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Secretary's Message

April 4, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Happy National Volunteer Month! We are excited to recognize April as National Volunteer Month along with the designation of April 23-29 as Volunteer Week. This month is dedicated to honoring volunteers and inspiring others to lend their time and talent to important causes in their community. DJJ recognizes the important role volunteers play in enhancing the work of our agency and how volunteers can leave a lasting impression on the youth that we serve. We are also thankful for our department staff who lend the same dedication they have for our agency to local volunteer efforts in their communities. During the month of April, we will be spotlighting volunteers that are making a difference in the lives of others in our weekly letter. So keep an eye out for their stories!

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

2017 Florida Children’s Week

On Tuesday afternoon, I was honored to join my fellow Florida Children and Youth Cabinet members along with policy makers, business leaders, and child advocates from around the state to participate in the Children’s Week press conference on the steps of Florida’s Historic Capitol. Children’s Week is an annual celebration and advocacy event that raises awareness on issues that affect children and families in Florida. This year’s theme was “The Health and Well-Being of All Children” which recognizes that every person in our state can play a role in ensuring children are safe, healthy, and ready to learn to achieve.  

Also during Children’s Week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Teens Town Hall at the Capitol. Hosted by Florida YMCA Youth in Government, the town hall coincides with the annual Florida Children’s Week events at the Capitol. The town hall provides a forum and voice for students from across the state to work together with Florida's Children and Youth Cabinet to address important issues relating to children's services. 

Last Monday,  Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims and Legislative Affairs Director Meredith Stanfield met with members of the Miami-Dade Youth Commission at DJJ Headquarters. The DJJ team provided information to the Commission about our Department, our budget, and legislative priorities, as well as information relating to youth issues, programs, and ideas that address youth violence on the state level. The Miami-Dade County Youth Commission advises the Mayor and County Commissioners on matters affecting the youth population, providing young people the opportunity to participate in the process of county government.

State Advisory Group Quarterly Meeting

Last week, I was pleased to give the opening remarks to the Florida Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group (SAG) as they held their quarterly meeting at DJJ Headquarters. During the meeting, Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims delivered a presentation about the accomplishments in prevention services while promoting DJJ initiatives.

Federal Grants Manager Yvonne Woodard provided updates on Federal sub grants and other areas and Executive Director for the Coalition of Juvenile Justice (CJJ) provided an update on federal legislation.

Patricia Warren, associate professor, director of undergraduate programs, Florida State University, spoke on the DMC Assessment Tool. Other speakers provided updates from Capital City Youth Services and AMI Kids.

Also speaking were: Dixie Fosler, assistant secretary, Detention Services; Mark Greenwald, chief of research & data integrity; Paul Hatcher, assistant secretary, Probation & Community Intervention; Laura Moneyham, assistant secretary, Residential Services; and Meredith Stanfield, director of legislative affairs.

Pictured above (from left to right): Marcus Smith, chief of policy development and planning; SAG member Judge Daniel Dawson; SAG Chair Dwayne Maddron; myself; Timothy Niermann, deputy secretary; and Alice Sims, assistant secretary, Prevention & Victim Services.

DJJ Teamwork in Action


The following story is a true example of how our DJJ team comes together to not only support the youth we serve, but one another. JPOs Krista Cochran, Kira Harmeling, Andrew Williams, Elsie Jean-Louis, Joanna Lopez, Patricia Kellman and Francoise Petit recently accompanied 14 youth in need of community service to work on the grounds of the Collier RJDC. The building was in desperate need of some TLC and our youth took the time to uproot a few saw palmetto stumps. Then under the direction of Maintenance Worker Don Hixon, the youth put together a wooden picnic table which was then stained and sealed.

In addition, the RJDC welcomed Horticulture Director Brian Galligan from the Naples Botanical Garden and his crew who came armed with spades, shovels and wheel barrows along with plants and mulch that were placed around the facility. Mr. Galligan showed our probationary youth how to remove weeds from the area before planting and spreading mulch around.

At the end of their service, the youth power washed the sidewalks and Collier Superintendent Jack McCotter provided burgers and chips for lunch. This was a wonderful opportunity to fill two areas of need: Youth earning valuable community service hours and our detention facility receiving a much needed face lift. I’d like to thank everyone involved in this project for going above and beyond! 

Human Trafficking Update 

Last week, Human Trafficking Director Bethany Gilot had the opportunity to participate in Pinellas County’s “Salon Talk” event. The training was organized by Circuit 6 DJJ staff and was a human trafficking awareness event geared towards hair and nail salon employees. This is an important sector to have trained as they are on the front lines of victim identification efforts. It was a wonderful event with people from various industries in attendance.  The audience provided great discussion on their interactions with this population and had great questions on how they can assist in preventing and identifying potential trafficking.   

Thank you to the following staff who help organize and execute the event: 

Prevention Specialist Audrey “Pat” McGhee; Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Marilyn Walker; Special Projects Coordinator Jill Gould; Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell; Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Janet Schnering; JDAI Coordinator Karin Popkowski; DJJ Intern Shanika Green

Also, a big thank you to those who offered their expertise on the issue by speaking and participating in a panel:

Natasha Nascimento – Redefining Refuge; Betsy Mishoe – Bridgepoint Church; Sasha Lohn – St. Petersburg Police Department; Jacquelyn Bradford- Gulfcoast Legal Services; Dotti Groover-Skipper – Salvation Army; Edie Rhea – Survivor; Dr. Katariina Rosenblatt, LLM, PhD – Survivor

I also wanted to recognize the following partners who helped make this a successful event through donations of time, facilities and food:

Deborah Figgs-Sanders – developed the flyer; Bridgepoint Church – 300 colored copies of the flyers; SPC Allstate Center – venue; Gypsy Gallardo – donated the chicken  wings and salad dressing; Chick Fil A Tyrone Boulevard – donated 3 trays of chicken nuggets; McCall & Sons Family Restaurant – donated the cake and cooked the chicken wings; Heavy’s Food Truck–donated the backed chicken, yellow rice, macaroni & cheese, collard greens and cornbread; Creid, Inc – donated paper products, water, salad, cookies

Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency

The Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency (FCCD) is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of high professional standards for criminal justice agencies and criminal justice personnel. The FCCD has produced a new video which shares the mission of organization and how it operates. The video features members of the FCCD including our very own Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht, who has served as a member of the FCCD for the past 30 years. Click below to view the video and to learn more about FCCD: 

Detention Update

I am pleased to announce that Margie McKinney has been promoted to superintendent of the Brevard RJDC.  Superintendent McKinney is a lifelong resident of Titusville and has spent her life working with local churches to provide meals for the homeless, distribute basic necessities for the under privileged, and counsel troubled youth.  

McKinney started out with DJJ as a volunteer back in 1989 and turned that into a career the following year. She worked her way through the ranks first as a detention care worker all the way to an assistant superintendent. During her 27 years of dedicated service to DJJ, she has built a strong working relationship with law enforcement, the legal community, and has worked with various community groups including Brevard Charities, Crosswinds, and Devereux.

Her experience in church and community has helped her improve her skills in leadership, organization, and teamwork and has provided her with extensive knowledge working with troubled youth.

I would like to congratulation Superintendent McKinney on this well-deserved promotion! 

The girls from the Volusia RJDC continue to work with VSAFL to create art projects throughout the school year. Last week the girls painted and decorated their own dream boxes. When the boxes are completed the girls were asked to write down their dreams in life and put them in the dream box. VSA Florida supports arts education and cultural experiences by conducting art education programs in schools, Department of Juvenile Justice facilities, and community centers. 

The Palm Beach RJDC held an appreciation luncheon for the volunteers of the facility on March 16. These volunteers provide a tremendous service by donating their time, knowledge, and love to the youth that we serve. From delivering services to our youth, providing them wisdom and prayer, to bringing in treats, this team of volunteers has devoted so much of their time and talent to our Palm Beach team. On behalf of the Palm Beach RJDC and the entire agency, I would like to thank all of the volunteers for their hard work and dedication. 

Pictured above: Yerlin V. Cruz, Adriana Mayu, Laura MacDougall, Keon Aarons, Deacon Jose Guardiario, Misty Weil, Elita Gast, Michael Buonainto and Jonathan Brown.

The St. Lucie RJDC held a celebration for those employees celebrating a birthday in the month of March. The facility holds a birthday celebration each month for employees by purchasing cake and ice cream for our staff and providers.

In addition to the birthday celebration,  St. Lucie volunteer Joan Maddy helped secure a special guest speaker to interact with the youth at the RJDC. The facility welcomed Robert Moynihan, Ph.D. who is the founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican magazine. The youth were supremely impressed with Dr. Moynihan’s presentation and asked a lot of great questions. 

The Bay RJDC recently held their annual Youth Career Week at the facility. This event was organized by Bay District Schools Liaison Anne Martin who did an excellent job of recruiting and scheduling partners in the local business community to come in and speak with our youth. These speakers came to encourage and inspire our youth with their own individual success stories, explore non-traditional career paths, and provide direction on how they can reach their goals. Among the featured speakers this year were: Stephanie Southern from Gulf World, Dr. Jamiel Vadell of Paradigm Leaders, Derek Carlson, Lumber Broker and James Morris of James Morris Auto.  Other speakers included representatives from the Gulf Coast Career Source, University of Florida Extension Center, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and the State Fire Marshall’s Office. The youth maintained a high level of interest throughout the whole week and took the opportunity to ask lots of questions and learn as much as possible from this positive experience.

Congratulations to JJDO I Daniel Konotey from the Duval RJDC who was named the February Detention Employee of the Month for the North Region. Officer Konotey has served the Department for the last nine years and has proven his ability to be a great leader. He helps out his fellow co-workers and completes all of his assigned tasks in a timely manner. Officer Konotey was presented a certificate and gift card by Regional Director Jeff Wenhold

Pictured above (from left to right): Shift Supervisor Melvin Thomas, Officer Konotey and North Regional Director Jeff Wenhold. 

Prevention Update 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell recently toured the Boys and Girls Club in West Park. During her tour, Marie received an overview of the services provided to youth who attend club.  Her tour guides were Breniah and Jamari, two club members.  The young people were very knowledgeable of the services provided.

Marie toured the “Art with A Heart” program and observed some of the art work prepared by the youth, the “Academic to Success” area, and the “Healthy Lifestyles” area, where youth learn the benefits of healthy nutrition and physical fitness. She also toured the swimming pool and got an overview of the swimming program and College Corner, where club members receive hands-on assistance with all things college related.

Karriem Edwards, director of development, also provided an overview of the “Good Character & Citizenship Opportunities,” where club members engage in community service learning projects and leadership development. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Leonca Woods, program manager; Breniah, club member; Marie Boswell, delinquency prevention specialist; Jamari, club member; and Karriem Edwards, director of development.

State and Federal Director Eugene Morris recently made a visit to the PACE Center for Girls of Leon County Tallahassee. During his visit, Eugene met with Spirited Girls! Teacher Kristel Avilus, Guidance Counselor Travis Jones and seven girls from the facility.

The girls discussed the importance of their PACE education and networking opportunities with their peers. They mentioned their appreciation of the time and sacrifices shared by PACE teachers, counselors, and other staff.

Spirited Girls! classes is a favorite part for many girls at PACE. Spirited Girls! classes are PACE’s life management curriculum that helps girls to make positive decisions and lifestyle choices. The Spirited Girls! classes teach girls how to better navigate real life, tackling topics such as self-esteem, conflict resolution, personal grooming, relationship building and more.  

Probation Update

I am pleased to announce that Dan Merrithew will serve as DJJ’s new chief probation officer in Circuit 7. Merrithew, a 23-year veteran of DJJ, takes over the position from former CPO David Kerr, who retired on March 30. Merrithew began his career as a juvenile probation officer and was promoted to juvenile probation officer supervisor back in 1998. Four years ago, Dan was promoted to assistant chief probation officer in Circuit 7. He is an integral part of the circuit management team and has dedicated himself to DJJ and the youth and families we serve. On behalf of the entire agency, I would like to congratulated CPO Merrithew on this well-deserved promotion. 

Youth from the Eckerd Project Bridge Program in Orlando participated in the Orlando CYCLE (Connecting Youth, Communities and Law Enforcement) event at the Orlando Police Training Institute. CYCLE is tasked with the responsibility of educating communities and law enforcement officers on how to have better interactions with each other. The work done on both sides will improve relationships between law enforcement and community members which in turn will build trust and make communities safer places to live, work and play.

Project Bridge took part in this community engagement and participated in discussion and role playing activities to produce valuable feedback for law enforcement and civilian activity. Following the event each participant was awarded a certificate of participation. 

CPO Marcia Reightnour and Reform Specialist Heather Nowell from Circuit 14 attended the first quarterly meeting of the community advisory board for the Bay Correctional Facility. During the meeting, Lieutenant J.R. Talamentez from the Panama City Beach Police Department made a presentation entitled “Parents Against Predators.” Upon completion of the presentation, the board held a round table discussion where agencies including DJJ provided an overview of the services they provide.  

Pictured above (from left to right):  Heather Nowell, Reform Specialist C-14 Probation; Mike Winters, Assistant Warden of Bay Correctional Facility; Marcia Reightnour, Chief Probation Officer C-14; Brad Pearce of State Representative Jay Trumbull's Office; Edward Bell, Investigator C-14 State Attorney's Office.

Youth from AMIkids’ Panama City Marine Institute teamed up with members from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office to deliver meals for the Meals on Wheels Program run by the Council on Aging. This wonderful community service opportunity was a part of the Breaking Barriers project which brings youth and police together to learn about each other while performing valuable services in the community. On March 25, students and officers provided 33 meals to residents of three local neighborhoods in Panama City.

Meals on Wheels teaches students the importance of helping others, instills self-respect, worth and leadership through community service. Along with Career Coordinator Kyle Merritt, AMIkids students have managed the route for 10 months.

JPOS Toni Lesher and JPO Shana Feren from Circuit 20 accompanied four probationary youth in performing community service during the local Talent Fest presented by Drug Free Hendry County on March 17. The festival was designed to give young people in the Clewiston community a chance to participate for prizes which included on stage performances at the 3-day Sugar Festival, an annual event and one of the largest community festivals in the state.

Our probationary youth passed out informational flyers and provided clean up assistance during the event. JPO Feren said that she was especially happy to see that one youth felt a strong enough connection to the community to volunteer and participate, even though he was no longer on probation. 

During a recent curfew check, JPO Krista Cochran learned that the family of one of her clients didn’t have enough food to feed everyone. She stepped right into action and teamed up with Corporal Jeffery Wray of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office to deliver a food basket to the family to help them through a tough situation. The food was graciously provided by the Immokalee Multicultural Multipurpose Community Action Agency (IMMCAA).

In addition, the pair learned that Krista’s client had recently obtained a new job, but didn’t have adequate transportation to and from his job site, specifically in the evenings. JPO Cochran and Corporal Wray reached out to Deputy Mike Taylor who works with the Bikes for Tykes program who found a bike suitable for her client’s needs. The young man was very grateful for the help he received and now that he has a job and transportation, he plans on being able to complete his restitution requirements with his paychecks from work.

I would like to thank all of the parties involved who helped this young man through a very difficult time. They showed once again how much people can do for their communities when they work together toward a common goal.

Residential Update 

Earlier this month, Palm Beach Youth Academy (PBYA), a high-risk program for boys, ages 15 to 21, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC., hosted a surprise baby shower for one of the residents.  The youth recently learned that he is the father of a two-month-old daughter.  The staff of PBYA spoke to the baby’s grandparents, who are currently caring for the baby, and then got together to hold a surprise baby shower for the boy as a way of ensuring that the baby has the clothing and supplies she needs.  The event was a great success! 

Three generations from one family spent time together and celebrated the newest addition to their family.  They could not have been any more grateful.  It was a great experience for the staff and the other residents to see this young man embrace his role as a father. 

The event included hosting the family for a catered lunch prepared by the PBYA culinary team, which they enjoyed along with the happy father’s treatment team members.

Bill Welser, with Space Coast Honor Flight (SCHF), invited the youth of the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth (MCPG), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by AMIkids, Inc., to attend the group’s monthly luncheon meeting.  The mission of SCHF is to take veterans of World War II, Korean War, and the Vietnam War, to visit their respective war memorials in Washington D.C.  Each visit is an opportunity to show gratitude to these heroes who made it possible for the rest of us to enjoy the freedoms we have today.  

The luncheon, held at Smokey Bones Restaurant, included more than 180 veterans. This event provided an opportunity for youth to engage in conversations and get history lessons from veterans from different wars and different branches of the United States Armed Forces.  

Pictured above: AMIkids youths talked to US Army Veteran Raymond Sidney about his tour in Hawaii in 1942, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor

At another March event, the MCPG residents had an opportunity to practice their job interviewing skills at the Career Source Brevard Job Fair.  The youth were dressed in their interview clothes and had folders with their personal business cards and copies of their resumes to provide at the various job booths.  The youth were escorted by Career Coordinator Robyn Weeks and Director of Education Dr. Derrick Tolley.

Finally, MCPG teacher Ms. Rita Green recently acquired a grant from TD Bank and now has new globes to use in her classroom. Using globes in the classroom help the students understand where they live and where other places in the world are located, as well as helping them see the world from a different perspective. 

On March 21, The Discovery Science Center visited Mr. Umholtz’s science classes at Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC.   The students were treated to a brief foray into some of the important science concepts that can be illustrated through one’s love of food.  The classes began with a discussion of how one experiences taste, which is much more than just taste buds and the basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, etc.  Genetics, age, experience, olfactory senses, and perception all combine to create what a person tastes.  This was demonstrated through experiments with jelly beans, turkey hot dogs, and a triangle test of colas.  

Enzymes and their importance were introduced to the students through a cracker test, showing that the enzyme amylase, located in a person’s saliva, breaks starch down into simple sugar.  The concept of diffusion and semi-permeable membranes was presented through a “smelly balloon” that gave the students a vehicle by which they could smell vanilla extract that was diffused from the balloon.  This led to a discussion and demonstration of osmosis, which is specialized diffusion.  Gummy bears, potatoes, salt, sugar, and water showed the results of osmosis (vocabulary words included in the lesson were: isotonic, hypertonic, and hypotonic). This lesson also highlighted that concept that in order to make good French fries, the potatoes must be soaked in plain water before frying.

The final lesson topic was viscosity; it’s not just for motor oil.  A simple viscosity table compared the flow of five different foods: ketchup, oil, molasses, syrup, and water. In the end, the students not only enjoyed the lesson, they enjoyed the extra benefit of sampling the “experiments.”