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Secretary's Message

May 17, 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

JPO Academy Visit 

On Friday, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and Assistant Secretary for Probation Paul Hatcher met with Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Class 67 at the Florida Public Safety Institute. Both Deputy Secretary Niermann and Assistant Secretary Hatcher shared with the class the vision and mission of the Department and our reform efforts. They expressed to the JPOs the incredible opportunity they will have to serve as positive role models in the lives of the youth under their supervision and the critical role they play in our juvenile justice system and in reducing juvenile delinquency in Florida. The JPO Academy is an intensive, three week long training that is mandatory prior to entering the field.  Upon graduation, these JPOs will work in probation offices around the state.

Prevention Update

Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Deputy Manager Marcus Smith, Federal Programs Manager Yvonne Woodard, Statewide DMC Coordinator Joshua Kuch and State Advisory Group Members Cheryl Massaro and Stacy Gromatski attended the Coalition for Juvenile Justice’s (CJJ) Annual Conference on April 20-23 in Washington, D.C. The conference, "Redefining Leadership: Engaging Youth, Communities, and Policymakers to Achieve Better Juvenile Justice Outcomes," focused on the latest research, developments, and challenges in juvenile justice.

Joshua Kuch currently serves on the executive board for CJJ as the National DMC Representative. At the conference, he moderated a session on race and bias and co-chaired a meeting of DMC coordinators from all over the country.

The other sessions provided attendees with hands-on opportunities to explore the newest methods for preventing delinquency and ensuring fairness through all stages of involvement with the justice system. Participants also learned about establishing the best possible outcomes for children and families who do become involved with the juvenile justice system. There were several current and former DJJ prevention providers in attendance including the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and Broward County Human Services. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee assisted with the coordination of the “Enough” event on April 19 at St. Petersburg Technical College. The “Enough” event, sponsored by the City of St. Petersburg, the St. Pete Police Department and Pinellas Technical College, was created for youth to have a voice on crime issues, youth deaths, youth behavior,  and community and school issues. After the tragic death of many young people in the community over the last six months, organizers decided that “enough was enough.”

Topics discussed included: How to better themselves, emotions surrounding the recent deaths of three young ladies in St. Pete, auto theft and the consequences, the media’s influence on the youth, the understanding of crime and the Trayvon Martin case. A total of 124 youth and 75 adults attended. The youth represented such groups as: Paxen, Family Resources, Project Bridge, HBI, St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department, Man In The Making and Pinellas schools. The panel was moderated by Jalen White from Boca Ciega High School.

Collaborating with Pat to organize the event were Pastor Kenneth Irby, JoAnne Nesbit, Executive Director of the Childs Park YMCA; Deborah Figgs-Sanders and Ann Sherman-White from Pinellas Technical College, gallerist Carla Bristol and community activists Carl Lavender, Gwen Reese and John Muhammad. State Representative Darryl Rouson and Judge Patrice Moore also addressed the youth. Following the event, organizers will review issues and solutions identified by the youth to improve communications and make changes.

Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain, Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Clayton Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III conducted a Faith Network training on April 6 at the juvenile probation office in Jacksonville. During the training, our staff gave attendees an overview of the DJJ and the Faith Network, how the network serves youth and their families, as well as a description of chaplaincy procedures.

Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington introduced himself to attendees and explained his role within the Department. Reform Specialist Donna Clayton provided information specific to the circuit’s service providers and department needs. Rick Hall, a leader within the state from Celebrate Recovery also participated in this training.   

Detention Update

I am pleased to share the following story about Pinellas RJDC Supervisor Gary Bridges and a youth in his care. The story comes to us from Psychologist Adele Solazzo who works with the facility. Dr. Solazzo visited the facility to tell youth J. that due to his behavior he would be transferred to a different facility. Youth J. was visibly upset and began to yell. Supervisor Bridges stood up to face J, and while Dr. Solazzo felt that J was going to hit him, the youth instead wrapped his arms around Supervisor Bridges and began to sob. Supervisor Bridges did a fantastic job comforting J.

After ten minutes or so, Dr. Solazzo thanked Supervisor Bridges and asked if she could leave and he said, “Of course Doc, that’s my son.” His remark was exactly what this abused, repeatedly abandoned, and neuropsychiatric damaged youth needed to hear.   It gave the youth a sense that Supervisor Bridges trusted him to hold his disappointment together and that the Supervisor truly cared for the youth.  Although it was a sad situation, the grace with which Supervisor Bridges handled the situation was beautiful to see and very touching.

Probation Update

DJJ has a new provider which will provide family functional therapy services across the state. Southwest Key, based in Austin, TX will serve as our newest redirection provider. The first implementation stage will begin on May 16th for Circuits 1, 6, 7, 15, 18, 19 & 20, and a second stage for Circuits 2, 3, 4, 8 and 14 will start July 1st.  For a provider new to Florida and the Department, Southwest Key have very efficiently learned new processes ranging from background screening, IRRs, and training plans in an expedient manner. DJJ Certified Contract Manager Candice Earnest has worked closely with Program Operations on the implementation of this program, Artavia Parish from Staff Development and Training assisted on the training plan, and Circuit 6 DIO Casandra Thomas has provided JJIS and SkillPro assistance during the first stage of implementation. Southwest Key provides family functional therapy with programs that include mentoring, fatherhood programs, and substance abuse. We look forward to their partnership as we continue our work in providing therapeutic services to the youth in our care.

Pictured above: (from left to right): Alfonso Bermea, Clinical Regional Executive Director Tara Raulston, LMHC –FFT therapist Circuit1, Lori Huertas, IMT –FFT therapist Circuit 15, Merrit Blandford, LCSW –FFT therapist Circuit 20, Larry Carr, LMHC – FFT therapist Circuit 18, Natalie Beecham-Coppins, RCSWI –FFT therapist Circuit 7, Rosa Singletary, IMH, FFT therapist Circuit 6, Nicole Jordan, LCSW, Clinical Regional Executive Director Florida, Erica Harry - Clinical Regional Executive Director Georgia

Circuit 2 Reform Specialist Sam Lyons and Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts recently met with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to discuss how the Sheriff’s Office could benefit from streamlining their process with regards to civil citation. Sam provided data that showed the positive effects of civil citation implementation statewide. Sheriff Mike Mock was very pleased with the presentation and was thankful for what our agency can offer. 

From left to right: Reform Specialist Sam Lyons, Sheriff Mock and Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts

Probation staff in Circuit 2 attended the 6th biannual Farm Share event in Gadsden County on May 6. Staff members participated in the distribution of food to thousands of hungry families throughout the county. The event takes place twice a year and has multiple partnerships within the local community, including Publix, who donates free food for the program. 

From left to right:  Sandy Porras-Gutierrez (DCF Community Partner Liaison), JPO Margorie Anderson, Reform Specialist Sam Lyons, JPO Shannon Ashley, and JPO Crystal Williams 

Probation staff in Circuit 13 and several of their probationary youth recently took part in a book drive for children in Hillsborough County. All of the books that were donated were collected and sorted through by our supervised youth and were given to the USF Bay Area Early Steps Family Resource.

I am pleased to announce that SJPO Frank Grant, Jr. has recently been named Circuit 15’s Employee of the Month for the month of April. He is an all-around hard working probation officer and he is an advocate for the youth that he serves in the Riviera Beach area. He works with all stake holders to provide the best service for the individual youth and families and is a positive role model to the youth he supervise.  He is always in the community networking for the Department as well as his families. 

Frank was recently promoted to Senior Juvenile Probation Officer, he has become a PAR instructor, serves as a gang liaison for the Department, and recently became a certified instructor.  He is an exceptional employee and was  awarded Employee of the Month for his optimism, helpfulness, character, skill set, and zest, which is second to none. On behalf of the entire agency, I want to congratulate Frank on a job well done! 

Recently, Probation staff in Circuit 16 hosted a Community Conversation at Key West High School. The conversation was a joint effort between the department and local non-profit Keys to Be the Change. The event was well attended and featured a panel discussion with members of the Circuit 16 Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Board (JJCAB) and Monroe County Advisory Council Commissioners from Keys to Be the Change. The panelists included Monroe County State Attorney Catherine Vogel, Public Defender Trish Docherty-Gibson, Guidance Care Center Area Director Maureen Kempa, Parent of youth Genavive Sabater, Chief Judge Designee Jane Isherwood, and Beth Barrett of Wesley House Family Services.  Our JJCAB Chair Officer Steve Terrance served as the emcee for the event.

(left to right): Monroe County State Attorney, Ms. Catherine Vogel. C16 Chief Probation Officer Karen Knight; C16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson; Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Geoff Peattie; JJCAB Board Chair Steve Torrence; Community Partner Elmira Leto and Juvenile Drug Court  Manager JoAnn Brancel.

Circuit 16 JPO Fredrick Vrgora teamed up with school resource officer Derick Velez to teach a new program to 6-9 graders entitled, “Know the Law.” The program, developed by the Monroe County Coalition, is designed to judge the level of knowledge a youth has regarding the law and law enforcement. The presentation covers the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, batteries and assaults, principals in a crime and accessories, alcohol, marijuana, cyberbully and sexting.  Youth are taught to manage their reputation and the consequences they might face for failing to do so.

JPO Vrgora explained how the Department of Juvenile Justice works and the different forms of consequences that a youth may be exposed to if they commit a delinquent act. Probation staff in Circuit 16 will use this presentation during intake sessions as a part of required sanctions for probation. CPO Karen Knight and Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson worked with our Monroe County community partners to develop this program to ensure its success.  

Residential Update

Recently, Palm Beach Youth Academy, a high-risk program for males, ages 15 to 21, operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, honored the Palm Beach School District teachers who are members of the Education Department at the program.  The ceremony and luncheon, which coincided with Teachers’ Appreciation Week, included the presenting of certificates of appreciation to the teachers as well as cards and gift bags. 

Palm Beach Youth Academy also hosted its first-ever family carnival.  With more than 200 family members and loved ones in attendance, activities included bounce houses, a DJ, games, and contests.  In addition, a lunch was served and there were snow cone and popcorn stations at the carnival.  The Education Department honored several students for their academic achievements by awarding certificates.  Residents also read aloud their poetry, which they composed during their English Literature classes.  Some of the youth who are also fathers were able to spend quality time with their own children. 

Last but certainly not least, Palm Beach Youth Academy also recently partnered with the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency and the local not-for-profit Lord’s Place to paint murals in each of the dormitories to provide a more colorful, inspiring environment for the boys.  The residents worked together to design the murals for each of the six dorms as well as paint them.  The first completed mural captured the theme of academic success and graduation.  All six murals are based on the theme of looking ahead into the future.  

On May 6, Broward Girls Academy (BGA), a non-secure program for females, ages 14 to 19, operated by Youth Services International, Inc., honored three students who graduated with their high school diplomas.  BGA, along with the Broward County School Board held a cap and gown ceremony for the students, which was attended by other BGA residents, family members of the graduates, public defenders, and a host of volunteers.  Youth A.M. said, “…coming to BGA turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to get back on track academically and earn my high school diploma.  Now that I am a high school graduate I aspire to get a degree in nursing.” 

Youth J.B, stated, “I was able to catch up on my missing credits and get my high school diploma.  I was recently accepted to Florida Memorial University and plan to attend as a fulltime student in the fall.”   

Youth F.M. noted that receiving her diploma was a huge accomplishment for her while she was at BGA and that her dream is to be a pharmacist. 

Recently, Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, a non-secure program for males, ages 13 to 18, operated by AMIKids, Inc., collaborated with the American Heart Association and the AMIKids corporate office out of Tampa to host a healthcare event.  Seven students, who are actively pursuing their healthcare certifications, used this event as an opportunity to practice taking and comparing vital signs of their peers before certain activities commenced and then again after completing them.  The physical and fun-filled activities designed to get the students’ heart rates elevated and included jumping rope, playing dizzy ball, and doing musical layups.  Several students were awarded a t-shirt from the American Heart Association.  The event concluded with an outdoor BBQ.

Students at Melbourne Center for Personal Growth were able to take part in The Floating Classroom, in order to become more involved in the outdoors and to become better stewards of the environment.  As mentioned in a previous weekly letter, “The Orlando’s Rose,” is designed to conduct marine education and research activities while providing the students with a half-day excursion.  The program works in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory to identify different organisms and collect specimen samples in the waterways of the greater Tampa area.  After the excursion, the youth explored the Florida Aquarium.

Melbourne Center for Personal Growth also recently welcomed guest speakers Carey Beam and Anthony Majusiak from Craig Technologies in Cape Canaveral for Career Day.  The company provides a myriad of computer services such as cybersecurity, software design and development, systems engineering, and IT support to the military, government agencies, and civilian businesses.  The guest speakers discussed how the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum taught in the Brevard County School District could be instrumental in leading to future careers in the manufacturing sector. 

Martin Girls Academy, a high- and maximum-risk program for females, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, unveiled the newly completed mural at the program.  Founder and Director of the Visionary School of the Arts Lynne Barletta volunteered to spearhead this project.   The theme is “catch the wave of hope.”

Last week, Duval Academy, a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by Youth Services International, Inc., attended the 26th Annual Crime Prevention Breakfast that was hosted by the Prisoners of Christ Ministry in Jacksonville.  The breakfast was a celebration for more than 2,200 men in the Jacksonville area who have been involved with the Ministry since its creation in 1990 and who now lead productive lives that are free of crime  The residents of Duval Academy came away encouraged that they too, can have a true second chance. 

Last week, nine residents from DOVE Academy, a non-secure program for females, ages 15 to 18, operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., earned the opportunity to visit Disney World® in Orlando and participate in the Youth Education Series program (YES).  This trip was provided through the Boys & Girls Club of Tabula Rasa and Twin Oaks.  The girls who attended were chosen because of improvements in their behavior and attitude and their educational achievements in the program.

Through Disney World’s YES program, the nine residents participated in the Energy and Wave Physics Lab series.  The girls 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 students also 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 residents enjoyed the attractions and rode several rides at the Magic Kingdom.