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Secretary's Message

October 24, 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 a reminder, don’t forget that I am always looking for opportunities to showcase the work you all 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

JDO Academy Class Visit 

On Friday, Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht and I made a trip out to the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway to meet with the current juvenile justice detention officer class. I shared with this class, like I have done before, the importance of their first interaction with many of the youth that will come into their centers. Our critical mission is about more than just reducing juvenile delinquency, it is about making our communities safer and truly improving the lives of youth and their families. When a child finds himself or herself in secure detention they have made some very poor choices. Juvenile detention officers along with other staff that meet these young people throughout the juvenile justice system have great opportunity to help them make one small change, which could result in significant change in that young person’s life.

The JJDO Academy is an intensive, three-week long training that is mandatory prior to entering the field. Upon graduation, these JJDOs will supervise youth in detention centers as they wait for an appearance before the court or placement in a juvenile residential treatment facility.  

Prevention Update

Last Thursday, I had the privilege to speak at the Office of Prevention and Victim Services headquarters staff meeting in Tallahassee. During the meeting I thanked the team members for their service to the Department as I discussed my experience of working with at-risk youth and the significance of prevention and early intervention in the DJJ continuum of services.

I also talked about how our efforts in prevention and early intervention impact the juvenile justice system as a whole to change the lives of all youth and families and promote public safety within our communities. We touched on the importance of research and data, why evidence-based services are essential to assisting us achieve our goals and the need to address racial and ethnic disparity of youth in the juvenile justice system.

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims attended a fundraiser celebration for the Outward Bound FINS (Families in Need) Program on September 23 at the Scottsmoor Base Camp in Mims. The event provided friends of the program, supporters, and referral sources an opportunity to learn more about the Outward Bound FINS program, a DJJ prevention provider, and the great work that has been done with youth-at-risk over the past 33 years.

One highlight of the event was a presentation by Brandon Tobatto (pictured below), a 2002 graduate of the Outward Bound FINS program who spoke about how the lessons he learned as a 15-year-old helped him to turn his life around and still impact him today. Brandon shared how the unique wilderness aspect of the experience impacted him.

“When you’re out there in the woods, or traveling down the river by canoe, or setting up tents or having long talks with your counselors, you are 100% focused on what’s happening there.  You’re not focusing on hanging out with the wrong crowds.  You’re not focused on misbehaving in school.

“You’re not focused on any of the normal anchors you’re used to and that’s one of the keyelements to this program’s success, I think,” he said. “You have the opportunity to be completely immersed in something away from the noise, so to speak, and if you begin embracing it, you’ll come out of the program a changed person with an entirely refreshed outlook on life.”

Assistant Secretary Sims, spoke passionately about the need for prevention programs and the power that the Outward Bound experience has to impact young lives.  Attendees at the event had the opportunity to tour a mock campsite to see what life is like for students while they are on their Outward Bound FINS course, learn about the history of the program, and get to know each other over a delicious barbecue dinner. The event culminated with the dedication of the Jacob Peach Memorial Trail at the base camp, in honor of FINS alum Jacob Peach, whose family is committed to keep his memory alive through support of the Outward Bound FINS program. 

The Outward Bound FINS Program is a program of the North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS).  NCOBS has been offering challenging outdoor programs for nearly 50 years. Their unique approach of ‘learning by doing’ taught by skilled educators has long made them the leader in outdoor education.

The Outward Bound FINS Program helps teens and their families transition their lives in more meaningful and positive directions.  You can learn more about the Outward Bound FINS program, which serves 12-17 year olds in 14 Florida counties by visiting their website.

Assistant Secretary Sims and the Office of Prevention and Victim Services headquarters staff celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness Month on October 18 by decorating their office and dressing in pink. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer risks, the value of screening and early detection, and treatment options available to women and men who are diagnosed with one of the many forms of breast cancer. More than 249,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer every year, and nearly 41,000 die from the disease.

Assistant Secretary Sims, Budget Director Lucy Swain, Budget Assistant Sharee Thomas and Federal Programs Liaison Diamond Ragin attended a mentoring meet and greet session on September 28 at Pineview Elementary School in Tallahassee. At the event, mentors met with their matched mentees and established desired objectives and outcomes for mentees to achieve during the coming year. DJJ’s Office of Prevention and Victims Services teamed with the STARS Mentoring Academy, a component of the Ernie Sims Big HITS Foundation, and Pineview to participate in a pilot mentoring service.

The STARS Mentoring Academy provides academic enrichment opportunities and mentoring support services during school and non-school hours for deserving children. There are still opportunities available for Direct 1-on-1 mentoring or group mentoring. DJJ is encouraging employees who have the time to make a difference in the lives of young people, to join this program. This is what true prevention looks like!

As a reminder, the State of Florida allows one hour of administrative leave per week (and up to five hours per month) to participate in school or community volunteer activities. What better way to use some administrative leave than to help students learn to appreciate and excel in the classroom?

For more information regarding the mentoring program, please contact Alice Sims at alice.sims@djj.state.fl.us or 850-717-2430.

Probation Update

Representatives from Eckerd’s Project Bridge program met with Title 1 Migrant Coordinator Yvonne Johnson from the Saint Lucie County School Board on October 17 to present several youth with new laptops. These laptops are theirs to keep and have a free one-year warranty. Project Bridge has partnered with the school board to provide these youth with technology at home in an attempt to break down every barrier a youth may experience and works to provide and refer services for their entire family. These laptops will help with assignments while opening up many great resources. The school system also offers discounted internet through Comcast. Project Bridge looks forward to working very closely with the school system to ensure that “all children are capable of success – no exceptions.” 

Eckerd Kids Project Bridge youth in Hillsborough, Manatee and Desoto Counties welcomed fall by decorating pumpkins! Mentors from JLM Records and the University of South Florida came together to paint pumpkins, have life skill discussions and eat pizza. Each Project Bridge youth was paired with a student from the University of South Florida to paint a pumpkin that best represented their interests and/or the Halloween spirit. 

Probation staff in Circuit 12 participated in Sarasota’s Unity Day: Together Against Bullying – United for Kindness, Acceptance and Inclusion. The probation team made a unity tree with positive messages to stand up against bullying. The tree, (shown below), will be displayed in the probation office. Staff members also wore orange to show their support against bullying. 

In the above photo: JPOs Wayne Saunders, Bob Garst, Todd Gurney, Jane Sullivan, Dean Culbertson, Mariana Barboza, Matt Borboa, and John Trieb and JPOSs Terry Evans and Bill Siedlecki 

Reform Specialist Sam Lyons and JPO Orlando Mendonca from Circuit 2 attended the Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) 75th anniversary of the White Cane Safety Day on October 13 on the Florida State University Campus in Tallahassee. White Cane Day is a time to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world. The event featured an education session, business networking opportunities as well as a technology expo. Participants learned about the White Cane Law which requires motorists to stop when a pedestrian carrying a white cane or accompanied by a guide dog is crossing a street.

Circuit 12 probation staff participated in the annual International Coastal Cleanup on October 13 to support the Keep Manatee Beautiful organization. The group covered over three miles of beach on the northern tip of Anna Maria Island in Bradenton picking up trash and recording it all for the national tracking program.

Front Row: JPO Adam Wiegand, JPO Chris Pursino and Adrian Perez.

Second Row:  Reform Specialist Jarrett Ballo, JPO Dennis Chandler, Secretary Specialist Carolyn Hart, JPOS Mitzi Petty and Lindsey Frederick. 

Back row: SJPO Jaime Roberts, JPOS Heather Ferrara & SJPO Kara Brown.

Circuit 17 DJJ staff joined the Broward County Public Schools and its partners as they held a signing ceremony to solidify the collaborative effort to eliminate the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Pipeline. The parties of the agreement resolve to follow the letter and spirit of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to reduce exclusionary disciplinary practices, while implementing prevention and intervention programs for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent or at risk of becoming involved in either the dependency or delinquency systems.

Youth from the Paxen Community Connections in Polk County took a unique tour of the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport to not only be shown the need-to-know steps to boarding a plane (flight check in, checking bags, reading a boarding pass) but also to get a behind-the-scenes tour of how the airport functions. Youth toured the runways, learned what all the lines, lights, and numbers mean on the runway and the roles of the operators in the towers. The guide let our youth get up close and personal with the planes, which for every one of them was a first. They even got to see the airport being prepped by secret service as a presidential candidate was making a visit the following day. Everyone definitely learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of an airport that day but also all the careers that are housed within the aviation field.

Residential Update 

Twenty residents of Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, enjoyed a special outing at the bowling alley at the beginning of the month.  They had a great time and were on their best behavior.  This bowling trip was unique because it included all youth.  The bowling alley has a “Fun Friday” set aside for local schools that want to reward their youth for a great week. 

The Duval Academy boys had hot dogs, fries, and a drink while they enjoyed team building through friendly competition between teams while bowling.  Outings like this one are planned with the help of the Duval Academy Advisory Board.  

Just before Hurricane Matthew, the Board held a meeting to discuss upcoming events and activities.

Pictured below, from top left:  Jamell Greene, Cheryl Houston, Jackie Barletto, Herman McCray, Jessica Dowdell, and David Smith.  Front Row:  Karen Pray, Ms. Richardson, Sharon Vasicek, Herlena Washington, Facility Administrator Albert Chester, and Annie Smith.

The Duval Academy youth also participated in “Open Mic Night,” which is a monthly faith-based event organized by the Duval Academy Advisory Board and the Florida Chapter of The Sassy Seniors and Steppers, Inc.—a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to students.  The youth gain self-confidence while improving their social skills through this team building activity where they dance, eat, and have a great time with members of the Board and the Sassy Seniors and Steppers.

On Aug. 6 and Sept. 18, the residents of the Kissimmee Youth Academy (KYA), a secure program for males, ages 14 to 21, which is operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, LLC (YOI), played in a competitive flag football tournament against the residents of the Brevard Group Treatment Home (BGTH), a non-secure program for males, ages 12 to 15, which is operated by Aspire Health Partners.  The tournament was a collaborative effort by the leadership teams of both provider organizations and both program’s youth advisory groups.  The two-part tournament gave the boys from both programs an opportunity to participate in a competitive environment while practicing sportsmanship and good conduct. 

During the inaugural game on Aug. 6, the young men of BGTH surprised all the spectators by taking the first kickoff to the house for a touchdown while making Steph Curry-like crossover moves on the neatly manicured grass field as shown on the picture to the right.  As others watched in amazement, some KYA defenders dove, reached, and froze.  The young men of BGTH were prepared, worked really well together, and proved that age is just a number as they crushed the KYA players with a score of 28 to 14.

On Sept. 18, KYA Coach Harrison and the youth of KYA huddle up to discuss winning strategy (left).

On Sept. 18, with a new-looking team from the addition of new residents, KYA came back strong with an overwhelming two-game win over the young men of BGTH. 

The young men of BGTH were disappointed but held their heads high and represented their program extremely well.  KYA staff praised the overall behavior of all the boys involved—especially the young men who traveled about 60 miles and were well mannered, despite losing both games.

KYA Staff and Head Coach Neucurth Harrison watches (below right) in amazement as one of the BGTH youth attempts anOdell Beckham-style one-handed snag over three KYA defenders!

KYA and BGTH are looking forward to a continuing sports partnership to help the respective programs’ residents develop sportsmanship and learn teamwork.  Special thanks go to BGTH Program Director Roscoe Griffin, BGTH Assistant Program Director Diwon Barron, BGTH Youth Specialist and Event Photographer Michael Robinson, YOI Florida Director Joseph Nixon, KYA Program Director Sumpter James, and KYA Shift Supervisor Anthony Ervin.   

Detention Update 

Detention Headquarters employees Joe Graham and Paul Britten traveled to the St. Lucie RJDC last week to administer a Youth Movement and Crisis Intervention training for the staff at the facility. The training provided a wonderful opportunity for officers to share best practices and engage in interactive dialogue that will serve to enhance the safe and secure operations at their center.

Thank you to Joe and Paul for keeping our officers up-to-date on their training!

2017 Prudential Productivity Awards

DJJ employees are among the most innovative and creative people in all of state government as they continue to seek more productive ways to perform their jobs more efficiently. I am excited to announce that the 2017 Prudential Productivity Awards, presented by Florida TaxWatch, provides an excellent opportunity to recognize the innovative ideas and resulting cost savings accomplished by enterprising DJJ employees.

Nominations are now open and forms for the 2017 Productivity Awards can be accessed at http://ppa.floridataxwatch.org/. Please take a few moments today to review the application and instructions and nominate a deserving DJJ employee or team of employees.

Last year, our agency received a total of three Prudential Productivity Awards across several different program areas. Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes, so don’t hesitate to look over the award criteria and decide what you or your team has done to make our agency run more efficiently. 

Nominations can be downloaded and completed off-line prior to submitting an on-line nomination. The site opens October 1 and will close on November 15, 2016. To ensure that all nominations are accurate and properly reviewed, DJJ will not approve nominations submitted after November 8, 2016 at 5:00 p.m.  No new nominations will be accepted after that time.

Nomination packets and questions regarding nominations should be directed to Patrick Fargason at Patrick.Fargason@djj.state.fl.us or 850-717-2712. 

The annual Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign (FSECC) is now officially underway and the FSECC’s online giving system is open!  

In recent years, the campaign administrators have taken several approaches to reduce the administrative costs needed to run the FSECC. The campaign’s administrative costs have been reduced by more than 50 percent through additional operational changes that improve the expense-to-donation ratio. 

As a part of the effort to lower campaign costs and to increase the amount of funds distributed to participating charities, this year’s campaign will focus on raising funds through payroll deductions only.

Please visit the Giving Nexus page to make your pledge today. For more information on how to use the online pledge tool, click here.

Pledging is easy and is open to all state employees. The online pledge system will close on November 6. You can also find charity information and much more by visiting the FSECC website at: www.fsecc.com.