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Secretary's Message

May 23, 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

JPO Academy Visit

On Wednesday Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann and I met with the current juvenile probation officer (JPO) class at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Midway. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet our new team members, and we shared with them the mission of the Department and the work we do in reducing juvenile delinquency and making our communities safer. We were excited to speak to them about the important role direct care staff play in achieving our mission and the opportunities they will have to help turn around the lives of troubled youth.

The JPO Academy is an intensive, three-week long training that is mandatory prior to entering the field. Upon graduation, JPOs will work in probation offices around the state and will supervise probationary youth in their local community. 

Facility Administrator Receives Company-Wide Award

Congratulations to Facility Administrator Manny Alvarez from the Palm Beach Youth Academy who was one of this year’s Sequel TSI HIPP award winners for performance. HIPP represents the company’s core values of Humility, Integrity, Passion for the people we serve, and Performance at a high level. Manny received the award during Sequel’s leadership event in Nashville and upon receipt of his award, Manny’s teammates from Florida boisterously cheered him on in excitement.

On behalf of DJJ, I would like to again congratulate Manny on this well-deserved recognition. I would also like to thank him and his staff at the Palm Beach Youth Academy for all of their hard work and dedication to the youth in our care.  

Statewide Council on Human Trafficking Meeting

On Tuesday, Human Trafficking Director Bethany Gilot attended a meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking in Tampa. Bethany along with Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll provided an update on the Council’s strategic implementation plan related to Florida’s anti-human trafficking efforts and the next steps going forward. In addition, the meeting included a presentation on non-state funded Florida Safe House Models and an update from the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force.

The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking was created to support human trafficking victims by enhancing care options available. Members include law enforcement officers, prosecutors, legislators, as well as experts in the fields of health, education and social services.

Detention Welcomes New Staff and Hosts Special Mother’s Day Luncheon

Recently, the Leon RJDC welcomed newly certified JJDO I Derrick Holmes to the facility. Derrick graduated from the Florida Public Safety Institute on April 28 and is shown left receiving his badge from Leon Captain Sherell Dancy.   

Major Margie McKinney, Training Coordinator Shelita Jones, and Administrative Assistant Connie O’Brien from the Brevard RJDC hosted a Mother’s Day luncheon for all of the mothers of the youth in the facility. The event had a wonderful turnout as all of the moms, as well as a few fathers and grandfathers, enjoyed an afternoon of fellowship with their children and the detention staff. After lunch, the youth presented their moms with Mother’s Day cards and pictures and several of the moms were moved to tears by the gratitude and love expressed by their children. 

Graduate Count Continues to Rise at Okeechobee Youth Development Center

The GED and high school graduates keep on rolling out of the two Washington County School Programs at the Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center (OYTC) and the Okeechobee Youth Correctional Center (OYCC) campuses. Since last July, nineteen graduates, three who received their high school diplomas and sixteen who earned their GEDs, have achieved this significant milestone in their lives and have been celebrated by cottage-mates, family, facility and school staff. This increasing number of graduates has motivated many other students to study hard and apply themselves toward achieving academic goals and has even generated a friendly rivalry between the two programs.

One of Okeechobee’s recent graduates shared the following letter about what it means to earn his GED:

Receiving my GED is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I never thought that I would finish school before, but now that I have, I see that I have multiple options in life. The test wasn’t easy, I mean I’ve studied every night and day to prepare myself for the GED test and it was all worth it, because now I have created a future for myself and my kids.

Now that I have finished school, I plan on getting a job and going to a community college or university to be an engineer and pursue my dream of being a mechanic and owning my own automotive shop. I plan on using my GED to become somebody in life now that I have a better chance.

Being able to graduate in front of my peers was another great achievement because I know that I have motivated them to go the same route and finish school. Just being able to celebrate with my friends makes me realize I’m on the right track to success and all the well wishes were a boost of energy that filled my life and encourages me to become someone successful. 

Prevention Assistant Secretary Receives Distinguished Service Award

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims received the Distinguished Service Award for Juvenile Justice from the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency (FCCD) during their annual awards banquet at Seminole Golf Club in Tallahassee. Sims, a 26-year veteran of state government, has been instrumental in designing and developing prevention and early intervention programs both regionally and statewide. She also has extensive experience in creating, implementing and managing mentoring programs as well as working with community stakeholders such as law enforcement, faith-based partners and prevention program providers.

Assistant Secretary Sims is also very involved within her local community, serving as the co-founder of Capital City Christian Cruisers (CCCC) with her husband Ernie, Jr. The CCCC is a component of The WAY Ministries, a community-based organization dedicated to meeting the spiritual, social and physical needs of young people and their families, and has served thousands of local at-risk youth since its inception in 1994. In 2015-16, she was presented with the Champion of Service Award by Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida for her outstanding volunteer efforts with the CCCC and also received the Girl Scouts Women of Distinction Award for her community service to local youth. 

FCCD is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of high professional standards for criminal justice agencies and criminal justice personnel. The keystone for FCCD are its educational programs which are designed to foster an interchange of information and training between the professionals in law enforcement, the courts, corrections, probation and parole, juvenile justice and interested citizens.

DJJ Faith Network Member Pastor Gerald Duncan from Innovative Dads, Inc. hosted the Early Childhood Advocacy Summit on May 16 at CareerSource of North Central Florida in Gainesville. Pastor Duncan hosted this gathering of state and social service agencies who are dedicated to providing positive alternatives to Florida youth and families. State and Federal Director Eugene Morris represented the Office of Prevention during the Summit.

The keynote presentation was delivered by Zack Gibson, Chief Child Advocate & Director, Office of Adoption & Child Protection, Executive Office of Governor Rick Scott. The topic of Mr. Gibson’s remarks was “Advocacy Matters.” Mr. Gibson spoke of the importance of “building relationships” and facilitating connections to lift others. “One positive adult in a child’s life can truly make a difference,” he said.

Also addressing the attendees was Dr. Luz Semeah, Career Source North Central Florida; James Lawrence, Gainesville4all; Andi Lybrand, Quality Childcare/Early Learning Coalition; and Mona Gil de Gibja, Well Florida; Hannah Ross, Healthy Families and Cathy Well, Well Florida. In addition, other speakers were: Elizabeth Patton, Infant Mental Health; Natalie Strappy, Advocacy for Kindergarten Readiness; and Erica Johnson and Hannah Green, Partnership for Strong Families.

Pictured above: Zack Gibson (left) and Pastor Gerald Duncan

The PACE Center for Girls of Broward County took part in National Denim Day for Sexual Violence Awareness and Prevention Campaign at their facility in Fort Lauderdale. The girls participated in lessons with their counselors and therapists to learn more about the issue and how each girl can make a difference. The girls also decorated jeans with powerful slogans and engaged in an outdoor chalking activity on the PACE Broward campus.

National Denim Day is a campaign designed to prevent sexual violence through education and public awareness. April has been recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Denim Day is a call to action for all people to come together by wearing denim as a visible sign of protest against sexual violence.

By participating in Denim Day supporters can play a role in the prevention of sexual violence. Every year community members, elected officials, businesses, and students are asked to make a social statement with their fashion, and on National Denim Day, to wear jeans as a visible means of protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault.

Bureau of Information Technology Staff Kudos

Congratulations to Paul Prado (left) and Bonnie Shivers-Durand (right) for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for April 2017.  Each month, IT recognizes one employee from Headquarters and one employee statewide using a peer nomination process.  Being nominated by their peers speaks volumes to their work ethic and dedication to this agency. Congratulations to both Paul and Bonnie on their recognitions!


Probation Team Participates in Community Events Statewide 

CPO Judy Royston, ACPO Kelly Hammersley, JPOS Ronald Bright, JPOs Taylor Brown and Jamie Henderson and Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney from Circuit 13 attended a faith forum and panel discussion for the Circuit’s Faith and Community Network Steering Committee in Tampa. The discussion entitled “Finding Your Fit” welcomed Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims as its guest speaker and she talked about DJJ’s partnership with the faith community.

In addition, the faith forum handed out awards for outstanding service in the local community. Award recipients included:  Dr. Rev. Maxine Woodside (Tampa Bay Community and Family Development Corporation); Rev. Dianne Marchman, Hillsborough Juvenile Detention Center Ministry (“DA” CREW); and Dr. Ken Whitten (Idlewild Baptist Church Senior Pastor, and Hope Street of Tampa).

The Circuit 6 Probation team hosted a provider panel on May 12 which was composed of representatives from Paxen, HBI Southwest Key FFT, Chrysalis CBT, Pinellas County School Board, PACE Center for Girls, Project Bridge, NUA (a counseling program in Pinellas county), Family Resources, PAR and JDAP. The panel gave probation staff from each unit the opportunity to speak about the resources that DJJ offers and to learn more about the services provided by the organizations in attendance. Events like this open the lines of communication while promoting teamwork, leading to more effective and successful case management. 

Circuit 7 Probation staff participated in the first annual softball tournament against teams from the public defender’s office, the state’s attorney’s office, the Palatka Fire Department, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, and the Putnam County Police Athletic League on May 13.

Team DJJ was organized by JPO Kelly Clark and the proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Putnam Police Athletic League. Our thanks to Michelle Garner, director of the Putnam County Juvenile Crime Prevention Office and Barry Stewart, director of the Putnam County PAL Program for making this event a success. 

Pictured above TEAM DJJ: Daniel Merrithew, CPO, Christopher Massey, Reform Specialist, Deshawn Deering, JPO Supervisor, Suzanne Schinina, AAII, Regina Gallery, Sr. JPO and JPO Kelly Clark. 

Probation staff members from Circuit 9 participated in the Orange County Annual Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives community event on May 6th at Barnett Park in Orlando.  The event was held in conjunction with the Orange County Wraparound, Federation of Families, and other stakeholders in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month.

This marks the seventh year that DJJ has participated in this event, which is geared toward keeping youth and their families on a healthy track. Several probationary youths were on hand to help set up and clean up after the event.  The youth all earned valuable community service hours for their efforts.  

Residential Programs Work Hard to Help Youth Succeed and Boost Staff Morale

Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 19, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC., and Habitat for Humanity have partnered together to reconstruct a privacy fence for a local habitat house.  This was a great opportunity for the HBI students to experience Habitat for Humanity and understand what they do for families in need.

The students did a great job and were recognized by the other volunteers from Habitat.  We are very proud to be associated with Habitat for Humanity and look forward to working on many more projects.

AMIkids, Inc., and the Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18,  have been keeping busy with various meetings and events around the state! First, the youth and staff blasted off to the Eastern FL University Planetarium. The youth enjoyed stepping on the scale  that told them what they would weigh on different planets.  Later youth linked hands with science teacher Ms. Ruby as static electricity transferred from person to person in their human chain.

While the youth enjoyed learning about science, they are also learning math in a fun way by using an algebra balance beam in the classroom. Using the algebra balance beam allows the youth to work on their communications and social skills while solving linear equations. 

The program recently got a visit from Congressman Bill Posey, who took a tour of the Melbourne program and learned what a day in the life of an AMIkids youth entails. Congressman Posey also met with teachers and staff to hear about the growth model we use with great success.

Melbourne youth also recently hit the road and had the opportunity to meet state representatives at the recent Legislative Day event held at the State Capitol.


Melbourne youth also participated in community events when they were invited by The DOCK Director Trevor Howard to speak in the "Gentlemen of Quality" program at The DOCK about keeping up their grades, being careful with the choices they make and the friends that they spend time with.

In addition, Early Intervention Center held their inaugural Family Fun Fest at the Field of Dreams Park in West Melbourne and AMIkids and the Melbourne youth joined over 30 other non-profits to make the event a great success! 

Brevard Group Treatment Home (BGTH), a non-secure program for boys, ages 12 to 15, operated by Aspire Health Partners is taking part in the Junior Achievement Program (JA).  Every Wednesday for the next several weeks our fine distinguished young men will be taking part in Junior Achievement with Bill Stinson – former US House of Representatives FL District 8, John Rivera and Wilson Perez, shown here with our Director, Roscoe Griffin.  The coordinator of the program is Candice Hodges.  JA is a volunteer-delivered program that fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy skills and uses experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their full potential.  JA is made up of local business leaders who volunteer their time to go to classrooms to work with students.  The current course is titled “Career Success” and focuses on areas such as the “4C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity,” strong soft skills, focus on work priorities, and personal-brand and job-hunting tools.  Special thanks to Jennifer Moore and Melisa Dunham, Brevard County Public School team here at BGTH for setting up this great opportunity and experience for our young men at BGTH.

Brevard Group Treatment Home also recently enjoyed time at the Central State Florida Fair.  Several youth were selected to go to the fair for doing well in all aspects within the program. 

The BGTH basketball team also competed in the local Police Athletic League. Although the boys finished without winning a game, it was a great experience!  They learned teamwork, sportsmanship, team organization, and commitment to practice and games.  They had the opportunity to play against boys their own age and received great support from the community as well as compliments on their respectfulness of others and their sportsmanship.

Brevard Group Treatment Home has also teamed up with Merritt Island Breakfast Rotary Club so the program can utilize the club’s resources by getting our young men more involved in community interactions with outreach services, community services, and mentoring/guidance.  Here, youth from BGTH take part in Merritt Island Breakfast Rotary Club trash pick-up in the local community.

Brevard Group Treatment Home Director, Roscoe Griffin, gives back to the young men in so many ways within the program but one many wouldn’t know is that Mr. Griffin takes time out of his day when able to cut hair.  The youth are lined up at the door waiting to receive their hair cut.  Mr. Griffin’s philosophy about a haircut is “if you look good then you feel good about yourself”.

Youth Opportunities Investments, LLC (YOI) and its leadership team have made morale committees a priority in their programs.  The Morale Committee is just not an event planning committee or a random place to vent but serves as an opportunity for staff to be an integral part of program planning and implementation.  It’s a strategic initiative that has been placed into policy to ensure action. The morale committees of YOI have a vision, serve as a place for information gathering and information sharing, have a budget and have the support of program administration. As a result, happier staff leads to happier kids and happier kids leads to more buy in for treatment.  

The Morale Committee of Kissimmee Youth Academy (KYA), a secure program for boys, ages 14 to 21, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, LLC., hosted their own Mother’s Day event.  The Mothers were treated to several types of Danish and fresh fruit while also receiving a gift bag from every woman’s favorite, Bath and Body Works.  The Mothers were extremely impressed how much thought was put into the event but more notably that the committee didn’t just give them samples but actual body cream and body sprays.

The Morale Committee of Broward Youth Treatment Center (BYTC), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments (YOI) hosted a Mother’s Day brunch for its staff and teachers.  The ladies were treated to a huge spread to include cheese grits, bagels, fish, waffles, fresh fruit, Haitian beef patties, biscuits, rolls, conch fritters, bacon and lots more.  The women and some of the men who showed their support by ensuring no food went to waste, thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful gesture.  In addition to the food, each Mother received a flower courtesy of YOI corporate.