Welcome to the new DJJ Website!
Find out how to use the new site.

Secretary's Message

March 27, 2017

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

PACE Day at the Florida Capitol

Last Wednesday, I was honored to join stakeholders and PACE girls from around the state for the annual PACE Center for Girls Day at the Florida Capitol. This day highlights the history and accomplishments of the PACE Center for Girls, including the thousands of girls and young women who have been aided by PACE’s unique blend of girl-centered culture. The day opened up with a kickoff rally on the 22nd floor of the Florida Capitol as PACE President and CEO Mary Marx welcomed the girls, PACE staff, board members, volunteers and guests.

After President Marx’s introduction I had the honor of speaking about the importance of prevention and gender-specific services. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to read aloud Governor Rick Scott’s proclamation that declared March 2017 as Believing in Girls Month. Gov. Scott wrote, “PACE Center for Girls is instrumental in helping promote a better future through a caring community that believes in their value.”

With 19 non-residential centers in Florida, PACE provides a safe environment where middle and high school aged girls can thrive. Their balanced emphasis on academics and social services is combined with a program model to produce an experience that is nationally recognized as one of the most effective programs for helping at-risk girls realize brighter and more productive futures. Over the past 31 years, PACE has transformed the lives of more than 39,000 at-risk girls.

Pictured above (from left to right): Mary Marx, myself and PACE girl, Kat.

Children and Youth Cabinet Meeting

Last Monday, Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht attended the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet meeting at the Capitol. The meeting began with a presentation from Dr. Amy Wetherby, director of the Autism Institute in the College of Medicine at Florida State University. In addition, agency leaders including Chief of Staff Schuknecht provided an overview of their respective agency’s legislative and budget priorities for the current legislative session. The Children and Youth Cabinet looks to ensure that all children in Florida grow up safe, healthy, educated and prepared to meet their full potential.

Celebrating Women in Business Panel 

On Friday, I had the opportunity to take part in the Celebrating Women in Business Panel Discussion hosted by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) in Tallahassee. DBPR hosted two separate discussions during the daylong event, the first covered topics related to innovation and career development and the second covered discussions regarding leadership and business ownership. I had the privilege to serve on the second panel and share with those in attendance my thoughts on leadership and the characteristics one must possess to be a strong leader.

Probation Update

Youth and staff from the Eckerd Project Bridge Program in Circuits 15 and 19 participated in a college tour at the Jupiter campus of Florida Atlantic University (FAU). The tour was arranged by HBI Career Services Coordinator Jermaine Austin. FAU tour guide Gwendolyn Carey provided the group with information regarding the Academy for Community Inclusion campus at Jupiter, which focuses on post-secondary programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Academy gives students with developmental disabilities who have completed high school the opportunity to experience college campus life and all it has to offer: classes, social life, new friendships, recreational activities, career preparation, self-reliance and overall personal growth. FAU is a member of Florida’s State University System and established in 1961.  It boasts an 850-acre main campus in Boca Raton and has sites throughout its six-county service region. Youth and staff enjoyed the presentation and afterwards were treated to lunch. 

Panama City Marine Institute’s Career Coordinator Kyle Merritt accompanied students from his Vocational Success Program on a tour of Gulf Coast State College in Panama City to speak with educators and discuss their collegiate interests. In addition, the students met with TRiO Advisor Kendra Kizzah to discuss financial aid, campus life, and enrollment in TRiO services.

TRiO is a group of eight programs that collectively help students overcome environmental, social, academic, and cultural barriers to higher education. Under the umbrella of TRiO there are programs for students beginning in high school all the way through graduate school. Gulf Coast State College has two TRiO components: Student Support Services for college students and the Upward Bound program for high school students. Students were able to explore opportunities in the field of engineering, culinary management, art, and broadcasting.

CPO Marcia Reightnour, ACPO Fred Womack, and Reform Specialist Heather Nowell recently met with Holmes County Sheriff John Tate and in a separate meeting with Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts. The meetings both covered topics like civil citation, probationary youth, the juvenile assessment center, and how to improve the working relationships between local law enforcement and DJJ.  

In addition to these meetings, Circuit Judge Christopher Patterson made a visit to the Jackson County Probation Office in Circuit 14 to meet with CPO Reightnour, ACPO Womack and Reform Specialist Heather Nowell. Judge Patterson is the newly-elected circuit court judge and wanted to get acquainted with DJJ staff and start his relationship with our agency on a positive note.

Pictured above (left to right): Major Virgil Watson, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department; JPO Clint Schweers, Reform Specialist Heather Nowell, Jackson County Sheriff Lou Roberts, Chief Probation Officer Marcia Reightnour, and Sr. JPO Derrick Henderson

I’m pleased to share another DJJ success story that comes from Circuit 2. Dave Biles, a former probationary youth who was a client of JPO Tiffany McGriff, first made contact with the Department back in 2009. After a residential commitment and with Tiffany’s help, he began to make positive choices that have bloomed into a promising future. Biles was a varsity letterman on the Leon High School football team last fall, and his outstanding talent on the field earned him a football scholarship to Albany State University in nearby Georgia. Biles notes that Tiffany was such a positive influence on his life, and she looks forward to watching him on the field come September!

JDAI Coordinator Sarah Blumberg and Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney from Circuit 13 attended a meeting of the Hillsborough Children’s Committee on March 3. The committee consists of various community partners and stakeholders throughout Hillsborough County. Ms. Blumberg gave a presentation on JDAI and shared information regarding racial and ethnic disparities. Ms. Pinkney also regularly participates in the Children’s Committee on behalf of the Department. 

Circuit 15 JPOS Elsa Westcarth participated in the Operation Youth Violence-Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (RIP) Program ride along with the West Palm Beach Police Department on March 3. Other community partners that participated in the ride along included West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and City Commissioners Shanon Materio and Cory Neering.

The goals of the program are to educate and provide guidance to youthful offenders and their families in the local community.  They shared available resources such as recreational activities, mentoring, tutoring, counseling and vocational training.  The resources and information were well received by the youth and their families.

Recently, probationary youth P.L. received a bicycle through the “Bikes for Jobs” Program in Key West. The program, which was initiated by Bethel AME Church and Pastor Antonio Magwood and sponsored by City of Key West Mayor Craig Cates and Island Bicycles’ David Harris, sponsored a total of six bicycles for young adults requiring transportation to get to and from their jobs.

The Bikes for Jobs was initiated to assist individuals 18-24 in their efforts to acquire and maintain employment by providing transportation. Mayor Cates utilized funds from his coffers to support the program, and Island Bicycles provided bicycles at discounted prices. Our youth was the 1st to receive a bicycle through this program.

Circuit 6 probation and prevention staff hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) conversation between local youth and members of the New Port Richey Police Department and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office in Land O’ Lakes. The G.A.A.P. conversation identifies ways to improve communication between youth and law enforcement through constructive dialogue. The two sides discussed an array of issues related to stereotyping, how youth feel about law enforcement, respect, alcohol and substance abuse and preconceived notions based on experiences.  

I would like to thank Monica Rousseau from the Pasco County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention, FCCD Chapter 30 and Julie Satre from the Hernando County Sherriff’s Office for providing food to help make this event successful as well as the DJJ staff in attendance including: Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee, Special Projects Coordinator Jill Gould, JPO Melissa Nairns, Sr. JPO Chris Barber, JPO John Daniel, JPO Tricia Alvarez, Sr. JPO Karen Pickernell, JPO Keyra Inmon, JPO Jessica Baker, JPO Christine Banks, Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell, and Intern Shamika Green.

Health Services Update 

Staff from the Office of Health Services recently gathered in Tallahassee to discuss recommendations for changes to the Florida Administrative Code related to health services. It was a productive work group where regional nurses brought forth information and comments from providers and partners to help guide these potential changes. These changes will help streamline understanding and clarify areas that may be confusing to partners who provide medical care to the youth in our system. 

Pictured above (from left to right) front row: Jennifer Scheller, registered nursing consultant for South Region Detention Services; Ronda Corr, registered nursing consultant for Central Region Detention Services; Christine Gurk, nursing services director; Michelle Hall, statewide registered nursing consultant

Back Row: Joyce Rolle, headquarters registered nursing consultant; Chuck Corley, health services administrator; Heather Mercer, registered nursing consultant for North Region Detention Services; Dr. Kirk Mauro, medical director

The Office of Health Services and members from the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services made a visit to the Someplace Else Youth Shelter in Tallahassee on March 17. The Someplace Else Youth Shelter is run by Capital City Youth Services (CCYS) and the purpose of this visit was to introduce newly appointed Registered Nurse Consultant Michelle Hall to our partners at CCYS and to demonstrate the medical delivery system the Florida Network currently has in place. It was a great opportunity for a casual visit and open discussion on processes and opportunity for partnership. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Michelle Hall BSN, RN, statewide registered nurse consultant and Christine Gurk BSN, RN, CCHP, nursing services director from the Office of Health Services.  John Robertson, program services director for the Florida Network; Gina Dozier, COO of Capital City Youth Services and Tiffany Martin, MSW, project manager of research and operations from the Florida Network.

Prevention Update

Prevention and probation staff including Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, CPO Denise Devlin and ACPO Omar Bohler and Reform Specialist Tracy Olsen from Circuit 18, and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson conducted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. Conversation between youth and law enforcement on March 8 at the Sanford Civic Center.

Chief Devlin supports the efforts of building a better relationship between law enforcement officers and the youth.  Topics of discussion included perceptions of one another and respecting others when interacting in the community. Assistant Secretary Sims motivated the youth to be positive influences in the community and encouraged law enforcement officers and youth to work together to build strong relationships. Linda Brooks, president of Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency, also encouraged youth and law enforcement officers to communicate more effectively. DJJ extends a special thank you to the Sanford Police Department for their support and for feeding the youth in attendance. 

Pictured above (left to right): Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson and Assistant Secretary Alice Sims.

The PACE Center for Girls of Lee County recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in Fort Myers. PACE - Lee has served over 600 at-risk girls since opening its doors in 2007. According to PACE, 94% of girls who attend PACE Lee had no involvement with DJJ within a year of leaving PACE; 86% improved their academic performance; and 89% were in school or employed three years after leaving PACE.

Pictured above (left to right) are the founding Board of Directors of PACE Lee: Judge Jim Seals (Ret.), Dr. Sandra Pavelka, Karen Johnson-Crowther, Dena Geraghty, Donna Caruso, Kathy Smith, Gail Markham, and Executive Director Meg Geltner. 

Residential Update 

The girls from Alachua Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 12 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC., participated in the 2nd Annual 3D Girls Summit (Dignified Diva Day).  The Summit is sponsored by Communities in Schools and partnered with Northwestern Middle School in Jacksonville.  Some of the topics that were discussed included self-love, respect for authority, goal-setting, responsibility, social media, making good choices, leadership, and peer pressure.  After the forum, a few of the girls joined the speakers for more personal interaction and mentoring sessions.  Four girls from the facility spoke to the students gathered for the event about their individual efforts to change their lives and to make good decisions when going through hard times.

Detention Update

Last month, I shared with you that the Okaloosa RJDC benefits from the volunteer services of Life Coach Tolliny Rankins who put together an eight-week workshop for the youth. During the course of the workshop, the kids learned life skills including how to dress for success, preparing for interviews, entrepreneurship, teamwork and public speaking. The workshop ended just this past week and Ms. Rankins can be seen left with one of the participants. On behalf of the entire agency, I would like to thank Ms. Rankins for all she has done for our youth in Okaloosa. 

The TAPS TOO (Teens Assisting Puppies to Overcome Obstacles) program at the Okaloosa RJDC continues to provide an amazing service by housing rescue puppies from the Pixel Fund. The rescued puppies provide pet therapy for our youth at the facility while they wait to be adopted. Recently, both puppies from the program graduated and were adopted. Shown right is a local Crestview family and the new member of their family.  

Congratulations to Corporal Yolanda Teamer from the Okaloosa RJDC who was named Employee of the Month in the North Region for the month of February. Corporal Teamer is a sixteen-year veteran of DJJ and recently took over the position of detention review specialist. She is a consummate team player and serves as an excellent role model for both the staff and youth. 

Pictured above (from left to right): North Region Director Jeff Wenhold and Corporal Yolanda Teamer