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Secretary's Message

March 7, 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

Suits for Session

On March 1st, DJJ teamed up with legislators, local non-profits, agencies, Capitol staff, and other partners to donate gently-worn professional attire during the #SuitsforSession campaign in conjunction with Volunteer Florida and Uber. The collection of clothing was coordinated by Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend and the State Division of Blind Services.

Gubernatorial Fellows Kristin Tellis and Alyssa L Hernandez led the department’s participation by sorting through all of the donations made by our agency. With your participation the Department of Juvenile Justice along with other state agencies collected a total of 4,023 articles of gently worn professional attire! All donations will benefit Tallahassee area non-profits that help those in need of proper interview attire. I would like to thank Kristin and Alyssa along with all of our DJJ staff for doing their part in making the campaign such a success!

Pictured with Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman 

Legislative Update

This was another productive week as we continued to meet with legislators regarding the DJJ budget. On Monday, we met with several legislators in the Florida House of Representatives to continue discussions and explain our budget priorities as we moved onto the budget conference process.

The Department  also continues to work 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. SB 1394 was heard favorably last week by its final committee of reference and was heard on Second Reading on the Senate floor. The House Companion, HB 7063, remains on Third Reading in the House. 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.

2016 FJJA Adolescent Conference

The 2016 Adolescent Conference “Breaking Bridges: Uniting for Youth, Families and Communities” will be held on April 20th and 21st, 2016 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando.  This year FJJA will be co-hosting the 2016 Adolescent Conference with the Florida Council for Community Mental Health (FCCMH), a statewide association of community-based mental health and substance abuse agencies across Florida.

The conference will continue to build on ongoing efforts to highlight the important role of local communities in meeting the needs of youth. The conference provides attendees with the opportunity to gain continuing education credits (CEU), to network with peers and experts and to share useful tools to help youth follow a crime free path.  The conference will showcase nationally recognized presenters and dynamic workshop sessions, including DJJ and statewide experts, who will share effective models, policies, research and information providing insights and best practices to address issues facing organizations serving troubled youth.

Probation Update

Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson along with community partners, Tina Belotti of Project Success Marathon High School, Heidi Golightly and Christina Belotti of Keys To Be The Change sponsor a parents support group.  The group met at the Marathon High School to provide information, educational materials, and resources to parents. They also raised awareness about adolescent substance use and prevention strategies and provided a forum for parents to discuss concerns and to share ideas. Parents were also encouraged to attend Project Success/Keys To Be The Change events and to encourage the participation of other parents. The group shared pizza and dessert and had discussion on the future meetings, venue and direction. The next meeting will be held at the Marathon Recreation Center on March 29th.  

I am pleased to share the following thank you letter that we received from a parent whose son was in the care of JPO Christie Lightburn in Circuit 7. It reads:

I am writing today regarding Christie Lightburn, Juvenile Probation officer.  My son was assigned to her and my experience with her was excellent.  She does her job very effectively with a firm hand but an open heart.   She is tough when she needs to be and compassionate at the same time.  She was nurturing and understanding and clear about the ramifications of his actions.  She shared meaningful stories to convey the consequences of his actions.  She kept in touch with him and let him know that she was there and that she cared about him getting on the right path.    

I am happy to report he is moving forward on the right track and I believe it was attributed to her help and support with him. 

Thank you for all that you have done.  

Detention Update

I am pleased to announce that Terry E. Carter has been named Superintendent at the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Terry comes to DJJ from the Florida Department of Health where he served as a service manager in Lake County for the last six years. Prior to that, he spent twenty years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and also served as the Recreation Director for the City of Marianna. Terry married his high school sweetheart, Debbie, in 1977 and they have two daughters, Christina and Jennifer. I hope you will join me in welcoming Terry to DJJ.

Last month the Department’s first ever pet-therapy dog, Justice, turned four years old. As you may recall Justice was originally housed at the Miami-Dade RJDC before moving to the Orange RJDC in Orlando. Many of the staff and youth from Miami miss Justice and think of him often, so in honor of his birthday they sent him a birthday card which was signed by those who knew him well. Orange Superintendent Daryl Wolf was surprised and grateful for the display of birthday wishes and hopes to make a return trip to Miami in the near future so that Justice can see all of his old friends.

Prevention Update 

Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain, and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee attended the Family Oriented Concept Unified to Serve (FOCUS) faith-based symposium on February 18 at Pathways Community Church in Orlando. As the keynote speaker, Assistant Secretary Sims spoke to the conferees regarding a “Call to Commitment,” and elevating the FOCUS Coalition to the next level.

The FOCUS Symposium was designed to better educate first responders to families in crisis and the faith-based community to the services, programs, and networks that could increase their positive impact on the community. The symposium attracted nearly 250 faith-based leaders and social service providers interested in building and strengthening neighborhoods across systems of care. The symposium demonstrated how effective collaborations can be when the faith-based community is informed and works with law enforcement, mental health, and child welfare systems as well as the business community to assist families and individuals.

In the above photo (from left to right): Craig Swain, Pastor Ernie Sims, Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, Zachary Gibson, Trenia Cox and Pastor Bill Losasso. As the keynote speaker, Assistant Secretary Sims spoke to the conferees regarding a “Call to Commitment” and Elevating the FOCUS Coalition to the Next Level.  

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Circuit Advisory Board Liaison Patrice Richardson set-up a DJJ display table at the African-American History Health Fair on February 19 at Tallahassee Community College. The theme for the event was “Education, Promotion and Prevention.” There were approximately 25 exhibitors and about 200 attendees. Many were interested in prevention services, volunteering, mentoring, and DJJ’s intern program. The program was organized by Jacqueline Edwards of TCC.

Staff answered questions and distributed brochures and pamphlets on prevention programs, the Roadmap to System Excellence, the faith network, PREA, human trafficking and other DJJ programs. Staff also informed visitors of “Community Conversations,” youth/law enforcement focus groups, and how to conduct business with the State of Florida.

Patrice responded to matters relating to probation and her new role as CAB Liaison. Deputy Manager, Marcus Smith and Budget Director, Lucy Swain also attended.

DJJ prevention provider Unity Family Community Center in Williston recently received a donated gift of ten laptops from Xtreme Solutions in Ocala. The Center provides an afterschool program for those students ages 5-17 and Xtreme Solutions provides mentors for these students as they work their way through the program. The core components of the afterschool program include homework assistance, positive action, financial literacy, and physical fitness. The Unity Family Community Center thanks Xtreme Solutions for helping to reduce juvenile delinquency by increasing academic performance.

For more information regarding this afterschool program, please contact program director Latarsha Jones at (352) 529-2030. 

In the above photo are (front, left to right): Latarsha Jones, Program Director, Ivy Gordon, Denard Williams, and (rear, left to right): Emanuel Anderson, Shari Gillum, Pastor Blaine Whitt, Xtreme Solutions, CEO, Kelvin Mattair, Tutor and Joyce Wilson, Director. 

Residential Update

In February, five students from Broward Girls Academy (BGA), a non-secure program for females, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., earned their high school diplomas.  A graduation ceremony was held for three of the girls who are still residents, which included several special guests. Guests of the ceremony included other BGA youth, the honorees’ family members, DJJ MQI Regional Monitor Odilanda Brito, Pembroke Pines Police Department Chief of Police Dan Giustino, Special Victims Unit Sergeant Goodwin, and Captain of the Investigations Division Kipp Shimpeno.

Youth SL indicated, “Coming to BGA turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to get back on track academically and to earn my high school diploma.  Now that I am a high school graduate, I aspire to earn a double major in radiology and business.”

Youth LW noted, “I was able to catch up on my missing credits and get my high school diploma.  My next goal is to start college online until I complete BGA and then attend college full time.”

Youth TJ discussed her aspirations and said, “Earning my high school diploma while at BGA was a big accomplishment for me.  My dream is to become a doctor.”

The staff and youth at Duval Academy have had a very busy few weeks!  The non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, is operated by Youth Services International, Inc.  Eight residents participated with Duval Academy’s Facility Advisory Board in a fundraiser at a local Applebee’s® Restaurant.  They prepared and then served breakfast to the patrons of the restaurant.  The meal included pancakes, bacon, eggs, and juice

Additionally, three residents had the opportunity to attend a Jacksonville Giants basketball game.  The Jacksonville Giants is a member of the American Basketball Association.  The players of the professional minor league basketball team played in a packed arena and won by 30 points!  The three boys attended the game with staff and Advisory Board President Herlena Washington.  

Further, in the last week of February, several youth from Duval Academy worked on developing and imprinting a design for the new school uniform polo shirts.  Some of the boys designed the emblem while others worked on applying the design to the shirts.  The process used to apply the design to the shirts is called silk screening, which is a method used to create prints on a wide variety of materials.  All youth and staff voted on their favorite design to be used.  This project helped to enhance the students’ collaboration skills by teaching them how to work together in a creative manner while engendering a sense of pride in how they dress. 

In addition, eight boys were treated to dinner and then attended the play “Heaven’s Gate, Hell’s Flame.”  The play was performed at the Evangel Temple Assembly of God Church in Jacksonville.  The program has a partnership with the Evangel Temple Assembly of God and members of the church serve as mentors to the program’s residents.

Jacksonville Youth Academy (JYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently volunteered with the local Habitat for Humanity.  The youth provided the finishing touches to a brand new home for a family.  Throughout the day, the boys laid sod, planted flowers, painted the inside and outside of the house, installed doors and windows, and applied caulking.  The youth were pleasantly surprised when the project coordinator informed them that because of their hard work and effort, the family’s expected move in date was pushed up three days. 

JYA youth also participated in activities specific to Black History Month during the month of February.  For example, they visited Kingsley Plantation, a local historical national park in Jacksonville.  From 1814 to 1837, the Kingsley family owned this plantation which was operated with slave labor.  The boys went on a guided tour of the former plantation grounds and learned about the lives of many of the slaves during that era and the struggles that they faced.  

A few weeks ago, Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, welcomed a special guest:  United States Navy Recruiter Leading Petty Officer (LPO) A. Brown from the Kendell office.  In conjunction with the weekly mentoring activity offered by Riverside Baptist Church of Kendall, Mentor Michael Marion arranged for LPO Brown speak to the residents about military service and the procedures for enlistment consideration. 

The boys actively participate with the mentors and often voluntarily lead the group in an opening prayer.  The mentors offer a tremendous support system for many of the residents through personal guidance, encouragement, and resources for spiritual growth and educational improvement.  Commitment to sustaining a culture of care by exposing the youth to quality interpersonal and life skills opportunities is very important at MYA and all of the Department’s residential commitment programs.

A few days later, Youth DF of MYA made the decision to be baptized at Riverside Baptist Church (RBC) of Kendall.  The members of this church have been involved in mentoring, tutoring, nurturing, and supporting MYA youth since the program’s inception in 2014.  Youth DF was baptized by Outreach and Student Pastor James LaBello, an RBC mentor.  Four other youth also witnessed the baptism with the congregation as a part of the contemporary service.  RBC Mentor Michael Marion read youth DF’s testimony before the congregation and RBC Senior Pastor Otto Fernandez delivered a sermon titled “REAL-ationships”. 

Orange Youth Academy/Orange Intensive Youth Academy (OYA/OIYA), both non-secure programs for boys, which are operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently had the opportunity to go to an Orlando Magic basketball game.  The professional basketball team competes in the National Basketball Association as a member club of the league’s Eastern Conference Southeast Division.  OYA/OIYA residents who demonstrated excellent behavior and attitudes had the privilege to attend the game.  The Orlando Magic prevailed with an overtime victory of 110 to 104!