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Secretary's Message

June 27, 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

DJJ Employee Attends 22nd Annual TAPS Program

Over Memorial Day, GOC II Tiffany Baylor from the Bureau of Contract Management attended the 22nd Annual National Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) event in Washington, D.C. This event gave participates the opportunity to honor America's military fallen and their families. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) offers compassionate care to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in our Armed Forces. Since 1994, TAPS has provided comfort and hope 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a national peer support network and connection to grief resources, all at no cost to surviving families and loved ones.

The kids participated in a balloon release at Ronald Reagan International Airport where they released letters to their loved ones in a helium filled balloon. The youth took part in a tour of the Pentagon, listened to the Armed Forces Parade Band, and attended President Obama’s Arlington Cemetery Address. The youth had a chance to reflect and honor their loved one while learning coping skills that will help them to face the days ahead. Tiffany said that the training she learned here at DJJ helped to negotiate the various stages of grief, which the children were struggling through.  

Human Trafficking Update

Last week, Human Trafficking Director, Bethany Gilot, had the opportunity to present at the Freedom 7 Human Trafficking Task Force Meeting in Bunnell, Florida. Bethany presented an update on what the Department is doing to address human trafficking. Bethany enjoyed the opportunity to present and is excited to see task forces throughout the state continuing to impact their local communities.

Bethany also had the opportunity to train the north region PACE Centers for Girls on the Human Trafficking Screening Tool.  This is the final training in an effort to train all PACE Centers throughout the state. PACE plans to begin using the HTST statewide later on this summer.  They will be another great asset in ensuring we are doing all we can to identify human trafficking victims in the state of Florida. 

Detention Update

I am pleased to announce that Kevin Housel has been named the new south region director for the Office of Detention Services effective June 24. Kevin came to DJJ back in 1999 where he supervised home detention and electronic monitoring at the Orange RJDC. In 2004, he had worked his way up to becoming the superintendent at the St. Lucie RJDC. During his time with DJJ, Kevin has served as superintendent or acting superintendent at nine facilities state wide. He looks forward to working with stakeholders and staff as he returns to the South Region. On behalf of the entire agency I would like to congratulate Kevin on his new position! 

The Office of Detention Services from the Central Region recently conducted their second employee focus group. The focus group was held at Pasco Regional Juvenile Detention Center where staff enjoyed taking a tour of the facility to experience a different facility and how their daily activities are conducted. The members of the focus group were tasked with bringing information from their co-workers in order to enhance communication, operations, and promote officer relations.

Here is another adorable picture from the Pasco RJDC as one of the first therapy dogs, Felipe, came out to meet one of the puppies from the new litter that arrived on June 21. The two were caught eyeballing each other in treatment team with the youth. 

Juvenile Justice Officer Academy Graduation

Congratulations to the newest juvenile justice detention officers (JDO) at Valencia Community College who graduated Friday, June 24, 2016.  The detention officers will supervise youth in detention centers as they await an appearance before the court or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility.  Thanks to Roosevelt Butler, assistant superintendent for Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center, for delivering the graduation address for the JDO graduation. Kudos to Learning Consultants Bernard Smith and Kiva Hagans 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):  Bernard Huggins (Volusia), Kutina McLeod-Thomas (Orange), Joshua Harrell (Pasco)

2nd Row: Ira Allen (Brevard), David Sabo (Volusia)

3rd Row: Thomas Neumann (Orange), Kanesha King (Brevard), Warren Wilson (Volusia)

4th Row: Kenneth Reyes (Brevard), Keira Adams (Brevard), Neal Whittleton (Orange)

5th Row: Alex Thulin (Orange), Brian Turner (Orange), Dwight Peat (Pasco)

6th Row: Mildred Vargas (Orange), Christopher Holland (Orange), Charles Lancaster (Orange)

Back Row:  Linda Nazario Rios (Pasco), Amber Lake (Pasco), Candice Fitzwater (Brevard)

Education Update

The educators from the AMIkids Miami North facility have been constantly working towards providing positive reinforcements and motivation for those students who are excelling academically and to encourage students who are earning only satisfactory or failing grades.

Recently, AMI rewarded twelve students who earned all A’s, B’s and C’s with a taco night. One student who received all A’s and B’s was awarded with shrimp tacos, while the other 11 received ground turkey tacos.  These simple acts of appreciation for their efforts help to keep them motivated and feel more valued for the one component of the program that allows them to excel upon successful completion of the program.

The education program from the PACE Center for Girls of Palm Beach County is proud to highlight student Akereya Wilson. Since entering the PACE program, Akereya has been a dedicated and self-motivated student, as well as a support and advocate for her peers. It has been an absolute joy to witness her growth academically and personally while at PACE. Akereya first came to PACE as an academically underachieving teen mother who struggled to complete her classes. She was 16 years old with few credits completed.

Through academic support and counseling services, Akereya’s confidence and motivation improved and she now has completed 11 high school credits here at PACE while also pursuing college credits at Palm Beach State College through the dual enrollment program. Akereya is successfully completing PACE Center for Girls and will begin early admission at Palm Beach State College in summer of 2016. Akereya has goals of graduating high school and going to Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Pharmacy to become a pharmacist.  PACE wants to acknowledge her for all her hard work and dedication while in this program.  We look for continued success in her life. 

Prevention Update

DJJ State Advisory Group member and Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones received the Advocate, Reform and Change (ARC) Award from the Center for Children’s Law and Policy on June 9 in Washington, D.C. Chief Jones was selected for the results the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) has had since the creation of the Disproportionate Minority Contact Initiative in 2012. Last year, GPD saw almost a 50 percent reduction of young people arrested in the City of Gainesville.

Chief Jones was awarded during the group’s 10th anniversary celebration, marking a decade of work to reduce unnecessary incarceration of young people, ensure humane conditions in juvenile facilities and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system. During the event, the group honored three people who have shown exceptional dedication to juvenile justice reform with the ARC award. Recipients were chosen for challenging the status quo and making reforms that improve the lives of young people and families involved with the juvenile justice system.

Youth Paula C., a student from the PACE Center for Girls of Pasco County, received a scholarship for future education from the New Port Richey Rotary Club on May 25. Rotary Club member Craig Edwards visited the PACE Center to present the $500 check to Paula. After graduating from high school in June, Paula plans to attend Pasco Hernando State College.  The New Port Richey Rotary Club has been a significant supporter of PACE, and the PACE team is grateful for all they do for the PACE girls.

In the above photo Paula proudly holds her $500 scholarship that she received from Craig Edwards of the New Port Richey Rotary Club.

Deputy Manager for Prevention Marcus Smith attended the 4th annual Family Fun Day sponsored by Living Stones International (LSI) on June 18 at the Walker Ford Community Center in Tallahassee. Marcus delivered opening remarks and the keynote address was delivered by Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson. During the festivities, one area youth received a check for $540 to assist with college expenses. “Our Family Reunion” was the theme of the 2016 LSI Family Fun Day. This was a time for children and families to share food, fun and fellowship while enjoying games, clowns, music performances, face painting and more.   

LSI is a children and family outreach organization that hosts bonding visits between children and their incarcerated parents. Living Stones also offers after school tutoring program, and mentoring.  In 2007, LSI was established as a faith-based children and family outreach and social service organization working with "children of inmates and their families."  LSI's programs and services teach fathers and mothers how to be better parents and more active in their children's life; offer children of inmates the tools to overcome obstacles and prevent them from following in their incarcerated parent's footsteps; and advocate on behalf of families to our community and government officials.  

In the above photo (from left to right): Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, Pastor Gary Montgomery, Josephine Gamboa-Montgomery and Marcus Smith. 

Residential Update

Charles Britt Academy (CBA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, LLC, recently received a graduation invitation from youth R.H. who is a former resident at the program.  Attached to the graduation invitation, he wrote a personal letter thanking the staff for helping him turn his life around.  When his name was called at his high school’s ceremony, staff hooted and hollered to show their support!  The staff were honored to share this special moment with him and his family and were extremely proud of all of his accomplishments.

Residents from CBA recently were invited to attend a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game.  The Ray’s players spoke with the boys about the importance of making positive decisions and the rewards for doing what is right.  A special thanks goes to Pinellas County School Board’s Michelle Poole for organizing this event with CBA and the Tampa Bay Rays.  

Additionally, CBA recently honored its second set of graduates who completed the C-Tech Program.  C-Tech is a telecommunication course that provides a certification to the residents, which can help them land jobs at major businesses like Best Buy, Bright House, and Verizon.  The students were treated to pizza and video games at a local restaurant.  Continued thanks goes to the Pinellas County School Board for organizing this course and providing this wonderful opportunity to the boys.

Walton Youth Development Center (WYDC), a high-risk program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, recently honored its 5 graduates who earned either their high school diploma or their GED.  

The residents at WYDC were also recently treated to a fun weekend that included inflatable water slides to celebrate their hard work that they have put in throughout the year while in the program and at school.  

Three students at WYDC wanted to give back to the program by offering to plant trees and bushes in the front area of the facility.  Lead Maintenance Technician Mr. Michael Glaser reached out to local businesses for donations to assist with making the project happen.  They not only received several plants, but they also had a sprinkler system donated.  Within the newly landscaped area, the three boys also decided that they wanted to include a memorial stone in memory of former staff member Bert Radford who passed away while employed at the program.

The residents at Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 17, which is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., recently had the opportunity to go on an educational field trip to the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve.  This hands-on learning experience started out with teaching the campers about estuaries and their important role that they play within the environment.  Then, they learned about marine life that is dependent on the estuary, and specifically about the symbiotic relationship between oysters and marine life.  They were able to break apart oyster clusters to see what lives inside them.  The campers then enjoyed a picnic lunch by the bay.  After, they toured the aquarium and the specimen room to learn more about various types of marine life.  Finally, the day ended with a visit to the shore to observe all the sea creatures about which they just learned.

Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, age 14 to 18, which is operated by Youth Services International, LLC, recently had several residents attend the “Soldier Boy Social” hosted by the Duval Academy Advisory Board and the U.S. Navy.  The students had the opportunity to learn about military life and socialize, over a meal, with active duty men and women who are a part of the U.S. Navy.

Probation Update 

I would like to congratulate Ms. Catherine Bens who was recently recognized as the Circuit 15 probation employee of the month for the month of May. Ms. Bens, who was nominated by her co-workers and supervisory staff, is an extraordinary hard worker and consistently goes above and beyond to ensure that her tasks are completed within the required time frame. I would like to thank her so much for her service and congratulate her on this well-deserved honor.

Circuit 7 SJPO Donna Easterling was recently honored with a Certificate of Appreciation by the African-American Mentoring Program (AAMP) for Girls in Palm Coast. Donna was recognized for all the time and effort she donates to mentor to these young women.

AAMP mentors focus on providing one-on-one support and guidance to these girls, in addition to the support they get from family members.  The mentors provide the girls with “real life skills” which include helping apply for scholarships, creating resumes and writing essays.

The Panama City Marine Institute run by AMIkids in Circuit 14 recently welcomed 50 non-commissioned officers (NCO’s) from Tyndall Air Force to the facility to work on several improvement projects. These NCO’s helped with renovations to the career success center, the dock, the lawn shed, a new deck near the Rotary Science Lab and a gazebo near the sail training beach. All of these officers were highly motivated and dedicated to help make PCMI a better place for the kids. 

Probation staff from Circuit 18 partnered with the Titusville Pilot Club to take part in a community service project benefiting CapsOfLove. CapsOfLove is a non-profit organization that recycles plastic cups and lids of all sizes. The plastic is then sold and the proceeds go to provide wheelchairs for needy handicapped children up to age 21. CapsOfLove began back in 2014 and as of February of this year they have already donated 27 wheelchairs for those in need. Circuit 18 recently obtained approval for our youth to earn community service hours to come help sort through the caps. Their first collection effort resulted in two 15 pound totes of plastic caps. Staff members are dedicated to increasing participation for this charity and they challenge our other circuits to get involved as well. 

Probation staff from Circuit 15 has partnered with the Children’s Services Council and the School District of Palm Beach County to create a summer academy for 15 students attending Palm Beach Lakes High School (PBLHS) from June 6 – July 14. The academy was originally created by JPO Steven Miller three years ago for those students who were currently on probation at PBLHS. However, this year the Children Services Council donated $6000 to the academy so that student could partake in a mentoring and personal enrichment program. These sessions include enhanced life skills, leadership skill building, chess tutorials and weekly field trips.

Reform Specialist Shirlon McCarty was a key player in this endeavor as she finalized the budget proposals, secured the afternoon meals and planned the morning and afternoon transport schedules. This enhanced Summer Academy allows each participating youth an opportunity to advance academically, learn new skill sets and have a way to positively occupy their time from 8:00am until 5:00pm Monday through Thursday. I would also like to thank SJPO Frank Grant and JPO Kyle Marks who assisted with the academy during the first week and will continue to provide additional support as needed.