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Secretary's Message

May 23, 2016

This past Saturday marks one year since we lost our beloved friend, Deputy Secretary Julia Strange.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Julia and remember her laughter, spirit, and the passion she had for helping the children in our care and their families.  The loss of this inspirational woman is still felt deeply by our DJJ family but we are so fortunate to have known her and to have her as a part of our lives. Julia was a blessing and we will never forget her kindness and the heartfelt dedication she had for her family, her work, and her community. Every day, I strive to honor her memory by committing myself, just as she did, to helping young people turn around their lives for the better. Julia was truly a remarkable and unforgettable person and although she is greatly missed, she will continue to live on in our hearts and in the legacy of her extraordinary work here at our agency.  


Christina K. Daly

Circuit 6 Visit 

Last Monday, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and I traveled to Pinellas County to meet with local law enforcement and probation staff. Monday afternoon we met and had a productive meeting with Pinellas County Sheriff Robert Gualtieri and St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway to discuss our continued collaborations to address juvenile delinquency. Their continued support is appreciated, and I look forward to working with each of them further to best serve youth in the St. Petersburg and Pinellas County community.

In addition we met with members of the Circuit 6 probation team and answered questions from staff members. Staff members shared their thoughts on what’s working and suggested needed improvements at DJJ. Deputy Secretary Niermann and I truly appreciated the opportunity to have conversations with those in Circuit 6 who work so hard to guide youth in changing their choices and ultimately their life path.

Thank you for welcoming us to Circuit 6!

Pictured left to right: Rosalina Mells, Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Joyce Clay, Thomasina Johnson, Randi Gomillion, Liz Gattarello, Regional Director Cathy Lake, Micah Taylor, Marguerite Morrow, Jeff Williams, Lesa Regan, Chief Probation Officer Melissa Fuller, Tonya King, me, Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee, Deputy Secretary Timothy Niermann.  Staff present but not in picture were Cheryl Lucas and JPOS Yvonne Ortiz.

Youth in Custody Practice Model Meeting

Last week, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Assistant Secretary for Residential Laura Moneyham, Assistant Secretary for Probation Paul Hatcher, Chief Research and Data Integrity Officer Mark Greenwald, and I traveled to Tampa for the Youth in Custody Practice Model (YICPM) Initiative Core Leadership Team Meeting which was held at G4S Youth Services Headquarters.

The YICPM is administered by the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA) and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) from Georgetown University. The CJCA and CJJR provides participating agencies with 18 months of training and technical assistance  to align core, research-based principles with everyday practice, and achieve more positive outcomes for youth, families, staff and communities. Florida is one of just four sites in the nation recently selected to participate in the YICPM.

The YICPM provides agencies with guidance on essential practices in four key areas. This meeting was centered on one of those four key areas which was case planning in residential facilities. The meeting concluded on Wednesday with a tour of G4S’s Lake Academy residential facility. 

Human Trafficking Update 

On Friday, Human Trafficking Director Bethany Gilot and I participated in the Services and Resources Committee Meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking to work on the content and structure of the committee’s year-end report.

The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking was created to support human trafficking victims by enhancing care options available. The Council’s duties include: Develop recommendations for comprehensive programs and services including recommendations for certification of safe houses & safe foster homes, make recommendations for apprehending and prosecuting traffickers and enhancing coordination of responses, and to work with the Department of Children and Families to create and maintain an inventory of human trafficking programs and services our state.

Legislative Wrap-Up Report

The 2016 Legislative Wrap-Up Report has been finalized and posted on our website. This report summarizes legislative and budgetary items approved during the 2016 regular legislative session and includes information on legislation that impacts the lives of our at-risk and delinquent youth and the many professionals who are dedicated to their care. This was a successful session for DJJ, seeing both of the Department’s legislative priorities (youth ID cards and resolution of detention cost share) passed and signed into law. The report includes information and links regarding legislation passed, budget highlights, and Governor’s actions. I encourage you to take time to review items related to your program areas. You can access the report here.

Detention Update

The Office of Detention Services from the Central Region recently conducted their first ever employee focus group. The focus group was comprised of representatives from each detention center throughout the Central Region. The members of the focus group were tasked with bringing information from their co-workers in order to enhance operations and promote officer relations.

Pictured from left to right are :Arica Mann, Orange; Cristy Harris, Pinellas; Sharon Brown, Pinellas; Cinthya Tavares-Piguero, Hillsborough; Quanisha Rush, Pinellas; Paul Britten, HQ; Katherine Heirs, Hillsborough; Sonia Rodriguez, Pasco; Victoria Marrone, Pasco; Richard Acosta, Manatee; Martha Diaz, Orange; Jenci lazano, Manatee; Adrian Mathena HQ

The Pasco RJDC recently received a new litter of puppies as a part of the Youth Assisting Puppies or YAP Program. The puppies housed at Pasco will be used for pet therapy with the youth at the facility, and in turn these youth will help train and assist the young dogs as they wait their turn to be adopted. The puppies are donated to the facility via The Pixel Fund which relies on a dedicated network of fosters and rescue partners to pull pets to safety from  high kill shelters, get them healthy and ready for adoption, and transport them carefully in an effort to help find them their forever homes.

Prevention Update

The PACE Center for Girls of Marion County, a DJJ prevention provider, took part in the Derby Day 10k, 5k and kids 1k runs on May 7 at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala. PACE Marion’s Derby Day has become a highlight recognized by the media as part of the notable events celebrating Marion County’s equine culture and connection to the Kentucky Derby.

Additionally, because the Kentucky Derby always includes a Marion County horse, the jockey silk design from the highest placing horse with Marion County ties is adopted as the Derby Day shirt. This year’s shirt, which features the sponsors on the back, is particularly appealing because it leaves no doubt that 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh is part of Marion County. More than 200 runners plus their families took part during the beautiful morning event at the Florida Horse Park.

PACE would like to thank Great American Insurance – Equine Division for being the Triple Crown Presenting Sponsor for the 2016 event.

Faith Network Coordinator Craig Swain attended the TD Jakes International Pastors and Leadership Conference April 19-21 in Orlando. This conference brought together faith leaders from around the world to address pressing issues taking place in communities. Attendees also shared best practices on how to resolve the issues as well as how to operate effective faith-based ministries/organizations.

Last month, 14-year old Melody a former resident of Miami Bridge, a DJJ prevention provider, wrote a testimonial about how she was helped while attending Miami Bridge. It reads:

"My experience at the Bridge has been very helpful. Not only did they treat me like family, but I found God. The Bridge provided me with everlasting connections and chemistry with profoundly humble people.

“The Bridge will always be a place close to my heart. The honesty and effort they try to put into this place is amazing. They provided plates of food that I enjoyed so much coming out of my situation. It's been great and there's so many more experiences and growth to come.

“I am happy to call on the Bridge if in need of anything and I know they will always have my back. It's something I will cherish greatly for the rest of my life. Peace and One Love.”

Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Special Projects Manager Eugene Morris, Statewide Circuit Advisory Board Coordinator Patrice Richardson, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Lydia Breaux-Davis and Gubernatorial Fellow Kristen Tellis attended the Circuit 1 Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) meeting on May 13 at the Okaloosa RJDC in Crestview. Assistant Secretary Sims thanked CAB members for their work in their community to assist with the DJJ reform efforts. She also pledged support and encouragement from the Office of Prevention in ongoing activities throughout the circuit. Edna Williams, Circuit 1 CAB Chair, thanked Assistant Secretary Sims for attending and for offering her continued support.

Topics addressed during the CAB meeting included:

  • Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), or Racial and Ethnic Disparity (RED), in the circuit. While data presented by Assistant Chief Probation Officer Carmen Lundy supports DMC/RED existence in the circuit based on the percentage of minority population and minority representation within the department CAB members decided to increase representation on the DMC/RED subcommittee.
  • Direct filing process.
  • Invest in Children solicitation.
  • County updates.
  • Ideas for community outreach projects.

Other DJJ staff attending the meeting included: Ariel Veguilla, Okaloosa Regional Detention Superintendent; and Regina Berry, Assistant Superintendent; and NW Region Education Director Ken Myers. Following the meeting interested CAB members toured the facility.

Probation Update

Lead Transition Coordinator LaShune Norwood and Career Service Coordinator Jacqueline Rhaheed from Eckerd’s Project Bridge program had the pleasure of receiving a resolution proclaiming the month of June 2016 as the First Annual “Children’s Hero of the Year Awards” in Saint Lucie County by the Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, Mr. Kim Johnson.  The Board of County Commissioners of Saint Lucie County has made a determination that Eckerd Kids is to provide and share solutions that promote the well-being of children and families in need of a second chance, that the vision of Eckerd Kids is to ensure that each child has the opportunity to succeed and that they would like to designate this month to the overall vision of Eckerd Kids.  The Board encourages Saint Lucie County residents to attend this very important event on June 2, 2016 at Riverwalk Center in Fort Pierce, Florida.  This resolution was signed by the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Kim Johnson, and the County Attorney Dan McIntire where it was passed and duly adopted on this date.

Eckerd Kids Project Bridge began a practice to promote self-efficacy, leadership and autonomy. At the end of February each team nominated a youth leader in their circuit. The leader displayed perseverance, worked towards goals and acted as positive influence to other Project Bridge youth. When the youth was identified they were presented with the nomination and assigned specific leadership responsibilities for the following month. The tasks that were assigned to the leader included speaking to other youth about leadership, giving a presentation to DJJ and leading community service projects.  At the end of the month when the leader displayed the traits associated with the award and completed the assigned tasks, an awards ceremony was held! Attached is a group photo taken at the first Leadership Ceremony which included all three leaders, DJJ, community partners and staff. Below is a quote from one of the leaders:  

“I want to thank Project Bridge. A lot of people judged me for my past and did not believe I could change. Project Bridge believed in me. Thank you” - GJ 

Congratulations to our leaders! We look forward to many more.

Circuit 5 JPO Veronica Hudson accompanied the Assistant State Attorney and 50 middle school children on a tour of the county courthouse in Ocala. The children heard presentations from various officials regarding their respective roles in the court process. The goal of the tour was to teach the children about the criminal justice system and to impress upon them the importance of how the decisions they make now will affect their future.  Ms. Hudson did an outstanding job and the tour was a complete success.

JPOSs Mike Shoemaker and Dennis McKinney, SJPOs Karen Pickernell and Linda Muisener and JPO Rick Christie from Circuit 6 accompanied several probationary youth who participated in a community reform project for Metropolitan Ministries in Pasco County. The Circuit 6 team completed landscaping tasks around the facility, prepared lunch and dinner for that day and the following day.  For some staff and probationary youth this was their first experience in a large scale culinary kitchen. The Metropolitan Ministries Facility located in West Pasco County provides many necessities to families and the homeless. Metropolitan Ministries is known for its compassion and innovation in helping struggling families and individuals achieve their highest potential for self-sufficiency.

Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson, Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson and Eckerd Project Bridge Transition Manager Melvin Guzman from Circuit 9 attended the Our Children Our Impact Conference in Orlando on May 16. The event was held at Nova Southern University and was hosted by Family & Friends United, Inc. The conference was very informative and had interactive presentations about child abuse and neglect, kids and crime, family engagement, children's mental health, drugs/alcohol prevention, early childhood education, and positive youth development. Family and Friends United, Inc. honored everyone in attendance with a “You Make a Difference” medal of appreciation for their continued services to the youth and families in the community.

Pictured from left to right: Khalilah Daniels, Reentry/Community Outreach Specialist U.S. Attorney’s Office-Middle District of Florida, Sharon Warner, the Director of Family & Friends United, Inc., Melinda Wesley-Nelson, C9 Reform Specialist, Melvin Guzman and Transition Manager for Transition Eckerd Project Bridge, and Dionne Anderson, Prevention Specialist.

Probation staff members Stephanie Norton, Susan Cobb and Kandy Avery from Circuit 18 participated in the 6th Annual Blueberry 5k Run/Walk at the Holland Family Blueberry Farm in Mims on May 14. The event benefitted The Children’s Center which houses children in North and Central Brevard County who either receive direct assistance or referrals for further assistance in the community. This year there were over 400 runners participating in this race on a  diverse course  with the first 1.75 mile on maintained roads, approximately 0.1 mile wooded trail, approximately 0.5 miles of rails to trails and a 0.75 loop around the Blueberry Farm. 

Circuit 18 CPO Denise Devlin attended a community recognition breakfast for contributors of the Brevard County Together in Partnership Advisory Board on May 10. Together in Partnership (TIP) was developed to establish a continuum of services for the youth in the community. County and municipal agencies as well as civic organizations and citizens work together to enhance the well-being of all children. The appreciation breakfast was sponsored by Brevard County Housing and Human Services Department as they recognized five county boards fulfilling service needs to the county.

Circuit 16 probation staff in Key West partnered with the local Bethel AME Church to host the first ever Success Through Empowerment Program (STEP) meeting at the church on May 14. STEP was led by Reverend Magwood from Bethel along with his wife Mrs. Tracy Magwood. Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson kicked off the meeting with an ice breaker to get things started. The meeting was centered on job preparation options for the youth in attendance. Meetings will be held monthly at the Bethel AME church.

Lisa Morris with Monroe County School Board; CPO Knight, Community Partner Elmira Leto, JPO Janet Maconi, RS Elaine Thompson and Rev. Magwood

Circuit 17 probation staff attended a Wellness Day on May 14 in recognition of mental health awareness. The event was hosted by One Community Partnership 2 at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill. There was a range of activities for youth and families such as basketball, kickball, yoga, meditation, raffles, and arts and crafts.  Circuit 17 Probation and Community Intervention youth and staff (pictured right) participated to help support the event.  The youth received community service hours for their contribution to ensuring the day was successful. 

Residential Update

Last week, Dade Juvenile Residential Facility, a non-secure program for boys, ages 12 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, hosted its quarterly Family Fun Day event.  Of the 33 residents in the program, 22 residents had family members participate in the event.  For two weeks, the residents prepared various arts and crafts, and participated in planning meetings with the staff to arrange this special day with their families. 

The tree that the families and their children collectively painted, as shown above and below, developed a unique name so the residents could remember this day: “Leave a Piece of Me: A United Family Tree.”

To honor the residents’ mothers and those who serve them as mother figures on Mother’s Day, students and staff worked together baking cookies for this special Mother’s Day visitation event.  

Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, Inc., held a Mother’s Day breakfast in honor of all moms.  Those celebrated included the residents’ biological mothers, legal guardians, Duval Academy staff, and members of the Duval Academy Advisory Board..  The breakfast was hosted by Evangel Temple Assembly of God in Jacksonville.

Recently, 10 residents from Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, attended the 4th Annual Operation Save Our Sons Summit, which was hosted by Dr. John E. Guns, senior pastor of St. Paul Church of Jacksonville.  Operation Save our Sons is an organization committed to providing instruction and helping young men make wise choices, choose to respect themselves and others, and to learn the power of positive thinking.  Fifty male students from each local high school were invited to attend the summit held at Edward Waters College.  Throughout the day, the young men heard from a variety of speakers, including Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.  They also participated in small break-out sessions.  Before the summit concluded, the young men were given the opportunity to share some of their life experiences and how choices they made in the past have affected them.  Three brave residents from Jacksonville Youth Academy volunteered to speak to the audience.

The residents also recently attended the 24th Annual World of Nations Celebration at the Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville where they experienced the sights, sounds, tastes, and traditions of 31 countries. 

Shown left: Some of the residents enjoying the music and dancing

Recently, some of the residents became omelet chefs through a cooking lesson with Facility Administrator Joseph Shuler, during Staff Appreciation Week.  

Until recently, tap water in Flint, Michigan was unsafe to drink, making it necessary for Flint residents to purchase bottled water.  Efforts across the country to donate bottled water exploded, as many Americans generously donated water.  Five residents from Jacksonville Youth Academy assisted Open Arms Christian Fellowship and its members with loading cases of donated bottled water onto pallets and then into a truck to deliver the water to Flint, Michigan citizens. 

Pictured left are boys assisting with the loading of the water. 

The Jacksonville Youth Academy students also recently visited Sally Corporation.  The company serves amusement parks, attractions, museums, and retail clients worldwide.  They offer complete design/build services from concept to installation, including scripting, audio and music production, props and sets, lighting and special effects, electronics, and project management.  The students got to see behind the scenes animations, robotics, and amusement park rides while testing some unreleased interactive games.  The boys participated in this vocational outing to explore different career opportunities.