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Secretary's Message

July 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.  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

Estella’s Brilliant Bus Tour     


On Thursday, I was excited to meet with kids and chaperones from Estella’s Brilliant Bus for a tour of the Capitol.  Accompanying me on the Capitol tour were Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Legislative Affairs Director Meredith Stanfield, Deputy Legislative Affairs Director Jon Conley, Prevention Deputy Manager Marcus Smith and Special Projects Administrator Eugene Morris. The brainchild of Quincy native and FAMU graduate Estella Pyfrom, Estella’s Brilliant Bus is a customized learning center designed to travel to communities and deliver services to children and families in under-served areas to provide educational training and access to technology.

The Capitol tour was part of the organization’s 2016 Brilliant Minds Tech Innovation Bus Tour, which brought together 20 students from different geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds and provided them the opportunity to visit and tour multiple cities, participate in interactive workshops, and engage in conversations about working in a 21st century innovative economy.  During the Capitol tour, I welcomed the group and brought them inside the Governor’s Office. Next, they had a visit with State Representative Alan Williams overlooking the House Chambers, and then met with Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on the 22nd floor Observation Deck.

It was a fun visit and we were so happy to be able to facilitate this tour of the Capitol for this great group of kids and adults. I would like to send a special thanks to Representative Williams and Executive Director Proctor for taking the time to visit with the group and to the DJJ team members who helped make it possible! 

Florida Sheriff’s Association Summer Conference 

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Florida Sheriffs Association’s Summer Conference in Orlando. I was able to share recent accomplishments regarding civil citation, address shared challenges of both DJJ and law enforcement, and the importance of our continued collaboration to address these issues.

I want to thank the Florida Sheriffs Association for allowing me to speak at the conference and for their partnership with our Department. More importantly, I would like to thank our sheriffs and all members of law enforcement for putting their lives on the line every day to protect and serve our citizens and our communities. 

Big Hits Foundation 9th Annual Football and Cheer Camp

On July 8th, Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and I were excited to take part in the opening ceremonies for Ernie Sims Big Hits Foundation’s 9th Annual Football and Cheer Camp at Springsax Park in Tallahassee. Organized by our own Assistant Secretary for Prevention Services Alice Sims, over 450 boys and girls, ages 6-16, participated in the free camp which highlighted sportsmanship, teamwork, discipline, fitness and sports skills.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and other city and county officials delivered opening remarks and the Tallahassee Fire Department gave the youth a great treat by providing a cool and refreshing water sprinkler with one of the fire apparatus tankers.

Current Florida State University (FSU) football players and cheerleaders participated and worked with the youth.  FSU football greats such as Charlie Ward, Dexter Carter, Leroy Smith, Geno Hayes and Sam McGrew also provided hands on athletic experience for the youth.

 Florida Faith Symposium

Registration is now open for the 2016 Florida Faith Symposium!

The seventh annual Florida Faith Symposium will be held November 2-3, 2016, at the Wyndham Orlando Resort in Orlando. The Faith Symposium connects conference attendees to resources, best practices, and training to enhance faith and community-based programs that serve youth and struggling families.

This event is hosted by the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, in partnership with the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council and other statewide partners. Throughout the conference, there will be more than 35 educational sessions and exhibit booths.

You can register here to take advantage of the early bird special! 

Detention Update

The Orange RJDC welcomed the youth choir known as “Testify,” to the facility last week. Testify is a non-denominational choir comprised of 7-12 graders whose mission is to provide a Christian choreographed and musical drama to as many venues as possible. While Testify sings in many churches, their passion is to sing in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and especially juvenile detention centers. The youth who attended the Testify concert were moved by what they saw and heard. 

Last week the St. Lucie RJDC hosted a birthday celebration for those employees who celebrated a birthday in the month of June. Those employees include: JJDOII Junior Edouard, JJDOII Michael Jackson, JJDOII Scott Wilson, JJDOS Johnnie Gamble, JJDOI Cameron Knight, JJDOII Pamela Reddick, and contracted provider staff members Heather Dileo, Medical, Barbra Wilson, FSD and Jennifer Doak, Medical. 

Probation Update 

Last week, the Child Development Institute (CDI), under the direction of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, conducted SNAP for Girls facilitator training in Jacksonville. Prior to and following the training, they also conducted a ‘train the trainer’ session to add additional facilitator trainers for Boy’s and Girl’s groups. 

Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney and Special Projects Coordinator Ryan Egg from Circuit 13 joined with Program Manager Curtis Campogni, Transition Coordinator Alysia Franks, GED Instructor Victoria Seavey, and Support Specialist Irina Paul from Eckerd’s Project Bridge to help celebrate the discharge of youth I.M. from Project Bridge. Youth I.M. is the first direct discharged youth from Circuit 13 to successfully complete the Project Bridge program. I.M. was recently released from his residential program and voluntarily participated in Project Bridge. During that time, he received his GED and is working at Adventure Island in Tampa with plans to pursue a degree at Hillsborough Community College. On behalf of the Department, I would like to congratulate I.M. on a job well done!   

I am pleased to share the following letter that was written by the mother of youth S.B. to Circuit 12 SJPO Pam Parenti. SJPO Parenti  went above and beyond for S.B., who was involved in human trafficking and was heavily into drugs. While on probation, S.B. was in multiple inpatient placements and despite that challenge SJPO Parenti steadfastly provided the right service at the right time to this youth. The letter reads:

Hi Pam, 

Thank you so much for that e-mail and all that you have done to help my daughter.  Judge Brownell and the JPO's are special people - they have to appear tough, but deep down they truly care about the kids - otherwise they would not do the job they do!  It also helped me feel like there was help out there for me - support for getting her through this tough time.  Maybe she doesn't look like a success, but she might surprise us.  I will let S.B. know what you said and hopefully she can contact you with her success story in the not too distant future.

Congratulations to Circuit 9 JPO Irma Melendez who was awarded the Medal of Merit from Orange County Sheriff Jerry Deming. Irma received this tremendous honor for her actions during a February 19 incident while confronting a juvenile with Orange County Deputy Sargent Marcy Pearce. During the altercation, Pearce sustained serious injuries and that is when Irma stepped into action. She was able to call for assistance, give a description of the youth offender, and provide medical attention to Sargent Pierce until help arrived on the scene. Irma’s quick thinking and courageous actions reflect highly on her character, and I want to congratulate her again on this well-deserved honor!  

In recent months, Circuit 18 JPO Candy Haddix was diagnosed with an illness that robbed her of her hearing. The illness was so severe that her ability to hear was consumed by silence in just a six hour period. With the help of doctors and modern technology, Candy resumed her duties as a commitment specialist through the use of cochlear implants and a caption phone and she’s now back in the business of committing youth to residential programs.  

When she is asked by her youth clients about her hearing impairment, Candy never hesitates to take the opportunity to use it as a teachable moment, as an example of triumph over hardship, and how that can influence the lives of the youth we serve. Shown right is a letter Candy received from one of her committed youth from the Hastings facility and shows just how her story impacted him. The youth said, “I should not [take life for granted] because you never know when or how your life could change at any moment.” 

The Success Thru Empowerment Program (STEP) in Circuit 16 continues to grow by leaps and bounds as the group met for their third session on July 9 at the Bethel AME church in Key West.

The STEP meeting was centered on crime and consequences and featured a presentation from Key West Chief of Police Donnie Lee. Many of our DJJ staff members were on hand to assist during the meeting. I would again like to thank Reverend Antonio Magwood and his wife Tracy for hosting this great event!  

For four long and grueling days, more than 200 at-risk youth from across the nation converged on the campus of South Carolina State University – challenging themselves physically, mentally and emotionally as they competed against one another during the 2016 AMIkids Summer Challenge Event. From as far away as Cuba, to as close by as Beaufort, South Carolina, these kids were ready and eager to take on the challenges head on, having earned highly coveted spots on their teams for their achievements in and outside of the classroom.

From Day One’s Creative Writing Competition and Spelling Bee Challenge to Day Four’s Volleyball Tournament and Tug-O-War Contest, 16 teams consisting of students from AMIkids nonresidential and residential programs in Florida, New Mexico, and South Carolina battled it out to gain bragging rights, medals and trophies from each of the day’s competitions. Kids competed in such other activities as Track & Field, Swimming, Science Fair, Speech, Academic Quiz Bowl, Marlinspike and First Aid.

Program Accountability Update

Last week, I was happy to join the Programming and Technical Assistance Unit as they held their LifeSkills Training (LST) facilitator training at DJJ Headquarters. These facilitators learned teaching techniques that will be crucial for running LST groups for youth in their programs. Lindsay Wahila is a therapist and Tereatha (Ms. T) Robinson is a case manager at the JUST program and their goal is to implement this curriculum with the younger youth at the program.  Charles Mason and Vonshell Vann are both case managers at Okaloosa Youth Development Center and they plan to run LST groups for the High Risk youth and BDD youth on the weekends. 

Pictured above: (left to right:  Sandra Johnson (DJJ Technical Assistance Specialist), Secretary Daly, Tereatha Robinson, Lindsay Wahila, Charles Mason, and Vonshell Vann.

Residential Update

Recently, a graduation ceremony was held to recognize six residents of Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility, a high-risk program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC. Four of the boys earned high school diplomas and two earned the GED®.  Their parents, along with Volusia County School Board Principal Jerry Picott and Chief Academic Officer Teresa Marcks, were present during the ceremony to congratulate the students on all of their accomplishments.

Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center, a maximum-risk program for boys, ages 13 to 21, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently held a special event, which included a water slide for the boys to play on as well as a dunk tank that gave them the chance to dunk program administrators!  Following the water day, they enjoyed hamburgers, hotdogs, snow cones, and various other snacks together.

Fort Myers Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 12 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently welcomed 42 family members and loved ones to the quarterly family day event to celebrate the students’ and families’ achievements over the past several months.  The staff organized various games and activities for the loved ones and their children to enjoy. 

To celebrate Independence Day, the residents of Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Facility and Gulf Academy, both non-secure programs for boys, ages 13 to 19 and 12 to 19, respectively, which are both operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, enjoyed a day of fun that included a waterslide and a bounce house. Following the outdoor activities, the residents were treated to an ice cream party.