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Secretary's Message

April 18, 2016

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Last week was a productive and busy time for DJJ staff, our providers, and our stakeholders, as we continued our work in bettering the lives of Florida’s children and families.  As you will read below, DJJ hosted an Employee Recognition Ceremony for Headquarters staff celebrating their anniversaries of service to the state of Florida. However, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to thank all of our staff around the state who might also have an upcoming or past anniversary.  Should the opportunity present itself I would love to take part in similar recognition ceremonies around the state and please know that your contributions to our agency and to our state are important and appreciated.  Whether you have been with us before we were the Department of Juvenile Justice or if you have newly joined our team, whether you work in North, Central, or South Florida, or whether you are a direct care staff or in an administrative position, you all play a vital role in the success of our agency and in our mission to make Florida’s juvenile justice system the best and most impactful system in the nation. So thank you again for the commitment you have made to serve DJJ and the state of Florida and congratulations again to those of you celebrating your anniversaries of service! 


Christina K. Daly

Employee Recognition Ceremony

Last Monday, DJJ held an employee recognition ceremony at Headquarters to honor 21 employees who were celebrating their anniversary of service to the state of Florida. Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht and I honored each of the following employees with a certificate and pin. Those recognized were: Vanessa Ford (35 years), Cheryl Beasley (30 years), Agnes Denson (30 years), Robin White (30 years), Jean Becker-Powell (25 years), Lucy Swain (25 years), Barbara Coonradt (20 years), Marcia Haye (20 years), Bertha Jackson-Ardis (20 years), Rosellyn Hutchins (15 years) and William Rich (15 years).

Also recognized were: Sharan Cohen (10 years), Rico Cooper (10 years), Lora Deckerhoff (10 years), Jennifer Rechichi (10 years), Ann Schulte (10 years), Leonard Bell (5 years), Heather DiGiacomo (5 years), Latonya Hill (5 years), Antonio Murphy (5 years) and Juliet Westmoreland (5 years).   

Pinwheels for Prevention

On Tuesday, I joined together with other state leaders on the grounds of the Florida Capitol to plant pinwheels for the Pinwheels for Prevention Campaign. This national campaign is designed to increase awareness of child abuse prevention efforts and is Florida’s statewide coordinated effort to highlight programs and activities that promote healthy child development and prevention of child abuse. The campaign, coordinated by Prevent Child Abuse (PCA) Florida, the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, and the Florida Department of Children and Families, creates awareness of the proven ideas that child abuse can be prevented.

FSU College of Law Presentation

Last Tuesday,  former DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters and I had the opportunity to guest lecture to the Juvenile Law: Florida Practice law class at the Florida State University (FSU) College of Law. This address allowed us to speak about juvenile justice reform and create a bridge from the past to the present. Former Secretary Walters spoke about DJJ’s reform efforts and I spoke about where those reforms have taken the agency to the present day. We also discussed DJJ’s Roadmap to System Excellence, the civil citation initiative, and the overhaul of Florida’s juvenile justice system.

I would like to thank the FSU College of Law for having me come and speak and to all of the prospective lawyers who sat in the audience and asked questions. 

Juvenile Justice Detention Class Visit

On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and I met with the current juvenile detention officer (JDO) class at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway. I am always pleased when I have the opportunity to meet with these new officers and share with them the vision of the Department along with our reform efforts. We expressed to the JDOs the critical importance of their role with our Department as they make daily contact with each youth placed in a regional juvenile detention center. These officers have the opportunity to make an incredible impact on these youth and help them turn their lives around. The JDO Academy is a four week long training that is mandatory prior to directly supervising youth within a detention center. Detention officers will supervise youth in detention centers as they await either an appearance before the court or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility.  

Family and Children in the Court Steering Committee

Last Thursday and Friday, I attended a meeting of the Steering Committee of Family and Children in the Court (FCC). The FCC, enacted by the Florida Supreme Court, works diligently to encourage and facilitate family court efforts. With the guidance of the steering committee, the FCC has helped courts across the state implement numerous improvements as they endeavor to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of family court operations. Topics on the meeting agenda included priorities that DJJ has a vested stake in, including the school-justice partnership, racial and ethnic disparity and how it influences the school-justice partnership, and a training on trauma-responsive court strategies. 

2016 FJJA Adolescent Conference

2016 Adolescent Conference  "Building 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.

AMIkids Floating Classroom

AMIkids’ corporate office was recently bestowed an amazing gift: the ‘Orlando Rose’, a beautiful 2010 65 foot Silvership.  This donation has made it possible for AMIkids to offer a floating classroom for the youth in our care. The boating experience is in partnership with the Mote Marine Laboratory, a world re-known marine research and teaching organization.  Mote Marine helps deliver a lesson on biodiversity and the Tampa Bay marine-eco system.   

The hands-on experience,  taught through nontraditional teaching methods, teaches boating skills and boating safety and gives the kids a close-up view of a vital Florida environment.  The purpose of the program is to introduce a discipline that helps develop a sense of community and teamwork.   The curriculum, Experimental Education Curriculum, was developed by AMIkids in partnership with the Florida Atlantic University Pine Job Center.  

Detention Update

The following letter was sent to the staff at the St. Lucie RJDC from the parents of a child who was recently hospitalized. The parents thanked the staff and the administration for the amount of care provided for the youth at the facility and how grateful they are knowing their child is in the care of the staff at St. Lucie. Also enclosed were gift cards that will be used to throw a pizza party for the level 3 kids at the facility. 

The Orange RJDC hosted the new teen R&B sensation group NK5 on April 7 at the facility. NK5 performed and answered many questions from our young men at Orange and it was an entertaining and educational experience.

NK5 consists of young men ages 11-13 and were discovered by legendary hit record producer Maurice Staff who created pop icons such as New Kids on the Block and New Edition. NK5 will also be recognized on April 28 in Washington, D.C. by U.S. Representative John Larson from Connecticut as Anti-Bullying Awareness Youth Ambassadors. 

The Youth Assisting Puppies (YAP) Program at the Pasco RJDC is in full swing as the youth are working on how to train the current puppies at the facility. The kids are currently training the pups on verbal commands while rewarding them with treats.

In addition, the puppies are currently being crate trained at night and are now on a feeding and potty schedule. The YAP program allows our youth to receive pet therapy with these young puppies as they await adoption. 

Last week, retired NFL defensive end from the New York Giants #97 Robert Harris spent time at the Brevard Regional Juvenile Detention Center speaking to the youth on the choices we make in life and how it is never too late to turn it around. Mr. Harris spoke on some of the wrong choices he made prior to finding his true calling. Mr. Harris is a graduate of Southern University and spent eight seasons in the NFL. He was one of the forces on the opposite side of retired Hall of Famer NFL star Michael Strahan.  Mr. Harris was drafted in 1992 by the Minnesota Vikings prior to signing as a free agent with the New York Giants.  

Beginning in 2014, new GED testing was put in place at the Pasco RJDC that allows students to take a new version of the test via computer. Using this test, students can receive their scores in just a few hours instead of it taking days or weeks. Dr. Coggins, the lead teacher at Pasco, has been diligently working with the youth to prepare them to take the new version of the GED and since December of last year, five of our young men have passed the GED testing. I would like to congratulate each of the boys below on a job well done:

             Thomas 12/10/15

              Sean      1/5/16

              Dylan    1/13/16

              William 3/4/16

              Thomas 4/6/16

Probation Update 

The Eckerd Kids Project Bridge program in Circuit 9 held their first GED celebration to acknowledge our two outstanding youth who obtained their GED this past month.  Aaron McCann and Isaiah Portela both completed their GED under 60 days, which is a record time for completion.  The youth were provided with a cap and gown, which was generously donated from a family in the local community.  The room was nicely decorated and attendees consisted of Project Bridge Staff, HBI Staff, Paxen staff, and members of the advisory council.  While playing “Pomp & Circumstance” the youth walked into the room individually while plenty of pictures were taken, and deliverance of their diploma was provided by their GED instructor.  The youth were also provided additional gifts from Everest University as well as the company, The Greater Orlando Builder’s Association.  Light snacks, drinks, cake and cupcakes were enjoyed by all attendees.  Eckerd Kids Project Bridge looks forward to celebrating additional success of our youth!

Lashune Norwood, Eckerd Kids Project Bridge Lead Transition Coordinator in Circuit 19 and Eckerd Kids Project Bridge Transition South Region Director, Claudia Laos, met with St. Lucie County Commissioner Kim Johnson, who agreed to speak at the upcoming Children’s Hero of the Year Awards ceremony. The event will be held at the Riverwalk Center in Fort Pierce on June 2nd, from 6-9 pm. Commissioner Johnson, who shares our passion for youth’s success, is in support of our upcoming event to raise funds for at-risk youth in our South Florida communities.

Probation staff from the Circuit 1 in Okaloosa County were recognized on April 8 during the University of West Florida’s Criminal Justice Student Organization (CJSO) Annual Award Ceremony Dinner in Pensacola. DJJ received two awards for our “Recognition of Support” and “Community Partner Excellence.” For many years, DJJ has supported the student intern program at UWF by providing valuable student training through internships with our agency, and in addition, participating in their annual student career expo. Many staff members have lent their expertise to the program including JPOs Patty Hooper, Michael Allshouse, Patricia Young, Renee Westmoreland and Katie McCrary.  

Pictured left to right: Dr. Kathy Johnson, Criminal Justice Program Coordinator, Renee Westmoreland, JPO north end, Reba Chavis, JPOS south end, Dan Bears, JPOS north end, and Melissa Johnson, CJSO President. (Not in photo: JPO Patty Hooper)

I am always pleased to share the successes of our wonderful providers as they continue to watch over the youth in our care. Janet Smiley with Bay Area Youth Services (BAYS) JDAP from Circuit 18 was recently nominated for the 2016 Social Services Individual Award by the Child Abuse Task Force of Brevard County. Janet will be recognized during the Task Force’s annual awards banquet later this month. I am very happy that we have a provider like BAYS whose employees shine in their local communities, and on behalf of our entire agency, I would like to congratulate Janet on this well-deserved honor. 

In addition, we are happy to report that BAYS has been selected as a 2016 Top 100 Workplacesin the Tampa Bay Region by the Tampa Bay Times. This marks the second year in a row that BAYS has made the Top 100 list. The Top 100 list was judged based on the results of an employee feedback survey. President and CEO of BAYS, Dr. Pam Alvarez said, “Being named as a Top 100 Workplace for the second straight year, illustrates that we continue to grow as an organization and that we are responsive to the ever changing non-profit landscape of the 21st century.”

BAYS provides high quality and professional youth and family services throughout the State of Florida. Their objectives are to improve the quality of life and increase the potential of Florida’s youth.

Prevention Update 

On April 7, DJJ staff members and prevention providers joined together to at the prevention provider workgroup meeting in Tallahassee. Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims, and I welcomed staff members and providers and thanked attendees for their participation and support. Attendees also discussed PAR and the impact it may have on providers and the importance creating and utilizing community resource guides to know what services are available to youth and families statewide. 

Other highlights from the meeting include:

A recap of the 2016 Legislative Session by Legislative Affairs Director Meredith Stanfield; a presentation and discussion about program monitoring by Director of Program Accountability Amy Johnson; an update on the Prevention Assessment Tool (PAT) training by SMA Supervisor Amy Greenwald; an education update by Director of Education Julie Orange, and a discussion on the Florida Juvenile Justice Association’s (FJJA) research paper by FJJA Executive Director Cathy-Craig Myers. 

In the above photo, from left to right, myself; Cathy Craig-Myers, Executive Director, Florida Juvenile Justice Association; Alice Sims, Assistant Secretary, Office of Prevention & Victim Services; and Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann attended the Prevention Provider Workgroup meeting.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington, III attended the Professional Network-PACT Partnership Community Conversation on March 28 at the Leonard Wesson Media Center in Tallahassee. The featured speaker at the event was Dr. Amy M. Wetherby, a distinguished research professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences, Director of the Autism Institute in the College of Medicine, and the Laurel Schendel Professor of Communication Disorders at Florida State University. Her presentation dealt with the “Social Communication Growth Charts and the Autism Navigator.” The speaker encouraged attendees to continue working with children, mentoring and volunteering. The theme was “Building a Community Where Everyone Works Together to Make Sure Children Thrive.”  

Dr. Wetherby said faith-based organizations play a key role in communities because they can inform the public and aid with early intervention services. In the Big Bend Region, there is a need for the faith-based community to become more actively involved with service providers, agencies working with children, teens and families.  There were approximately 75 attendees.

Juvenile Justice Officer Academy Graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to the newest juvenile justice detention officers (JDO) at Valencia Community College who graduated on Friday, April 15, 2016.  The detention officers will supervise youth in detention centers as they await for an appearance before the court or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility.  Thanks to Detention Services Central Region Director Frank Gargett for delivering the graduation address for the JDO graduation. Kudos to Learning Consultant Bernard Smith, Learning Consultant Manager Andrea Minnis and Deputy Director Cina Wilson Johnson for training the officers for these positions of critical responsibility. The graduates will work in the regional juvenile detention centers (RJDC) listed next to their names.

Front Row (Left to right):  Julius Castro- Orange RJDC, Cristhian Quesada Sequeira -Orange RJDC, Joshua Leibert-Orange RJDC, Lee Jackson-Brevard RJDC, Nelson Roman-Manatee RJDC, Richardo Media-Orange RJDC

Back Row:  Joe Dixon-Manatee RJDC, Clevine Bornelus-Orange RJDC, Antonio James-Orange RJDC, Milen Brown-Orange RJDC, Kevin Pendleton-Manatee RJDC, Charle Washington-Orange RJDC, Marcus Robinson-Brevard RJDC, John Swartz-Manatee RJDC

PREA Update

Congratulations to the following program for passing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Audit:

  • Martin Girls Academy

Completed PREA audit reports are posted on the Department’s Web site.


Residential Update

Recently, eight students from Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center/Cypress Creek Treatment Center, a maximum- and high-risk program for boys, respectively, that serve ages 13 to 21, and operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, graduated with their high school diplomas.  These young men have worked diligently at their studies and have met all criteria for graduation.  These eight residents will be entering the next phase of their educations at Cypress Creek by joining five other students who are taking college courses online.  

Recently, four residents from Fort Myers Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, took part in a community service event with Habitat for Humanity.  The boys worked with the lead contractor and the soon-to-be homeowners, helping install insulation throughout the home.  Special thanks goes to Transitional Services Manager Steven Pam for arranging this opportunity and to Recreational Therapist Lorraine Mazanek for working side-by-side with the residents.

Shown right: Lorraine Mazanek working with youth to install insulation. 

A few weeks ago, Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility, a high-risk program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, welcomed U.S. Army Sergeant First Class (SFC) Jose A. Quinones as a guest speaker.  His presentation focused on the Army and its specific requirements.  SFC Quinones also answered questions the students posed.  All residents and staff were given reusable water bottles embellished with the U.S. Army logo as a memento of the presentation. 

Staff Development and Training Update

Micro-Learning is a Success at DJJ

SD&T is excited to announce the success of the Leadership Micro-Learning Pilot Program that was conducted from July 10, 2015 through December 31, 2015. The pilot program is offered to approximately ninety selected juvenile justice professionals statewide as an opportunity to support and develop their leadership and management skills.

The Leadership Micro-Learning Pilot Program was centered on putting the participant in control of their training.  The experience was designed to support the participant’s interests and self-identified areas of need. Some of the components that were included in the Leadership Micro-Learning Pilot Program were leadership and management videos, mandatory weekly surveys, and optional coaching support.

(Left to right)Front Row:  Evelyn Kay Jacobs, Finance & Accounting Director III, Letetia Wiley, Finance & Accounting Director II and Kedra Lewis, Finance & Accounting Director III 

Back Row: Teresa Davis, Accounting Service Administrator, Holly Rabon, Finance & Accounting Director III, James Stage, PPIP FSU Team Leader and Robert “Danny” Rutherford, SD&T GOCII

The pilot program offered two different learning paths: the default option of the Basic Leadership Certificate, which consisted of courses that were identified for the pilot program and the Self-Directed Leadership Certificate, which allowed participants to take other courses that were offered through Grovo’s library that were interesting to the participants.

In total there were forty-six certificates handed out to participants that completed the two different learning paths and had great feedback about Grovo’s Micro-Learning experience. Some of the comments were:

  • Overall my experience with Grovo was a positive one. The initial books were good to go through and learn more about the various topics. Many of the topics I had previously been trained in or had trained others, but it did broaden my knowledge about the topics.”
  • “I enjoyed the second part of the Grovo trainings which were the self-directed leadership. I liked being able to choose the topics and learn about new things.”
  • “Grovo is a great tool to use for overall training and be able to reach many different people and positions throughout DJJ and our contracted agencies. I liked that I could access it from the office, home, tablet, laptop, etc. It was easy to fit into my schedule as I could and use it when I had time available.”

SD&T also extended the pilot to a smaller group of motivated individuals from Finance and Accounting led by Libby Grimes. Libby Grimes and her managers took on the project as an opportunity to receive additional leadership/management training. After a little over a month, Libby Grimes and her five managers completed both certificate paths and provided positive feedback about the program.

SD&T would like to extend an open welcome to any manager within DJJ that would like to participate or provide leadership/management training to their staff. If this would be something that you are interested in or would like further information, please contact Robert “Danny” Rutherford at Robert.Rutherford@djj.state.fl.us. All responses/requests will need to be in no later than May 15th, 2016. Licenses are unlimited, so come one and come all!