Welcome to the new DJJ Website!
Find out how to use the new site.

Secretary's Message

February 22, 2016

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

Last week was a full and productive time for our agency and providers as we continued our work in serving Florida’s at-risk youth and families.  I hope you will take a moment to read the stories about the accomplishments of our agency staff, our colleagues, and the youth in our care.

As always, I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you do – on and off the clock – to enrich our 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. 


Christina K. Daly

Secretary Daly Confirmed by Florida Senate

This last week marked a milestone in my career of serving at-risk and delinquent youth in the great state of Florida. I am honored and humbled to share that the Florida Senate unanimously confirmed my appointment as Secretary for the Department of Juvenile Justice. For myself, both personally and professionally, this confirmation stands as a tremendous honor that bears the fruit of a lifetime devoted to the needs of the at-risk youth. I am grateful not only to Governor Rick Scott for his faith in my leadership abilities, but for the Florida Senate who through their confirmation have also placed their faith in me to lead this agency as we continue to work towards transforming the Florida juvenile justice system.   

Most importantly, I am thankful for all of our employees at DJJ as well as our  DJJ providers – each of you have made this possible. Make no mistake, it was your talents, your efforts and your hard work that continues to make this agency thrive, which gives the Governor and the leadership in the Senate all the more reason to place their confidence in our current leadership team. Please know that I appreciate everything you all do and admire the faith you have in me. As any good quarterback knows, the team cannot score unless he or she has an exemplary team around them, and I’m overjoyed that I have the best team in the business. 

AMIKids Legislative Day 

February 18 marked AMIkids Day at the Florida Capitol, and it gave a few of the many great students that AMI serves a chance to visit Tallahassee, tour the Capitol and meet with legislators representing their home districts. AMI held a lunch event in Kleman Plaza that afternoon and I was honored to address the leadership of AMI, staff members and most importantly the kids from the program. During my remarks I thanked AMIkids for helping youth from across the state “discover their potential,” as their motto so rightly claims.

AMIkids is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping youth develop into responsible and productive citizens. AMIkids' mission is to protect public safety and positively impact as many youth as possible through the efforts of a diverse and innovative staff. AMIkids works in partnership with youth agencies (including DJJ), local communities and families.

Legislative Update

This was a productive week as we continued to meet with legislators regarding the DJJ budget. On Tuesday, we met with House Appropriations Chair Richard Corcoran to discuss and explain our budget priorities prior to the budget conference process.

The Department has worked with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (HSMV) on joint language that would allow HSMV to provide youth transitioning from our system with no cost identification cards. This language is included in HB 7063 and SB 1394. HB 7063 has passed all committees in the House and has been heard on the House floor. SB 1394 was heard in its second committee stop on Wednesday and has one more committee before moving to the Senate floor. Identification cards help youth prepare for college, apply for financial assistance, seek employment, open a bank account, and most other things that come with being an adult. Identification cards are a key document for youth transitioning to normal and successful adult life.

FJJF Supports Safer, Smarter Schools Conference 

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) was a proud sponsor of the Safer, Smarter Schools Conference which was held last week in Orlando. Hosted by the Lauren’s Kids Foundation, the conference was designed to invite public school educators from across the state to train on best practices in child protection and abuse prevention through the Safer, Smarter Kids and Safer, Smarter Teens curriculums. The Safer, Smarter Kids and Safer, Smarter Teens are school-based personal safety and abuse prevention education curriculum programs designed for use in K-12th grade classrooms, developed by the Lauren’s Kids Foundation at the direction of the Florida Legislature, alongside the Florida Department of Education.

The conference was provided free of charge to those educators who wished to attend, and to make this possible, the conference reached out to businesses and individuals who have a vested interest in public school education to become a sponsor. The FJJF wholeheartedly supports the work of public school teachers and donated graciously to the cause. 

Probation Update

On February 15, Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Clayton attended a Celebration of Success graduation ceremony for four youth at AMIkids in Jacksonville. Each of these youth have made tremendous strides through the services of AMI and the Circuit 4 Probation Office. One of the young ladies who graduated was also an A honor roll student. Each of the youth expressed how thankful they were for the tutelage received at AMI and will miss the staff and students there.  

Pictured above (from left to right): Stephanie O’Brien-Gadd, AMI Director; Toni Blanton, AMI Lead Case Manager; and Donna Clayton, DJJ Reform Specialist

Last week, Circuit 9 Community Service Worksite Coordinator Barbara McNealy accompanied several probationary youth as they prepared bags of produce that were delivered to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida The youth prepared bags that contained collard greens, cabbage and broccoli and were distributed to local partners who feed those with need in the local community. Each youth earned valuable community service hours for their hard work and experienced meaningful service in the community.

Prevention Update 

Young women from the PACE Center for Girls of Manatee County participated in the Spirited Girls Values Project on February 12 in Bradenton. Each PACE girl attends a Spirited Girls class/group every day, focusing on such topics as expressing individuality, honoring diversity, friendships, health and well-being, and many more relevant girl issues. Earlier this month, the girls discussed their values and created a visual representation of who they are and who they aspire to be.  

In the above photo, PACE Girl Reanna and her poster describing “Reanna” as pretty awesome!

On February 17 Living Stones International (LSI), a steadfast member of our DJJ Faith Network, held a ribbon cutting ceremony at their brand new facility at 1341 Cross Creek Circle in Tallahassee. The LSI theme for 2016 is "Unifying Families." The new space will allow them to provide families and children with alternatives for a new direction and transformation within their lives.

To date LSI has served 300 children and their families with quarterly bonding visits in the four county areas of Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon and Wakulla throughout five state correctional facilities. These visits, as part of “The Service Network Children of Inmates’ Program,” are kid friendly focusing on connecting or re-connecting incarcerated parents to their children.

Currently, the Children of Importance After School Tutoring and Mentoring Program mentors twenty-three children with homework assistance and special projects. The children have one-to-one tutoring with students from Florida State University, Florida A&M University, and Tallahassee Community College. Since joining the program, the children have grown two seasons of vegetables, set up active science experiments, and participated in drills competing for awards and recognition. 

LSI also offers after school tutoring program and mentoring. In 2007, LSI was established as a faith-based children and family outreach and social service organization.  LSI's programs and services teach parents how to be more active in the lives of their children; offers children the tools to overcome obstacles and prevent them from following in their parent's footsteps; and advocates on behalf of families to community and government officials.  

The Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) in Circuit 15 conducted a recognition ceremony on February 11 at the Children’s Home Society in West Palm Beach. The Circuit 15 Juvenile Justice CAB recognized their community supporters for providing services, funds and other incentives for youth on probation, in the detention center and in the local residential facility.

Twenty six community partners were recognized by the CAB. Four faith agencies were presented with plagues, and sixteen individuals/organizations received certificates of appreciation for their tireless services provided to youth. Four individuals were provided certificates of appreciation for their extraordinary service as former advisory board members and two people received special recognition.

Brenda Oakes was added to the “Unsung Hero” plaque. Kudos to the Circuit 15 CAB for acknowledging the work done by the community partners.  

Residential Update 

Martin Girls Academy (MGA), a high- and maximum-risk program for girls, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, hosted youth AV’s high school graduation ceremony after she successfully completed her GED® during her stay.  The youth was celebrated for her tremendous growth in the program and her commitment to being a leader at MGA.  She served as president of the Youth Advisory Board.  Youth AV is expected to be released from MGA this month.  Before she leaves, she plans to apply to college.  Additionally, at this graduation ceremony, several other girls were presented with various academic achievement awards and appreciation certificates. 

Shown above (left to right): South Regional Director Stephen “Steve” Brown, Youth AV, and Martin Girls Academy Facility Administrator Anne Posey.

Last weekend, Bartow Youth Academy (BYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, had a special guest speaker.  Former Miami Hurricane football player Kenny Calhoun, best known for the legendary pass deflection against Nebraska to seal the Miami Hurricanes' first national championship in football in 1984.  Mr. Calhoun spoke with the youth about the importance of decision-making and how making the right choices can positively affect each youth’s life.   

In addition, four youth from BYA recently volunteered at the Mission of Winter Haven Church.  These young men each completed four hours of community service, assisting with cleaning up the Church’s Tower Gardens, which are vertical aeroponic growing systems that produce organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs.  BYA and the church have been partners for the past two years.

The youth at Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., celebrated the 50th Super Bowl with a “Bowl Bash.”  The young men had the opportunity to partake in several different exciting activities during the celebration, including participating in a football video game tournament, a relay race, and a basketball video game tournament.  The staff of Duval Academy provided the youth with an array of food options, including chicken wings, BBQ chicken and ribs, fried ribs, and loaded baked potatoes.  The youth shared a great day of fellowship and fun! 

Every year, the city of Brooksville kicks off Black History Month with an annual celebration that recognizes citizens who have made substantial contributions in their communities.  Each Brooksville City Council member selects a deserving individual to receive this prestigious award.  This year, Challenge Youth Academy staff member, Dell Barnes Sr.,, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Eckerd Youth Alternatives, was the recipient of this award.  He was nominated by Brooksville Mayor Natalie Kahler.

Mr. Barnes has been an employee at the program since January 2008.  When he first began his employment, he was also an employee of the Hernando County School District at Eastside Elementary School where he worked as a computer lab manager, provided mentorship, organized fundraisers for the school, and assisted with student discipline issues.  Mr. Barnes was a full-time employee for both organizations for five years.  Since then, he has continued to work for both organizations in some capacity until recently, when he dedicated his full attention to the residential commitment program. 

Not only is Mr. Barnes a dedicated employee, but he is also a very devoted husband and father.  He exudes boundless energy and shares that energy with those around him.  Since 2010, Mr. Barnes has been the pastor at Courts of Praise Deliverance Ministries, Inc. in Brooksville.  He hosts the radio show “Breaking the Chains that Bind” on Sunday mornings on WWJB AM1450. In addition, Mr. Barnes is the host of a free musical entertainment event called “First Fridays at the Brooksville Common,” which is held every first Friday of the month.  Lastly, this remarkable man is a saxophonist with Fuzed Elements Jazz Band, which plays at local venues around Hernando County.

The youth and staff of Challenge Youth Academy and the citizens of Hernando County are very fortunate to have such an enthusiastic, loyal, and dedicated man to be a role model, mentor, and friend.

Earlier this month, sixteen youth from two facilities operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc. visited Disney World® in Orlando and participated in the Youth Education Series program (YES).  Eight youth from the Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 17, and eight youth from RAM-C (Residential Alternative for the Mentally Challenged), a non-secure program for boys, ages 9 to 18, participated in the experience, which was provided through the Boys & Girls Club of Tabula Rasa and Twin Oaks.   The boys who attended were chosen because of their improvements in behavior and attitude and their educational achievements in their respective programs. 

Through Disney World’s YES program, the sixteen youth participated in the Energy and Wave Physics Lab series.  The young men spent the morning learning how energy is transmitted by light and sound waves, and how these waves affect the Disney guest experience, as well as their affect upon our day-to-day lives.  They also discovered how light and sound can be manipulated.  The youths went behind the scenes of the Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom.  They learned how scenes for the ghosts were created through illusions that were first developed by an illusionist back in the 1800s.

After lunch, the young men then enjoyed the attractions and rode the most popular rollercoasters at the Magic Kingdom.  

The youth at Okaloosa Youth Development Center (OYDC BDD/DD), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, recently toured the Northwest Florida State College in Niceville.  The young men are currently enrolled in the High School High Tech (HSHT) program—a year-round vocational rehabilitation program for youth with disabilities with a focus on STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)—had the opportunity to learn about the different certifications and programs that are offered at state colleges.  The young men saw college students participating in and attending classes in various departments such as the Welding Department, Graphic Design, Engineering Technology, Music and Entertainment, and both the Police Academy and Fire Academy.  They were particularly excited about the Music and Entertainment Department since they were able to practice using the machines in the department’s new recording studio. 

 Alachua Academy, a non-secure facility for females, ages 12 to 18, is now operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC.  Last week, the new provider celebrated their first weekend of operation with a Valentine’s Day Luncheon for the girls and their parents. 

Each youth received a stuffed animal and a box of chocolates.  In addition, the families enjoyed a meal together, which included hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, corn on the cob, fruit and vegetable platters, and fruit punch. 

The girls at Lake Academy, a non-secure program for ages 12 to 19, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, also celebrated Valentine’s Day with a Family Day last week.  The lovely weather drew everyone to celebrate outside and the girls and their families enjoyed using the photo booth to take pictures with fun masks and costumes.  Over 100 family members and mentors attended and everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch together.  

Detention Update

On February 12, the Volusia RJDC recognized those students at the facility who achieved Student of the Week status. I am pleased to report that thirty of the thirty-eight youth at Volusia were honored. The successful students received a certificate and enjoyed Valentines cookies and cupcakes. To be named Student of the Week, the youth must earn at least 80% of their points in school for participation and maintaining pro-social behavior.

PAR trainers Sargent Spencer Turner and Corporal Caitlinmae Jed from the Bay RJDC have created a PAR training track specifically for the supervisors at the facility. The training for supervisors are scheduled together because the supervisor’s focus and responsibilities regarding PAR incidents are much different from the staff on the floor and therefore their training requires a completely different set of needs and responsibilities. Their training contains additional portions on report writing, providing feedback on staff reports, supervisory PAR reviews, PAR physical intervention, as well as several other topics.  They are split up into 2 hour sessions so all the supervisors can attend each session together.

The St. Lucie RJDC held a birthday celebration last month for those Detention Officers and provider staff who celebrated their birthday in the month of January. Last month they recognized Officer Daniel Holland, Officer Joseph Kidwell, Officer Sha-queeta Kirkland, Administrative Assistant Altha Smith and Jennifer Bartholomew, Mental Health. 

The female mod at the Orange RJDC in Orlando conducted a presentation on Black History Month last week that included step dancing, biographies of famous black Americans, and poetry regarding famous events in the lives of black Americans. In addition, members of the school board served an array of ethnic foods from countries of African descent. They also learned about the history of each food and the various cooking methods of the foods. Many of the young ladies had never tasted the different foods and it was a very positive experience.  

I am pleased to announce that the Office of Detention Services has expanded the Youth Mail via E-mail Program to all of our detention facilities statewide. E-mail addresses have been set up for each of our detention centers and allow parents to e-mail their children at their facility. Mail sent to these e-mail addresses will be distributed to the superintendent and assistant superintendent automatically.

Email to a youth must have “Youth Mail” as the subject and the youth’s name as the first line of the email. You can view a sample brochure by visiting the link provided.

Girls from the St. Lucie RJDC participated in a t-shirt decorating contest to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The shirts are a part of the “Teens in Tees” program at the facility. Some of the young ladies gave their shirts to their parents for Valentine’s Day during their recent visitation.

I am pleased to announce that VSAFL recently made their first visit to the Brevard RJDC. Professional drummer Jim Flautt assembled several of our level 3 youth into a drum circle and after just a little instruction everyone was showing their rhythm. All of the kids and staff members who participated had a great time.

VSA Florida (VSAFL) conducts art education programs in schools, Department of Juvenile Justice facilities, and community centers; promotes the accomplishments of artists with disabilities through our artist registry, exhibitions, and performances; and increases access to the arts through professional development workshops. 

Congratulations to Senior Behavioral Analyst Joy Bennick from the Office of Health Services who recently completed the training necessary to become a certified Guardian ad Litem for the state of Florida. She is looking forward to her first assignment and hopes it is a young person who resembles the youth we might otherwise be serving in one of our Residential programs.

The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program stands as a powerful and effective voice advocating for the best interests of Florida’s abused, abandoned and neglected children and be recognized and respected as a partnership of community advocates and professional staff.