies the Brevard RJDC with the animals for their Teens Assisting Puppies Program. A Jack Russell with a black head named Headley was posted to the Fund’s Facebook page, and was noticed by a family with an autistic little boy who wasn’t very verbal. The boy and his mother were looking at the pictures on Pixel’s website and when he saw the dog he started saying MAX!! Consequentially, the family adopted him immediately. I am so ecstatic that our youth are doing such great things with the dogs from The Pixel Fund.   

The Southwest RJDC received a special guest last week as former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and University of Florida tailback Ernest Graham stopped by to speak with our youth about overcoming obstacles, learning from mistakes and making the right choices. Graham is now a football coach at North Fort Myers High School and takes an active role in his local community. 

Juvenile Justice Detention Officer Graduations

Congratulations to the newest classes of juvenile detention officers (JDOs) that graduated today in separate ceremonies at Miami Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) and Valencia College. Thanks to Dennis Driscoll, superintendent of Southwest Florida RJDC for delivering the graduation address at Miami Dade RJDC, and to Kevin Housel, central region chief of detention services for delivering the graduation address at Valencia College.  JDOs supervise youth in detention centers  as they await an appearance before the court, or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility.  Thanks to learning consultants Tanesha Blackmon and Andrea Minnis  and Senior Program Specialist Artavia Parrish for leading the officers through the certification process for these positions of critical responsibility. Each graduate successfully completed 240 hours of training to become a certified officer and will serve in the facility listed next to his or her name.

MDRJDC Class BC 067 

Front row (left to right): Phelicia James – Broward Juvenile Detention Center (JDC), Jovan Drayton – Miami Dade, Kimberly Gibson – Broward JDC, Alicia McTaggart – Broward JDC

Second row: Andrea Minnis – Senior Learning Consultant, Dayron Velazquez – Collier JDC, Jhimsy Joseph – Collier JDC, Osviel Alfonso – Miami Dade RJDC, Chymayne Woods – Palm Beach JDC

Rear row: Terrell Evans – Miami Dade RJDC, Nicodemus Bailey – Collier JDC, Michael Navarrette – Miami Dade RJDC, Adrian Gates – Miami Dade RJDC, Johnny Mondesir – Miami Dade RJDC

Front row: Latravious Campbell – Brevard JDC, Corey Davis – Orange RJDC, James Pandy – Orange RJDC

Second row:  Mariah Dorvil – Seminole County Sheriff’s Office JDC, Jessica Barnes - Seminole County Sheriff’s Office JDC

Third row:   Scott Gray – Seminole County Sheriff’s Office JDC, Avalencia Freeze - Seminole County Sheriff’s Office JDC, Jerrold Johnson - Seminole County Sheriff’s Office JDC

Rear row:  Top Row : Rebecca Banta-Rivera - Brevard JDC, Branden Broadnax - Orange RJDC, Alexandria Buggs - Seminole County Sheriff’s Office JDC                                                   

Residential Update

Last week, the Office of Residential Services held the first-ever statewide Girls Programming Workshop, which included all of the facility administrators and clinical directors from the 10 girls programs operated throughout the state, as well as members of each provider’s corporate leadership team.  Regional DJJ staff, DJJ monitoring staff, program directors, clinical directors, and corporate representatives from all of our girls programs participated in this day-long brainstorming session to address common protocols and promising practices in girls’ residential commitment programs.  The “Girls Program Assessment Tool” that was reviewed includes five modules, covering topics from program management to human trafficking. 

Through lively discussion and an open exchange of ideas between more than 40 participants, a consensus was reached on all of the standards to be included in the girls’ programming assessment protocol.  We will begin the collaborative assessments within the next couple of months with teams that include members of the Monitoring & Quality Improvement Bureau, regional residential staff, and headquarters staff.  Information gathered from this statewide assessment will help us determine more precisely where our challenges lie and share information about what is working well.  

Before the group’s working lunch, Residential Services Assistant Secretary Moneyham led a discussion on the importance of self-care that included tips from and for program staff, as well as for residents.  After a few minutes of discussion, the tables and chairs were moved out of the way, everyone took off their shoes and got out mats or towels, and the lights were dimmed.  Laura then led the participants in a gentle yoga experience in self-care.  Almost everyone participated either on the floor or in a chair.  All of the participants who did participate were fearless in the approach to poses that look simple but can be a bit of a physical challenge such as the “Warrior II” pose shown in these photos.

The yoga practice also included a brief experience of “Yoga Nidra” or “yogi sleep” as shown in the photo below. 

Many thanks go to the lead organizers of the meeting, SMA II Supervisor Pat Wilson and GOC-II Vanessa Wicker to the right. The team members who pulled the meeting together included those shown below:  Programs & Policy Coordinator Meg Bates, Pat Wilson, OMC Manager Candy Seifert, North Regional Supervisor for Monitoring & Quality Improvement Garret Tucker, Vanessa Wicker, OMC Manager (Central Region) Ramona Salazar, GOC-II Lytha Belrose, and those not pictured GOC-I Sarah Hollar and GOC-III Patricia Boyd.

To keep the day lively, Pat and Vanessa incorporated door prize drawings throughout the day of items they donated.  The final door prize of the day was for those girls’ programs that have cosmetology education as part of their programs.  The two winners each received a cosmetology mannequin head and telescoping stand.  

The group of participants and leaders, as well as the cosmetology mannequin heads, all posed together at the end of an energetic and productive day.

Staff Development and Training Update

SD&T Innovative Thinker Speaks at Education Conferences

DJJ SD&T psychometrician Umit Tokac gave a presentation titled Effects of Game-Based Learning on Children’s Math Performance: A Meta-Analysis at the international Association for Educational Communications and Technology conference in Jacksonville, Florida, on November 6, 2014. His topic was the influence of computer game-based learning versus traditional classroom instruction on math achievement for children from pre-K to fifth grade. After conducting a meta-analysis on seven studies examining different math learning games, Tokac and a university colleague found that game-based learning is more effective in improving students’ math achievement than traditional classroom techniques. The improvement was consistent regardless of the students’ age, socio-economic status or learning disadvantages, such as speaking English as a second language and Down syndrome. To read more, click here.

PAR Trainers “Take Courage” for Community Service

SD&T learning consultant and PAR (protective action response) master instructor Tanesha Blackmon and the PAR instructors of the central east region were among the volunteers at the “It Takes Courage” community service event sponsored by Harbor House of Central Florida on November 15, 2014.  The goal was to promote public awareness about domestic abuse.

The participants distributed information door-to-door, targeting west Orlando communities with high incidents of domestic abuse. This effort aligns with the DJJ vision for Florida’s of children and families to live in safe, nurturing communities that provide for their needs and supports their success.

“The goal of the ‘It Takes Courage’ door hanging event is to get the right information, to the right people, at the right time to save lives,” said Blackmon. “This goal is very similar to the Roadmap to System Excellence statement about the necessity for reform — ‘to provide the right services, at the right time.’ We felt this was a perfect opportunity to serve the community and we were proud to share information that can help someone to escape abuse.”

Other participants included volunteers from the City of Orlando Mayoral Office, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Orange County Clerk of Courts, the Orlando Police Department, the University of Central Florida, Valencia College, and a host of other private and non-profit organizations. Members of Blackmon’s current class of DJJ Detention Academy candidates also joined the event. The class is comprised of members the of the Eugene Gregory Memorial Youth Academy (formerly, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Enforcement Center) and the Seminole Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Detention Center.

Thanks to the following PAR instructors of the central east region for their participation:

Tanesha Blackmon (DJJ SD&T),

Omar Bohler (DJJ Circuit 9 Probation),

Amanda Boser (Bay Area Youth Services – Juvenile Diversion Alternative Programs),

Harold Dixon (DJJ Circuit 18 Probation),

Mickel Green (Seminole County Sheriff’s Office),

Johnny Hart (Brevard Group Treatment Home – Aspire Health Partners, Inc.), and

For more, click here.