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Secretary's Message

May 10, 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.  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

Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Meeting

On Wednesday, I traveled to Sarasota for the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet Quarterly meeting at the State College of Florida Lakewood Ranch. The meeting included a discussion regarding suicide prevention; suicide is one of Florida’s leading causes of death among all Floridians. The suicide rate has increased 24% over the last ten years and is the 3rd leading cause of death among youth. The Florida Council for Community Mental Health has asked the Children and Youth Cabinet to advocate for the creation of a state-level advisory/task group that can begin to investigate ways that state and local agencies are collecting, monitoring, and sharing data on suicide attempts and deaths.

The highlight of the meeting was the honoring of outgoing State Senator Nancy Detert who was given the Children’s Champion Award for devoting her career to effect positive change and successful futures for the most vulnerable children in Florida. Senator Detert has helped pass important legislation that improves the lives of foster children in the state of Florida. On behalf of our entire Department, a sincere thank you to Senator Detert for her years of service and her dedication to Florida’s children.

Florida Gubernatorial Fellows Reception

On Wednesday, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, Prevention Special Projects Manager Eugene Morris, Director of Policy and Programming for Probation Jeannie Becker-Powell, Statewide Reform Coordinator Elizabeth Phillips and GOC II Lauren Floyd attended a reception at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee celebrating the most recent class (Class XI) of Gubernatorial Fellows.

Class XI will conclude at the end of the month and this year the Department of Juvenile Justice was fortunate enough to have two of these fellows working with us – Alyssa Hernandez, a doctoral student at FSU; and Kristin Tellis who is earning her JD at the FSU College of Law. On behalf of our agency I would like to thank them both for working with DJJ and wish them nothing but the best in their future endeavors.

The Florida Gubernatorial Fellow Program immerses students from public and private universities in key areas of state government. During their nine-month tenure in Tallahassee, Fellows receive advanced on-the-job training as well as an invaluable front-line view of the inner workings of government.

Corrections Appreciation Program

On Friday, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht attended the Corrections Appreciation Program at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway. The event came at the conclusion of National Correction Officers’ Week which was established in 1984 by then President Ronald Raegan to honor those officers who work inside the walls of correctional facilities. The program concluded with a luncheon which was addressed by keynote speaker Michael Cockerham who is a retired unit manager of Tallahassee’s Bureau of Prisons Federal Correctional Institution. Cockerham was shot in the line of duty during a shooting incident at FCI Tallahassee in 2006 when two other staff members were killed. 

Detention Update

North Regional Director for the Office of Detention Services Jeff Wenhold made a visit to the Volusia RJDC on April 28. During his visit he stopped by the girl’s mod while they were taking part in a Very Special Arts Program. The girls were very excited to show off the picture frames they had created. 

Youth D.W. from the Brevard RJDC was recently recognized for completing all of the requirements to graduate from Seminole High School in Sanford. D.W. will receive his high school diploma in the mail while in his commitment program. While waiting for his high-risk commitment program, both detention and school board staff were able to convince the school board to allow the youth to stay enrolled in order to fulfill his graduation requirements. The staff at the Brevard Regional Juvenile Detention Center held a graduation ceremony in which the youth’s family attended along with the other youth being held in detention to recognize his accomplishments.

The staff from the Duval RJDC banded together recently to celebrate the birthday of OPS/Laundry Worker Annie Ezell who turned 83 years young on Wednesday. Ezell also celebrated her 20th anniversary of being cancer free. She is known affectionately as Mama Ezell because she is like a mother figure at the facility and throughout the department. Corporal Celeste Cruse wrote the card that was presented to Ms. Ezell, and I am honored to share it here. It reads:

We celebrate you on your 83RD Birthday and for Mother’s Day too. You have warmed the hearts and filled the stomachs of so many people who have come through the doors here at Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center. So we honor you on this special day.

Duval Detention / DJJ Staff

Ms. Ezell was truly honored from the outpouring of support she received on her birthday, as she was choked up during the entire ceremony. She couldn’t thank everyone enough for the love they showed her. In her own words, Duval RJDC is her second home, and she is thankful to have every one of us as a part of her life. 

I am pleased to share with you another round of poetry submissions from the Duval RJDC. These submissions were made from students in an English class which was taught by Heather Flow at Duval. They will be entered into a local poetry contest in the Jacksonville area and can be read here.

Probation Update

Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Clayton was awarded the 2016 Northeast Florida Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Star of Excellence Award on April 29 at the Thrasher-Horne Center in Orange Park. The Star of Excellence Award recognizes an individual who has gone above and beyond in curtailing underage drinking and youth prevention services. MADD Program Specialist Judy Cotton said of Donna, “I have always been so impressed with what you do in your role at DJJ and it is clear to me that you strive to make a difference in the lives of young people.”

SJPO Samuel Burgess from Circuit 1 recently retired from DJJ after 35 years of distinguished service to the state of Florida. Burgess began his employment with the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center before he moved over to Probation and Community Intervention Services.  As a probation officer he served as gang liaison, JJIS trainer, drug court liaison and boys’ court liaison.   Acting Chief Carmen Lundy presented Mr. Burgess with a plaque from the Department while others gathered to wish him well in all future endeavors.  

Circuit 1 probation staff hosted the Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council meeting in Pensacola on April 26. The council is chaired by the Governor’s Chief Child Advocate Zack Gibson and includes individuals from various faith-based organizations from around the state. This meeting gave DJJ the opportunity to share with the Council information about the services and resources we provide. Reform Specialist Therese Moses met with many of the faith-based agencies and talked about adding these agencies to the transition team in Circuit 1.

Circuit 6 JPO Melanie Phelps volunteered with Garrison-Jones Elementary School in Dunedin on April 15 to celebrate the “Week of the Young Child.” Melanie assisted students with their math work and was able to help them understand programs that were quite complicated. Melanie said that this was a wonderful experience and she hopes to partner with another school next year.

Circuit 6 Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell and Pastor Cindy Lane from G4S providedmentoring training to members from the Fresh Start Innovative Mentorship on April 23 in St. Petersburg. These prospective mentors have an interest in helping those youth who are served through the Circuit 6 Boys’ Court and are in transition. Adrienne was also able to provide these mentors with an overview of the Department of Juvenile Justice. 

Circuit 10 Reform Specialist Vernolda Dilworth attended a Mentoring Day event at Tiger Town Field in Lakeland on April 30. The event was sponsored by the Lakeland Police Department’s Police Athletic League. Vernolda staffed an information booth which gave her the opportunity to interact with families throughout Polk County. The purpose of the mentoring day was to bring youth, law enforcement and the community together for a day of education, mentoring and recreation.

Congratulations to Circuit 18 JPO Stephanie Norton who was awarded the Criminal Justice Award on April 28 by the Child Abuse Prevention Taskforce. Stephanie was honored during a banquet that was sponsored by Brevard C.A.R.E.S. She was nominated for her commitment to our youth and specifically for her work with a victim of human trafficking. The following excerpt was taken from her nomination information:

Stephanie Norton always goes above and beyond to help save youth from harm in the community.  Last year there was a young female under DJJ supervision who was on the run and absconded.  This youth was also a victim of human trafficking.  Ms. Norton was determined to work with the family of the youth and the local law enforcement agencies to help bring the youth home safely.  Ms. Norton’s ability and courage to seek information and provide law enforcement necessary details of the youth's whereabouts led to the youth being rescued. 

The Seminole County Probation staff in Circuit 18 held a circuit-wide meeting on April 29 which was entitled “All About Me.” Planned by staff, the agenda consisted of presenters from LA Fitness who spoke on nutrition and fitness; Fairwinds Credit Union who spoke on the benefits of a credit union and credit solutions; Bank of America who spoke on member services and credit solutions; and, Seminole State College who spoke on state employee tuition waivers, degree programs and certificate programs.  Information was also provided on active shooter alerts and the employee assistance program. All in all staff were very pleased with the event, and there are plans for replicating the event in Brevard County.  Special thanks to Kristin Bentley, Bonita Johnson, Robyn Worlds and Nekeisha Pelham who coordinated the event.   

Circuit 15 probation staff participated in the 6th Annual Youth Summit of Palm Beach County on April 23 which was entitled, “Be True. Do You. Being Yourself Never Goes Out of Style.” The Summit is a yearly event for middle and high school youth to attend and obtain valuable education and local resource information. The topics explored this year consisted of: gang prevention, alcohol and substance awareness, bullying, healthy relationships, mentoring, career education, mental health, violence and college preparation. The final numbers have not been calculated, but preliminary numbers show that 400 plus youth were in attendance! All youth received ten community service hours for their great attitudes, respectful behaviors and participation.

I would like to thank the following staff members who volunteered their time to assist with either the set-up, breakfast, registration, youth transitions, lunch, certificates and not to mention the clean-up. They include: CPO Greg Starling, ACPO Stephanie Riley, Reform Specialist Shirlon McCarty, JDAI Coordinator Randi Taylor, JPOSs Valerie Bryant, Elsa Westcarth and Paula Serrano, SJPOs Kennetta Osborne, Charlene Moxey, Tiffany Patrick, Vernon Jackson and Keith Rudnick, and JPOs Christine Rouse, Shaday Peeples, Rebakah Wilson, Bridget Rodriguez, Tarnessa Gaines, Ashley Miller, Marvin Blaise and Dennis Hall.

Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson participated in the Kids Come First community event on April 30 at the Frederick Douglass Gym in Key West. The event, which was sponsored by Comcast, brought community members together to spruce up the areas around the gym, which is used by the Key West Police Department for the PAL program and the Bahama Village Music Program. One group of volunteers painted the outside area of the building and an interior room that will used as a reading room. Other volunteers planted trees and shrubbery in a newly landscaped garden area.

Comcast was on hand providing t-shirts and registration. Comcast donated funds to Kids Come First for every person that registered for the community event, as well as purchased bean bag chairs, basketballs, tether and soccer balls, checker games, and jump ropes to be used by youth attending programs held at the gym.

Residential Update

Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., recently visited the Jacksonville Naval Air Station (NAS Jacksonville) and spent the morning learning about various aspects of the military and the planes used by the Navy.  NAS Jacksonville is the largest Navy base in the southeast region and is the third largest in the nation.  Afterward, the students enjoyed an afternoon filled with bowling and an outdoor picnic.  

Recently, Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility, a non-secure program for boys, ages 10 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, collaborated with Publix® and several churches in a community outreach event called Feed the Bay.  The groups worked together throughout Hillsborough County to stock the shelves of several food pantries.  The residents of Columbus JRF volunteered at Publix® by handing out grocery lists to customers that included items needed at the food pantries, sorting these various donations, and loading the trucks to deliver the items. Their efforts fulfilled part of each youth’s community service requirements.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn of Tampa designated April 30 “National Rebuild Day” in the Sulphur Springs community.  Five residents from Columbus JRF, along with staff members Jose Gonzalez and Mike Calloway, assisted the mayor and a team of community volunteers with repairing and painting houses and picking up debris in an effort to beautify and restore pride in several neighborhoods. 

Shown right: Youth with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, 

The residents of Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently welcomed the family who won America’s Got Talent in 2013, the Crevier’s.  Known for their “Spin-tacular Basketball Show” and for holding five Guinness World Records, Bruce, his wife, Diane, and their 12 children perform together completing various stunts that include intricate dribbling a basketball, spinning techniques, and unicycle acts.  After the performance, Bruce Crevier spoke with the residents about the importance of being persistent, following their goals, and having a strong value system in place.  He concluded the presentation by sharing his thoughts about how spirituality can profoundly influence an individual and his family.  

Shown above: The Crevier family and their world record unicycle ride.

Additionally, six residents of the Bartow Youth Academy recently volunteered with the Lakeland Police Athletic League (PAL) in its annual car wash fundraiser.  Each youth completed four hours of community service by assisting PAL staff in washing and detailing vehicles.  Bartow Youth Academy and the Lakeland PAL have been partners on more than 20 various community events.  

Broward Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, welcomed a special guest and several volunteers.  International missionary and speaker Bernadette Todd shared with the girls her riveting story about her lifelong struggle with Muscular Dystrophy.  Ms. Todd shared an inspiring message that they, too, despite hardships and struggles, have the power to remain positive and to endure whatever circumstances they are facing. 

In addition, she, along with 12 volunteers, organized a “spa day” for the girls.  Each student had a facial, a pedicure, and a manicure.  They also received gifts of shower gel, spa robes, and slippers.  The event concluded with a catered lunch from Firehouse Subs®.  

Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, invited Master Gardeners of Miami-Dade County to visit the program to teach the students about the stages of change in the lifecycle of butterflies. 

The title of “Master Gardener” is granted by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) after individuals complete the Master Gardener training and 75 volunteer hours with the county IFAS extension office—in this case, the Miami-Dade County Extension Office

The residents had the opportunity to develop and maintain a “living laboratory” at the program in their own butterfly garden to study these changes.  In addition, the stages of change concept was used as a metaphor in individual and group sessions to relate to the stages of change in the lives of the youth.  

Prevention Update

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Lydia Breaux-Davis attended the Escambia County Juvenile Justice Council’s Youth Success Recognition Ceremony on April 21 at Wright Place in Pensacola. The theme of this year’s ceremony was entitled, “Peace Still Works in our Communities, Schools and Homes.” The Juvenile Justice Council recognized twenty local youth who were nominated by both DJJ providers and local civic organizations. Each youth received a certificate and a gift card which were handed out by Circuit 1 ACPO Carmen Lundy.

The keynote speaker was Charlie Ward, retired NBA basketball player, college football Heisman Trophy winner, and a Major League Baseball draftee. Coach Ward delivered a passionate and inspiring talk on choices, preparation, determination and consequences. In addition, the Council thanked Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan who graciously supported the ceremony with funds donated from his office.

I would like to thank JPOS Mary Grier and JPOs Lori Jamison, Ernest Curry and Shay Johnson for also representing DJJ at the event. 

Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, DMC/RED Coordinator Josh Kuch, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain attended the Black Family Summit on April 27 in St. Augustine. The Summit was organized to discuss strategies to empower communities in Circuit 7 to learn, address and effectively meet the needs of today's families.  The specific target groups were all governmental and other agencies serving families of color. 

Assistant Secretary Sims was the keynote speaker for the morning session.  She delivered a very powerful message to the audience focusing on HOPE. The acronym, HOPE was divided into sub topics: Happiness, Opportunity, Purpose and Excellence. She said you must plant the seed of HOPE when working with families.  She encouraged the audience to have a spirit to be the best that they can be and finish strong in everything that they do. Her inspiring words included dedication, determination, discipline and no excuses.  Don’t give up, embrace disparity and one key solution is family engagement.

Later in the day, Josh Kuch spoke on Disproportionate Minority Contact/Racial Ethnic Disparities (DMC/RED).  He provided statistics specific to Circuit 7 on DMC/RED.  Josh discussed topics such as civil citations and training procedures for law enforcement officers.  

Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain attended the DJJ Faith Network meeting with Celebrate Recovery, Twin Oaks and DJJ staff members on April 4 at the Lake City Juvenile Probation Office. The meeting was held to discuss the Celebrate Recovery (CR) Partnership with DJJ and the upcoming pilot of the program.

During this meeting, attendees:

  • Identified the service that CR will be proving to the youth in “Life’s Healing Choices.”
  • “Life’s Healing Choices” is an 8-week program that requires family engagement and is designed to assist in the healing process from traumatic events while strengthening positive relationships.

The program will be started on a pilot basis:

  • At the Duval County Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
  • Another site will be in the community based on a high population of youth in the DJJ system.
  • Additional sites may be added elsewhere.

Among those in attendance were: Rick Hall, Celebrate Recovery Leader; Mark Biery, Celebrate Recovery State Representative; Tony Read, Project Connect; Michelle Galloway, Reform Specialist; and Craig Swain, Faith Coordinator.

Staff Development and Training Update     

Staff Development & Training’s Learning Consultants met in Tallahassee April 25-27, 2016 for a Blended Academy Workshop.  The Learning Consultants; Andrea Minnis, Artavia Parrish, Bernard Smith, Barbara Campbell, Christina Ash, Denise Cannon, Duane Pace and Kiva Hagans met with the curriculum and evaluation team to discuss new curriculum and the incorporation of the Roadmap to System Excellence throughout the DJJ Juvenile Probation Officer and DJJ Detention Officer Academies starting in May 2016.