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Secretary's Message

July 5, 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

DJJ Participates in Congressional Meeting on Human Trafficking

DJJ Statewide Human Trafficking Director Bethany Gilot traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate on a panel on human trafficking to Florida’s Congressional Delegation. Ms. Gilot presented information on the Human Trafficking Identification Tool utilized by both DJJ and DCF in screening youth who are potential victims of human trafficking. She also discussed the training and awareness efforts underway in Florida to combat this horrific crime.

In addition to Bethany’s presentation, the delegation also heard from Elizabeth Fisher, founder and head of Sarasota-based non-profit Selah Freedom; Special Agent Jose Ramirez, FDLE; Michelle Guelbart, director for private sector engagement for the anti-child sex trafficking nonprofit ECPAT-USA; and Suzanne Harrison, director of clinical programs, professor and education director for family medicine with the Florida State University College of Medicine. 

Staff Announcements and Kudos

I am pleased to announce that Michael Byrd has been named the new Circuit 2 Reform Specialist.  Michael has served at DJJ in the Office of Probation and Community Intervention first as a juvenile probation officer and then a senior juvenile probation officer before accepting the position of reform specialist. Prior to his work with DJJ, Byrd worked for Capital City Youth Services as a youth care specialist. He is a proud graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. On behalf of our agency, I would like to congratulate Michael on his new position! 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Lydia Breaux-Davis was recognized upon announcing her retirement after 35 years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. Lydia’s life has been devoted to the mission of improving the lives of children and their families. She has been a guiding force for the Department throughout the years, making sure that necessary services and resources were provided for youth in the Florida Panhandle and elsewhere throughout the state.

Lydia received her retirement plaque from Chief of Staff Fred Schuknecht who congratulated her for reaching this milestone and thanked her for many dedicated years of service. Alice Sims, assistant secretary, Prevention and Victim Services, said that while Lydia could not be replaced and that whoever is assigned to work in her circuits understands that they have mighty large shoes to fill.

Pictured above (from left to right): Fred Schuknecht, Lydia Breaux-Davis and Alice Sims.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee was recognized as the Office of Prevention’s Employee of the Quarter for the second quarter of 2017 during the Office of Prevention’s team training in Tallahassee. Pat received this award for always going above and beyond to get the job done, being such a vital member of the Prevention staff, being connected to her community and for her active participation to helping to make sure that youth grow into strong and productive adults.

Pat’s outreach and engagement has been highly successful in the Tampa Bay area. When the department conducts community conversations and Bridging the G.A.A.P. discussions, it is through Pat’s connections that entire auditoriums of kids and adults are in attendance. She works with members of law enforcement to provide services to youth and is an active community advocate. Pat counsels and advises young people to ensure they will be successful as well as gives of her time and talents to help others.

Pictured above (from left to right): Timothy Niermann, Pat McGhee and Alice Sims

DJJ Concludes JJSIP Roll-Outs with Meetings in Circuits 18 and 20

Over the last few weeks, the Department rolled out the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project (JJSIP) in Circuits 18 and 20 respectively through a series of three separate meetings in each circuit. I would like to thank our Chief Probation Officers Denise Devlin (Circuit 18) and Margaret LaMarca (Circuit 20) and our ACPOs Omar Bohler and Lut Clarcq for organizing three meetings in their circuits. In addition, I’d like to thank our Executive Leadership Team members in attendance at this rollout: Deputy Secretary Tim Niermann, Office of Residential Services (ORS), Assistant Secretary Laura Moneyham, Assistant Secretary for Probation & Community Intervention Paul Hatcher, Director of Research & Data Integrity Mark Greenwald, and DJJ General Counsel Brian Berkowitz

After presenting the national perspective and research foundations of JJSIP, our guest speakers from the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform presented specifics about implementation in Florida and data relative to each Circuit.  DJJ staff members and members of the judiciary learned about JJSIP through interactive question and answer presentations. 

With meetings completed in Circuit 18 and Circuit 20, the Department has concluded all of its rollout statewide. The next step in the process is to a hold case study reviews with probation staff members to learn the application of JJSIP to specific case scenarios.  I would like to thank all of the DJJ staff that have worked tirelessly to conduct our JJSIP rollouts. Your hard work and dedication ensured that these meetings ran smoothly and efficiently.

DJJ was selected as one of the original  four states to participate in the JJSIP, a national initiative to reform the juvenile justice system by translating “what works” into everyday practice and policy.  Administered by the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, the JJSIP provides a framework for implementing best practices throughout the entire juvenile justice system.  To read more about JJSIP, click on the following link:  http://www.djj.state.fl.us/research/latest-initiatives/juvenile-justice-system-improvement-project-(jjsip).

Detention Facility Hosts Staff Appreciation Events

The Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) held a birthday celebration for Corporal Nicole Warthen on June 23 following a shift briefing. Corporal Warthen has made a huge impact at Collier RJDC since transferring from the Southwest RJDC. She’s served as a mentor to her fellow officers and Collier couldn’t be more pleased to have her on staff.

Pictured above (from left to right): Cpl. Nicole Warthen, Cpl. Edwin Smith, Sgt. Vikingson Dalien, Cpl. Catherine Solimine, Cpl. Lamar Calahan.

In addition, the Collier RJDC held a staff appreciation lunch on June 22 where team members grilled hamburgers and hot dogs as well as having an array of sides. The event gave the staff at Collier the opportunity to break in their new charcoal grill, which will also be used for a barbeque for the youth at the facility on the Fourth of July. 

Pictured above: Don Hixon, Jack McCotter, Robert Burns, Kathleen Ward, Angel Barroso. 

Office of Prevention Hosts Quarterly Staff Training Meeting

The Office of Prevention and Victim Services held their quarterly staff training meeting at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee June 27-28. Twenty-one of the 23 statewide members of the Prevention team were on hand to enhance communications skills, strengthen team building and to discuss strategic planning and forecasting as they prepare to begin the new fiscal year.

The communications exercises were led by Jon Howard, Program Manager in the Office of Staff Development & Training. Jon led Prevention team members through a series of exercises designed to improve communications skills and to promote stronger team building.

Deputy Secretary Timothy Niermann was on hand and thanked the Prevention team for hard work and encouraged them to continue concerted efforts to help the Department provide enhanced services for Florida’s youth. Alice Sims, assistant secretary, Prevention & Victim Services and Marcus Smith, Policy Chief, encouraged the team to prepare for success in the upcoming fiscal year.

Among the topics discussed were strengthening the Faith Network, providing more information about contracting, programing and other ongoing initiatives to keep staff informed. They also discussed volunteering/mentoring, G.A.A.P. discussions, circuit advisory boards, and helpline calls.

Sherry Jackson, senior management supervisor in the Office of Research and Planning explained how her office gathers statistics, which assist Prevention staff while conducting engagement and outreach exercises. The meeting also included program area updates.

Procurement Manager Brent Musgrove attended the Juvenile Justice Circuit 2 Advisory Board (CAB) One Voice and Project Connect Initiative at Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee. Circuit 2 CAB Chairman Donnie Read opened the forum and was very excited to discuss the initiative.

The One Voice and Project Connect Initiative pulls together partners will a collaborative effort to showcase mentoring services and opportunities for our at-risk youth in the local community. Mr. Musgrove was one hand to provide updates on topics such as: how to do business with DJJ, funding sources, MyFloridaMarketPlace.com and types of competitive solicitations.

Pictured above (from left to right): Brent Musgrove; Jaworski Vance, Owner of Fathers, Brothers & Sons and Samantha Vance, Executive Director of Ladies Learning to Lead.

The PACE Center for Girls of Collier County held their annual Love that Dress fundraiser in Immokalee. During the annual fund raiser 75 dresses were donated and more than $10,000 was collected. All proceeds go back to PACE Collier to create and implement programs for girls at their center. The dresses are donated to the girls and their families during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This year’s fundraiser took place aboard the cruise ship Naples Princess Cruises. PACE leaders offered a special thanks to Pat Patterson for coordinating an amazing evening as they “cruised for the cause.”

PACE serves middle and high school aged girls who have experienced school failure due to the trauma of physical and sexual abuse, family instability, poverty, bullying, substance abuse and health challenges. Through their nationally recognized, research-based, non-residential program model they combine academic preparation with social services in a girl-centric, strengths-based environment. More than 37,000 girls have transformed their lives at PACE since opening their doors in 1985.

Pictured above (from left to right): Marianne Kearns (Executive Director, PACE Collier), Pat Patterson, and Jo Jacobs.

Probation Staff Honored During Girls Court Event 


Pictured above (from left to right): SJPO Tonya Emsweller, JPO Charnisha Palmore, and JPO Celica Kalis

Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Tonya Emsweller and Juvenile Probation Officerss Celia Kalis and Charnisha Palmore from Circuit 13 were recently recognized by Unified Family Court Judge Barbara Twine-Thomas the second annual Girls Court Celebratory Tea. The Tea Party was designed to honor and empower those girls from the court who are involved with the Department. Our three probation officers were recognized for their dedication and involvement with the youth who participate in Girls Court. In addition, a special recognition was paid to SJPO Emsweller by Judge Twine-Thomas, who highlighted her professionalism and selflessness in providing services to those youths involved in the court.

Probation staff from DJJ headquarters and Circuit 14 staff took a tour of the Panama City Marine Institute (PCMI) day treatment program, run by DJJ contracted provider AMIkids. During the tour, the youth at PCMI shared their stories with probation staff about the program opportunities, community involvement and vocational education available to them through this program.

Residential Youth Take a Trip to Disney and Receive Pet Therapy                                                                                                                                                            

Last week, nine residents of the Residential Alternative for the Mentally Challenged (RAM-C), a non-secure program for boys, ages 9 to 18, which is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc., participated in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Youth Education Series.  The series provides students and teachers with a hands-on educational adventure designed to reinforce classroom lessons.  Students practice teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving skills as the group participates in one-of-a-kind experiences that use the magic of Disney to make learning even more impactful.  After participating in the Youth Education Series, the students and staff enjoyed the park and its rides.

At the end of the trip, one student said, “I love Disney World because the awesome animals and people! Also the great rides and the tasty food.  And I give my staff a big thanks for letting us go and providing for us.  And I give a big thanks to the explorer for showing different types of animals.”

The youth from RAM-C made it home in time to witness a fellow classmate’s graduation at Taylor County High School.  Several residents had never been to a graduation ceremony and were excited to support their classmate.  The experience was inspirational, showing the other boys how exciting it can be to graduate from high school and encouraging them to work towards their goals. 

Boys & Girls Club Director Natisha Miller also held a mini photo shoot with the graduate so that he would have senior pictures.  She also helped him design graduation invitations that he gave to RAM-C staff members and his family members, asking them to attend his graduation ceremony.  

For the past several months, Joanne Peters and her wonderful team from Nature Coast Therapy Dogs (NCTD) have been providing bi-weekly therapy sessions for the youth at Challenge Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Eckerd Kids.  Joanne is a dedicated, experienced provider, with more than 20 years of experience in providing pet therapy to those in need of a little love, friendship, and support in the shape of a furry, four-legged friend.  She has been bringing Jackson, a 130-pound Newfoundland, to visit the residents of the program.  Jackson who knows exactly who needs him most. 

Along with Joanne, DJ Gwilt participates every other week with her pooch, Lincoln.  Lincoln is young, adorable, affectionate Golden Retriever that just loves on everyone he meets. 

The newest addition to the pet therapy team visits to Challenge is Pete MacDonald.  Pete brings with him Maggie Mae, a mature, experienced, and very demure black lab.

This is the first time that Challenge Youth Academy has used animal therapy in the program.  So far, it is going smashingly!  The youth and staff look forward to the days that Maggie, Lincoln, and Jackson are on campus.  With the presence of and physical contact with one of the therapy dogs in group therapy sessions, the youth are encouraged and feel empowered to address issues about which they previously were not comfortable talking.  As the boys continue developing bonds with the dogs, the partnership between Challenge Youth Academy and NCTD continues to grow.  By August 2017, NCTD hopes to add two more teams of therapy animals in order to provide Challenge Youth Academy with weekly animal therapy visits.

Six residents of Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 19, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, recently enjoyed an outing to the movies with staff to see Wonder Woman.  Afterward, one of the boys said, “After seeing the Wonder Woman movie, she is now my favorite superhero.” 

Last week, Hastings and Gulf Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 12 to 19, which is operated by G4S, jointly held a family day event for the residents.  The event allowed the youth to spend time with their families in an informal setting.  The youth and their families enjoyed laughing, sharing stories, and interacting with the staff and each other. 

The event included a snow cone and popcorn machine, which worked overtime to feed everyone.  One youth’s family drove all the way from Houston, Texas to attend the event and be with the resident.  The boy later said, “Even though my mom said she was going to come, I was still shocked to see she drove all the way from Texas.  I’m feeling super special right now.”  

For five boys from Hastings, their behavioral rewards included attending the Daytona Tortugas vs Port St. Lucie Mets baseball game at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Daytona Beach.  The students enjoyed the sunshine, popcorn, sodas, and a great baseball game that was neck and neck until the very end.  One youth commented, “I was loudly rooting for the Mets because that’s where I’m from and someone had to.”

Baseball, hotdogs, and a bunch of sunshine—there’s nothing like it!