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Secretary's Message

December 12, 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

Remember FJJF when you shop Amazon

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) teamed up with Amazon Smile last year to provide a convenient and philanthropic way for you to support FJJF every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop through AmazonSmile at http://smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 5% of the purchase price to FJJF.  Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations.

Simply go to smile.amazon.com anytime you want to make a purchase on Amazon and search “Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation” in the search box as your charity. The proceeds from your purchase will come to FJJF and benefit our children who are in need. Add a bookmark to smile.amazon.com to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.  It’s convenient, charitable and the perfect way to shop for the upcoming holidays.  Thank you for supporting an important cause and making a difference in the lives of our youth! 

Probation Update

On December 7th, 2016, the 4th annual Holiday, Family, Food, and Fellowship Dinner was held at Jacob Chapel in Tallahassee. This year’s partners were Living Stones International, New Birth Tabernacle of Praise, Jacob Chapel, New Salem in the Faith Dance, Elle Belle Photography, Toys for Tots, and DJJ.

Over 300 people from Leon County came together to celebrate faith, fellowship, and family. This amazing event was initially born because of the high number of children in the circuit who had either one or both of their parents incarcerated. We wanted to provide the children and their caregivers a small period of time where they were able to break bread together, spend time as a family, and experience celebration during the holidays. For many, this event marked the only time a family dinner would be held and the toys given, the only ones received. From that very first dinner, we have outgrown two buildings, expanded our amazing partnerships, and have consistently exceeded prior years’ expectations.

A heartfelt thanks to all of the partners listed above and to the many DJJ employees from the offices of Probation and Community Intervention, Research and Data Integrity, Detention Services, Residential Services, and Prevention & Victim Services that came to celebrate OUR amazing families. Watching the families pray, laugh, sing, complete crafts, and eat together is truly the reason why we do what do and are the agency we are. 

The Circuit 7 probation office is pleased to announce that JPOS Zemetria Anderson from the juvenile assessment center has been named Employee of the Quarter for the 3rd quarter of 2016. Anderson was chosen for her exemplary job performance, specifically for her service during Hurricane Matthew back in October. She was the only one who volunteered to stay at the Volusia-Flagler-St. Johns call center and stayed on duty for 24 hours. Anderson was on board to respond to all calls from law enforcement and other necessary duties during this situation, and we thank her for her ongoing commitment to the youth we serve. 

Left to right: JPOS Hester, ACPO Merrithew, JPOS Anderson, and Chief Kerr.

Circuit 13 Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney and Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts participated in the ALL Children are OUR Children State Summit at Tampa’s Middleton High School on December 3. Sandra and Theda set up a DJJ table to provide information to the guests in attendance. The summit consisted of PTA and PTSA leaders from around the state as to how to better support the state’s most vulnerable students and their families. 

Circuit 16 Reform Specialist Elaine Thompson attended a “Lead & Seed” training provided by Alutiiq, LLC and sponsored by the Monroe County Coalition. The four-day training hosted nine individuals including two pastors from the Circuit 16 DJJ Faith Network.  Each participant became a certified Lead & Seed instructor for the state of Florida.

Lead & Seed is a youth-empowered, environmental approach to preventing and reducing alcohol consumption, teen tobacco use, drug use and prescription drug misuse in a community. SAMHSA, (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration), has placed a strong emphasis on communities working to change the physical, legal, economic and social environment in which they live, work and play. The Lead and Seed school-to-community outreach program addresses that mission. The Circuit 16 probation office is looking to start a Lead & Seed group in Marathon early next year. 

Prevention Update 

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims served as the keynote speaker for the 2nd Annual Bay County Youth Crime Prevention Summit in Panama City. During her address, Assistant Secretary Sims gave the students a mantra and motto for success: “Be Dedicated, Determined, and Disciplined and make No Excuses.” Sims, who worked her way up the agency ladder, shared experiences with the teens from her successful track career at Florida State University where she was a 7-time All American sprinter.

“Stay in your lane,” Sims said. “If you stay in your lane, you will not be disqualified.” Prior to hearing the morning keynote address from Sims, the teens were greeted by leaders who each affirmed their belief in the youth.

Sims’ address was heard by the approximately 150 teenagers from Bay District Middle and High School students who attended the summit at Gulf Coast State College. The event was sponsored by the LEAD Coalition of Bay County, Inc., in partnership with Bay District Schools, Gulf Coast State College, DJJ, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, the Panama City Police Department, and Centennial Bank. The day-long event included speeches, a documentary, and an interactive crime prevention workshop.

The teenagers from schools serving the high-crime, high-poverty neighborhoods in Panama City, heard from local and state leaders, learned about the dangers of opiate abuse, toured the campus and interacted with law enforcement officials. At the end of the summit, more Panama City teenagers believed that their community cared, that they could succeed in life and were more comfortable interacting with law enforcement as indicated on the pre- and post-assessments for the event.

In the above photo: Janice Lucas (left), LEAD Coalition Executive Director and Alice Sims

Former student Irma Lopez from the PACE Center for Girls-Collier at Immokalee recently spoke about her school history at the Trauma-Informed Approaches in School: Supporting Girls of Color and Rethinking Discipline Conference in Washington, D.C.

Irma was joined by four students from other states as they shared their experiences related to trauma and school behavior.  The girls were the focus of the morning plenary session at The White House.

PACE Collier is very proud of Irma’s strength and bravery.  She shared her story with a room full of strangers and did an amazing job! 

In the above photo, PACE Collier Executive Director Marianne Kearns (left) and Irma Lopez.

State and Federal Director Eugene Morris spoke to students at Dunedin Middle School on November 16 during the 21st annual Duke Energy Great American Teach-In event.

This event invites members of the community into Pinellas County schools for an hour, a few class periods, or the entire school day to share with students details of their career or hobby, teach a class, organize an activity, or simply read a story. An array of professionals including police officers, scuba divers, members of the military, sheriff’s deputies, veterinarians and others participated in this year’s event.

Eugene addressed youth about the value of education, bullying, staying in school and out of trouble, and the importance of following instruction from teachers, parents and other authority figures. 

Detention Update

Joe Graham and Paul Britten from the Office of Detention Services held Youth Movement and Crisis Intervention Training last week at the Volusia RJDC.

This training serves to reiterate to all officers the importance of preventing issues from occurring by being diligent in their supervision, as well as focusing efforts on preventing youth from exhibiting behaviors that place themselves or others at risk.  By identifying and interrupting inappropriate behaviors youth will be afforded the opportunity to develop better coping skills.  

Secretary Specialist Maria Carroll from the Volusia RJDC took the time out her busy schedule to decorate the lobby at the facility for the Christmas season. She provided the Christmas tree and all of the decorations which brings a warm and welcome addition to the visitors to the detention center. 

The Teens Assisting Puppies (TAPS) program from the Alachua RJDC recently received two new adorable puppies just in time to spread some holiday cheer. These pups will live at the facility where our teens will care for them until they are ready to be adopted. These puppies were graciously donated by the Pixel Fund and they give our youth the opportunity to receive valuable pet therapy while housed in our facility.  Please visit the Pixel Fund website if you or someone you know is interested in adoption. 

Residential Update

Executive Director Cedric Cliatt invited Larry Carter, from the Larry Carter Group, to speak to the residents of the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth (MCPG), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by AMIkids, Inc.  Mr. Carter, a retired police officer, provided a forum for the youth to talk about violence, diversity, safety, and more.  The open and honest discussion with the students focused particularly on relationships with the police in their communities, the law, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and the rights of each youth.

During a quick walk through of the MCPG classrooms, Mr. Cliatt found the students taking advantage of “Study Buddy,” which is a console system that allows the students to review and study GED® practice exams for English, math, social studies, and science. The console also is used to research information in life skills class.  Students of MCPG also were working diligently on their Florida Virtual School studies on the classroom computers (shown left). 

The students are also learning basic skills in science and math right now.  In Florida, the time to plant is in the fall when the sun isn't as harsh as it is in the summer. 

The students sprouted seeds, held presentations about the life cycle of a plant, and learned about what a plant needs to grow.  Later, the students will observe how weather affects plants; how gardeners cope with plant problems; how soil, water and sunshine interact; and how butterflies and other insects play important roles in plant propagation.

Youth from MCPG also learn a great deal from their outdoor excursions.  They recently participated in the AMIkids White Water Rafting Challenge in the North Carolina Nantahala National Forest. 

The MCPG youth connected with students from other states to learn outdoor skills while also improving their skills in leadership, communication, and teamwork.  It was a week of character building through activities that included repelling from cliffs, fishing, tent camping, and white water rafting.

Jon Andrews and Robert Tummey from the Coventry University School of Mental Health Nursing in the United Kingdom, flew across the pond to visit with team members from Orange Youth Academy (OYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC.  They met to discuss the possibilities of entering an agreement between G4S and the Coventry University, School of Health that would involve an annual five-days on-site learning opportunity for mental health nursing students to broaden the scope of their therapy exposures and therapy interventions through observation.  Specifically, the agreement provides an opportunity for Coventry University mental health nursing students to observe the practices of mental health staff who provide a full spectrum of services to the youth in a juvenile justice residential commitment program.  The observations would include assessments, treatment team meetings, mental health groups, and treatment planning.

Pictured (left to right): OYA Facility Administrator Ryan Montgomery, Robert Tummey and Jon Andrews (Coventry University), DJJ Residential Services Management Review Specialist Monica Webb, (center) Director of Intern and Volunteer Services G4S Corporate Office Cindy Lane, Orange Youth Academy Health Services Administrator Elaine Witter, Orange Youth Academy Interim Clinical Director Elizabeth Byars, and Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center Facility Administrator Calvetti Pate.

The Vocational Program at Youth Environmental Services (YES), a non-secure program for males, ages 15 to 18, which is operated by AMIkids, Inc., recently participated in a presentation via video-conferencing with the corporate office on the topics of carpentry, information technology, and job placements.  Presentations included instructors and students who discussed the components of the inside of a computer and the steps in breaking one down and setting one up; safety equipment for carpentry and some of the carpentry projects that will roll out in the coming months; and job interviews, job placements and experiences of working in the field.  The YES program is very proud of the young men who are involved in the program and excited about their continued successes.

Carpentry Instructor Garret Russel teaches the young men core carpentry through NCCER—the National Center for Construction and Educational Research.  Carpentry students, R.L. and C.H. worked together to build a shoe rack for their dorms.  The boys work hands on, while simultaneously earning credit towards their industry-recognized certification through Carpentry Vocational Program.  They enjoy learning and developing carpentry skills that will contribute to building bright futures when they transition home.

Carpentry students R.L., J.R., and C.H. worked together building Adirondack chairs for the program’s holiday banquet and fundraiser.  They applied the skills they are learned in the NCCER vocational program to produce Adirondack chairs, coffee tables, end tables, and iPhone sound amplifiers.  The young men have shown incredible ability to use their minds and hands in problem solving while increasing their knowledge in the NCCER carpentry trade.  

On a recent Friday, Enrique Garcia, YES executive director, had the unpleasant experience of his laptop dying first thing in the morning.  After a momentary freak out, he called IT Instructor Anthony Ellis.  In response, Mr. Ellis was accompanied by IT student T.H. and the two assessed the problem.

With the direction and coaching from Mr. Ellis, T.H. disassembled the laptop and discovered that some RAM chips had separated from the motherboard, which he was able to re-attach.

“I have to admit, I was sitting at the edge of my seat watching [him] and Mr. Ellis take my laptop apart, while pulling chips and bits from the motherboard.  After they put all of the parts together and powered it up, I was excited to see the screen power on and the laptop was running perfectly!” Mr. Garcia exclaimed.  

Hard work and consistent good behavior pays off in the YES program.  Recently, a group of youths were able to participate in an off-campus trip to Fun Spot in Orlando because of their exceptional behavior and academic performance.