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Secretary's Message

June 5, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Last week marked the beginning of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season and this year is expected to be an active one. The season officially began on June 1 and will end on November 30. Even though hurricane season has already begun, it is never too late to make preparations at home and at work. Families, businesses and individuals can design a personalized emergency plan at FLGetAPlan.com to prepare for a hurricane, tropical storm, or other disasters. The Florida Division of Emergency Management’s website, www.FloridaDisaster.org, also provides critical tips for disaster preparedness, such as local evacuation zones and other useful information to help in an emergency or weather related disaster.

Although we’ve seen calmer hurricane seasons in years past, we should never be complacent in our hurricane preparations and plans. Even smaller storms, like last year’s Hurricane Hermine, can cause widespread damage to homes and businesses. Now is the time to make a plan, both for your families and co-workers, to ensure your readiness if a hurricane or disaster strike. 


Christina K. Daly

National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community

Last week I had the honor of providing opening remarks at the National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community in Orlando. The conference, which is sponsored by the Office of Attorney General, the Florida Consortium of Urban League Affiliates, and Derrick Brooks Charities is a collaborative effort to foster communication and action among practitioners through the sharing of innovative ideas and prevention strategies that have been successful in the black community. DJJ team members were among the 1,100 representatives in attendance representing law enforcement local, state and federal government, the faith community and others.

Pictured left: Secretary Daly and Micah Taylor, a DJJ juvenile probation officer from Circuit 6

During the Opening Session, I explained the DJJ reform efforts and stressed the importance of reducing the number of minority youth contacts. Among the reform efforts discussed were the importance of civil citation and the fact that more than 41,000 youth have benefited from the initiative since 2011.

Joining me at the Opening Session were Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office was the primary sponsor of the conference. Attorney General Bondi encouraged participants to take advantage of opportunities to learn, network, and identify solutions to assist Florida communities.

Also delivering opening remarks were: Melinda Coonrod, chair, Florida Commission on Offender Review; Pat Smith, director community relations and faith-based initiatives, Florida Department of Children and Families; and Dr. Kelli Wells, deputy secretary, Florida Department of Health.   

Other opening session speakers were: Teresa Jacobs, Orange County mayor; Buddy Dyer Orlando mayor; John Mina, Orlando chief of police, Cornita Riley, chief, Orange County Corrections and a representative from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Among the presenters were DJJ Human Trafficking Director Bethany Gilot (pictured right) and the Prevention team of Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, State & Federal Director Eugene Morris, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell and Disproportionate Minority Contact Liaison Travis Ligon. The team presented on community engagement and outreach.

Other workshops dealt with gun violence, combatting the rising cost of crime, teen dating violence, how to reduce crime and incarceration, and qualities of a mentor.   

Engaging the Faith Community in Serving At-Risk Youth

Also last week I had the opportunity to meet with a roundtable of local pastors in Central Florida where we talked about the importance of working collaboratively with our faith partners as faith-based solutions are vital to helping achieve the DJJ reform mission. I also discussed the importance of faith resources to assisting with the department’s transition efforts and family engagement.

Chief Child Advocate and Director for the Executive Office of the Governor, Zackary Gibson, stressed the need for the faith community and government to join forces to build communities of support to lift those in need.

William Daiuto, regional managing director, Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), said it is “a natural fit” to partner with the faith community to assist others. Pat Smith, DCF community relations director, delivered opening remarks. Another DCF employee, Janelle Daniels, shared her heartfelt story of what life was like as a foster child entering the system at 5 years-old until she was emancipated at 17 years-old. Janelle explained how much her life improved once caring adults got involved.

The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss engagement of all faith partners in the 2017 Florida Faith Symposium and other related issues impacting Florida’s at-risk youth and their families.

A total of 27 faith leaders, concerned citizens and others attended the roundtable. Among those in attendance were Johnny Alderman, Circuit 9 ACPO, and Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson.

Central Region Site Visits

Earlier in the week, I had a chance to visit with staff from the Circuit 18 probation team in Sanford. During my visit, I answered questions from staff members and also asked for their input and suggestions in preparation for the rollout of the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project for Circuit 18. It was a wonderful opportunity to have great dialogue and connect with staff in the field. It was a great visit and I appreciate the work of our dedicated team members who play such an important role in helping to turn around the lives of the youth who enter into our juvenile justice system.  

On Wednesday, I met with Facility Administrator Joseph Nixon from the Kissimmee Youth Academy in Kissimmee. Mr. Nixon gave me a tour of the facility and we took some time to meet with the program’s staff.   The Kissimmee Youth Academy is operated by Youth Opportunity Investments and provides substance abuse overlay services and mental health overlay services treatment for each youth as appropriate. In addition, the program’s treatment services include social and life skills, vocational training, and on-site educational classes. 

Staff Announcement and Kudos 

Congratulations to Sargent Micah Youmas for being named employee of the month for the month of May at the Leon RJDC.

A ten year veteran of DJJ, Sargent Youmas displays exceptional leadership as the transportation supervisor. He continues to do whatever is asked of him and sets a fine example as a servant leader amongst his peers. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Captain Stevens, Chief Brooks, Sgt. Youmas, Captain Dancy, and Major McCray

Prevention Staff Presents at the R.I.C.H. House in Tampa and Participates in Community and Faith Network Events 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee gave a presentation regarding our agency at the R.I.C.H. (Resources in Community Hope) House in Tampa on May 29. During her presentation, Pat spoke to youth, ages 7 to 14 who were there to learn about DJJ and how to stay away from the juvenile justice system. The theme of her presentation was entitled “Working together to help prevent negative behaviors for positive outcomes in today’s youth.”  The discussion focused on consequences, the process when entering into custody and the rewards when you decide to do the right thing.

The Tampa Police Department’s (TPD) R.I.C.H. House program serves as a safe haven for youth in the city’s most economically challenged areas.  TPD currently operates two sites, and each location is run by a Tampa police officer who serves as a role model, tutor and liaison between residents and the police. The sites offer after-school and summer school programing. The R.I.C.H. House program focuses on four components: education, conflict-resolution, socialization and self-esteem building.

TPD also established a relationship with Feeding America to help fight hunger in the neighborhoods.  Through this partnership, needy families can visit the R.I.C.H. House and receive food for their homes year-round, including the holiday season.  During the holidays, a variety of civic organizations and businesses donate holiday gifts to the R.I.C.H. Houses for the children who attend the program.

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington manned a DJJ display table during the Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day on the 22nd floor of the Florida Capitol. The event, hosted by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, gave students the opportunity to learn about various careers and educational opportunities, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), through interactive exhibits and displays from participants.

Educational displays were provided by agencies such as VISIT Florida, Florida State University National High Magnetic Laboratory, Tallahassee Community College STEM Center, Florida Sports Foundation, Code Craft Lab, Space Florida, Challenger Learning Center and many more. Other staff in attendance were Sam Lyons, reform specialist; Sabeena Shiji and her son Farzan Shiji; Jeff Wenhold, PREA coordinator and others. There were over 50 exhibitors and throughout the day with approximately 500 attendees.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson and Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson attended the Circuit 9 Faith Network Workshop in Orlando. Circuit 9 Faith Network Coordinator Reverend James Watkins organized the meeting, which allowed members of the community to become more informed about the DJJ Faith Network, and possibly becoming members of the faith network.

Attendees were briefed on the DJJ Faith Network and were also provided an overview of our agency and the juvenile justice system. They learned about the different program areas within DJJ including, Prevention Services, Detention Services, Probation and Community Intervention, and Residential Services. DJJ’s reform initiatives were also discussed, including civil citation, transition/community re-entry for youth who are leaving their residential setting and returning into the community, and how the faith network plays a big role in each of these entities.

DJJ Provider Continues to Help Young People Succeed

With extra academic assistance from Project Connect Transition Specialist Chris Brooks and Life Coach (mentor) Barbara Battle, Circuit 4 youth DS recently graduated from high school and proudly received his diploma.  The success of this young man was hard-earned and shared by his entire family for a special reason.  He was the first in his household of five to receive a high school diploma.  We celebrate the success of DS, and share in the joy his accomplishment has brought his family!    

Pictured above (from left to right): Youth DS, and Project Connect Life Coach Barbara Battle.     

The following letter was submitted by a youth in Circuit 8 who recently completed Probation Enhancement Services through our provider Project Connect. I’d like to thank our DJJ staff members from the Circuit 8 probation office who worked closely with members of the Project Connect team to make this youth’s probation experience a great success.   The letter reads:

To whom this may concern,

I, JL, joined Project Connect around the month of February.  During my time with Mrs. Lawton I learned and wrote my own resume.  I reviewed some slideshows about the Wells Fargo Bank and wrote a summary about it.  We also discussed my goal which is to get back into school and make good grades.  We talked about a possible career choice in the future.  I decided that I would like to follow my dad’s footsteps to either join the Army or apply for the USDA Forest Service.  I also had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Nazia during the end of my sessions as Mrs. Lawton was transferring to different job.  I finished up the school year with A's and B's in FLVS.  I plan to attend the 10th grade at my local school and join the football team.  Project Connect taught me how to plan for things in the future and what to do.  I enjoyed the discussions and feel as if I have achieved a lot.  I appreciate everything!



Detention Staff Host Appreciation BBQs

Leon RJDC Superintendent Conrad McCray and Larry O’Steen from Detention Headquarters organized the first employee appreciation barbeque on May 30 at the facility. The barbeque was to show our staff members at Leon RJDC just how much they are appreciated for their hard work and the services they provide to the youth. Also on hand for this event were Assistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler, North Regional Detention Chief Sheddrick Brooks, and several probation officers from the Circuit 2 office. The barbeque was a huge success and the staff at Leon RJDC appreciated the food and the opportunity to interact with their fellow co-workers. 

On Memorial Day, the Captain Rodney Goss and JPOSs Samuel Sainval and Marco Robles from the Southwest RJDC organized a picnic and barbeque for the youth at the facility. JJDOs Michael Teal and Jamaurie Lockett manned the grill while JJDO Charlene Dennard and Medical File Clerk Clothilde Etienne served the food. The youth at Southwest RJDC really enjoyed the beautiful day with recreation, games and the picnic under the newly renovated pavilion. 

DJJ Youth Package Meals for Hungry & Needy Families

DJJ youth from AMIkids programs recently participated in Nielsen's Global Impact Day. This event is the Nielsen Company’s annual service day in which they team up with local nonprofit and community partners to affect positive change in communities around the world.

The AMI students started off with a mentoring session led by South Florida CARES Mentoring Movement and Nielsen employees, then later helped package 10,000 meals for starving families worldwide. It was an awesome experience for everyone involved! 

Youth Earn Vocational Certificates, Gain On-the-Job Training in Residential Commitment and Learn the Value of Celebrating Others

Residential youth recently earned ServSafe® certificates as a part of the vocational programming at Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Correctional Center, a secure program for boys, ages 15 to 21, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC.  These young men are now enrolled in the program’s ServSafe® Food Manager’s class.  Youth who complete these courses are awarded industry-recognized and industry-accepted certificates that give the students employment advantages and increase their potential successes when they transition home. 

Youth at Melbourne Center for Personal Growth (MCPG), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by AMIkids, Inc., have the opportunity to participate in a culinary class, which is an elective class provided in partnership with the Brevard County School Board.  Our youth earn ServSafe®, SafeStaff®, and ServSafe® Manager certifications giving them hands on, on-the-job training to add to their resumes.

The students used the culinary and food handling skills they learned in the classroom during six catering events this year, with another opportunity catering an Eau Gallie Rotary Club event this month.

MCPG is proud of the boys and the entire culinary program for the successes they have had this year.  Special thanks go to the NASA Robotics Mining Competition Program for inviting the MCPG culinary class to cater this event for the third year. Thank you to Congressman Bill Posey’s Community Relations Director Patrick Gavin for joining the MCPG students and staff on the second day of the event.  The MCPG also recognized and appreciated Don Herndon, of Classic Wood Flooring, for his unflagging support of the program’s youth and the use of his company truck to transport the catering supplies back and forth to the Kennedy Space Center.

MCPG youth learned about other vocational apprenticeship programs, including the trades of welding, sheet metal fabrication, pipe fitting, and plumbing at Coastal Mechanical in Melbourne Florida with Tracy Biolos as their instructor and tour guide.

In addition, at the end of May, the MCPG boys helped assemble, string, and add weights to 100 fishing poles for the Space Coast Waterfest at Kiwanis Island Merritt Island.  The Waterfest was part of the Hook Kids on Fishing program for children, ages six to 16.  Participants in the fishing program learned casting, fishing safety, knot tying, catch-and-release techniques, and they learned about conservation science and fishing habitats.

Miami Youth Academy (MYA) a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, hosted its first Moms of Titans Brunch, allowing for each Titan (a mother’s son) to invite his mom, select his style of dress clothing, and participate in the design and creation of beautiful corsages for the mothers.  

Collectively, various MYA staff and Miami Dade County Schools staff worked with the Titans to create a very special menu for the day’s event:  Cajun-style shrimp and grits, fried fish, fresh fruit salad, vegetable medley, juices, and fresh baked cookies.  For the event, the Titans displayed their artistic talents in the form of colorful hand-painted wood frames, corsages, and decorations.  The MYA therapists showed up and showed out with an array of creative games and activities designed to help each mom and guest to feel special. 

The day’s order of service included each son choosing to dress in one of three options for brunch; each one greeting his mother at the area entry with a handmade corsage and then properly presenting his wrist corsage to his mother; each young man presenting his special guest with a fresh flower bouquet; and then each son escorting his mother to the dining table (where he held her chair like a gentleman); and then everyone enjoying the two-hour, well-planned special brunch sponsored by the MYA Youth Council and the culinary arts initiative.

The steadfast mentors of Riverside Baptist Church and Calvary Chapel, along with the talented and caring ladies of MYA, provided support to the residents who did not have a special guest for the event in order to help each boy stay positive and embrace the opportunity to learn about formal entertaining.

Miami Dade County Public Schools has excellent services and exceptional professionals providing high quality instructions and guidance to the MYA youth champions.  One recent example is Ms. Sanchez, from the vocational program, who voluntarily acquired all of the materials used to teach the youth champions how to make corsages while sharing some historical information.

The young ladies of Martin Girls Academy, a secure program for girls, ages 13 to 21, operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, took items donated by the Humanists of the Treasure Coast that could not be used within the program and used them for a restorative justice project.  The girls wrote beautiful and encouraging letters to young children in respite care at Hibiscus Children's Center and attached them to stuffed animals that are given to each child upon admission to the shelter.  The project was coordinated by Assistant Clinical Director Carolyn Hellmann.   

DJJ Youth Receives Recognition in National Poetry Competition

Congratulations to Youth B. from the Marion Youth Academy for his entry into the 2017 Words Unlocked Poetry Anthology, sponsored by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS). Youth B received a high commendation for his work, and his poem (seen left) will be published in the upcoming 2017 Words Unlocked Anthology.

Words Unlocked is a month-long initiative that includes a seven-day structured poetry curriculum which culminates with a nationwide competition and publishing venues for poetic works. The theme for 2017 was authenticity. Authenticity is commonly referred to as "being real" and being truly authentic requires a genuine sharing of our inner selves, irrespective of the consequences.

Probation Staff Participate in Events to Better Serve our Youth 

Circuit 6 JPO Tricia Alvarez participated in Camp Erin, which provides services and activities for youth who have lost a love one to help them through their various stages of grief. The Camp facilitated a “Grief Wall” where kids could place a photo of their loved ones, and allowed them to share stories of their loved ones and how they lost them.

The highlight and emotional part of the weekend was the candle lighting ceremony where the kids lit their candles in remembrance of their lost one.  This event allowed the kids to cry and let out any emotions they were feeling. The last day of Camp Erin involved a balloon ceremony where each kid was given a balloon to write a note on before releasing it into the sky to send it to their loved ones.

In addition to these powerful moments of grief and acceptance, the kids were given a wide range of activities to enjoy including: drumming, archery, rope obstacles, rock climbing, zip lining, scavenger hunt, and crafts. 

ACPO Amy Stiles, JPOSs Deirdre Holmes and Tricia Elliott and Reform Specialist Natalie Montgomery from Circuit 10 participated in the Refuse to Lose-Summer of Safety Awareness March on May 18 in Lakeland. Refuse to Lose is an initiative by the City of Lakeland’s Gang Task Force which focuses on steering kids away from drugs and gang violence. The march was organized by Lakeland city leaders, local church leaders, and youth organizations. The march was held to show both unity and support for our youth over the summer months with a goal to make parents aware of the programs and activities that will help keep them busy this summer. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Amy Stiles; Deirdre Holmes; Pastor Eddie Lake; Tricia Elliott; Joe Rodman; Pastor W.R. Jenkins Jr.; Dr. Kendrix J. Gardner Sr. and Natalie Montgomery.