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Secretary's Message

July 18, 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

Florida Police Chiefs Association’s Summer Conference 

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to participate in the 65th Annual Florida Police Chiefs Association’s (FPCA) Summer Training Conference and Exposition in Miami. In addition to meeting with the Association’s Legislative and Executive Committees about juvenile justice issues in the state, I provided an agency update to conference attendees highlighting the recent signing of HB 7059 into law by Governor Scott. This legislation will strengthen DJJ’s ability to address issues related to youth with high recidivism and committed youth awaiting placement to nonsecure residential. I also had the opportunity to emphasize the critical need for continued communication and collaboration between DJJ and our law enforcement partners. It was an honor to participate in this great event. Thank you to the FPCA for having me and for all they do to protect our communities!  

The FPCA represents the third largest state police chief’s association in the country and is comprised of over 900 of Florida’s top law enforcement executives covering every region of the state. The FPCA promotes legislation that would enhance public security by providing superior police protection for the residents of Florida and its many visitors.

Human Trafficking Sub-Committee Meeting

On Thursday, Human Trafficking Director Bethany Gilot and I participated in the Services and Resources Committee meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking at the Florida Capitol. The committee heard presentations and conducted Q&As with the Florida Network of Youth and Families Services and the Open Doors Outreach Network. Also at the meeting, Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary Mike Carroll and I led the committee in a review of the 2017 OPPAGA Report on HB 7141.

The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking was created to support human trafficking victims by enhancing care options available. The 15- member council is comprised of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, legislators, as well as experts in the fields of health, education and social services, and builds on existing state and local partnerships working to combat human trafficking. The Services and Resources Committee, where I serve as co-chair along with DCF Secretary Mike Carroll as chair, examines ways to enhance human trafficking victim safety and recovery. 

Tag You’re It Event Hosted by DJJ Staff 

On the morning of July 11th, DJJ staff Holly Queen, Elizabeth Phillips, Julie Pla, and Maureen Honan hosted a TAG, YOU’RE IT event for all the employees of the Knight and Alexander buildings in Tallahassee. The following day, Katina Horner hosted the same event at the NE Residential Services building in Jacksonville. This event was inspired from the book Encouraging the Heart, A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others by James M Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner.

Pictured above (from left to right): Holly Queen, Elizabeth Phillips with Mason, Maureen Honan and Julie Pla with Hannah.

The event was filled with light breakfast snacks, upbeat music and heartfelt greetings as each employee entered the building to start their day.  It was a time to greet old friends and make new ones.  In addition to the light snack, each employee received a card that said TAG YOU’RE IT with a few suggestions on how they can encourage the hearts of their co-workers during the upcoming days and weeks to come. 

A special thanks to Lauren Floyd for helping with the awesome t-shirts and congratulations to Chad Harvey for winning the raffle!

Pictured left: Billy Starke (NE Regional Director), Ann Hamilton-Clark (Administrative Assistant), Virgil Wright (NE Chief of Commitment), & Natasha Swindler (Commitment Manager) from the TAG YOUR IT Event in Jacksonville. 

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Effective July 31, Circuit 8 Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Diane Pearson will officially retire from our agency. CPO Pearson has given 33 years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. She has worked in various circuits in the North Region including Circuits 2, 4 and 7, before serving in her current position as Circuit 8 Chief Probation Officer.

Throughout her career, CPO Pearson has touched the lives of countless young people and their families and we are so thankful for her service. On behalf of the entire agency, I would like to wish her good health and happiness in her retirement.  

Detention Facilities Welcome Guest Speakers and Career Day Participants

The Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) welcomed guest speakers from the Pinellas County Boys Court, which was organized by Juvenile Circuit Court Judge James Pierce. Captain Eris Womack coordinated the visit with the Pinellas County School Board to incorporate the speakers during school as a class period on each mod. The guest speakers included Terrell Nixon, owner of All Seasons Plumbing, former NBA standout Maurice Speights, Minister Eddie Lee Pelham, as well as a local coach and a local entrepreneur.

The mission of the Boys Court is to Build Optimal Youth Success through character development, inspirational speakers, mentoring, tutoring, community service, and goal-setting that will help male youth and young men to take charge of their future and reach their full potential. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Terrell Nixon owner of All Season Plumbing, Captain Eris Womack, Maurice Speights, NBA player, JDOS Gina Clark, “Aaron, Coach, “John” Entrepreneur, Reverend Pelham.

Detention and probation staff in Circuit 15 hosted their annual career day at the Palm Beach RJDC. DJJ staff, along with the Palm Beach Detention Community Advisory Board, organized the career day and brought in various guest speakers to speak with the youth about their careers. The guest speakers included individuals from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office -Gang Unit; Public Defender’s Office; Palm Beach College- TRIO Program; Good Will Works; and Action Labor. Guest speakers also included landscape company owner Mr. Clemons; Blake, a manager with a local Olive Garden; Mr. E, an artist with Sequel; entrepreneurs, Mz. Millionaire and Ms. Earle; and radio personality Reggie Dee from the local radio station X102.3.

The youth really enjoyed this event learning about different types of careers and requested more events of this kind for the opportunity to learn about the different avenues they could take. Many of the youth who attended started to understand the value of life by learning about future careers. 

First Row- Shirlon McCarty- DJJ, Peggy Laguerre- PBYA, Randi Taylor- DJJ and PD Office Megan Eaton

Back Row- Danielle Ouellette- PBC Youth Services, Marcia Bahia- PBSO, Laura Waterman-Good Will Works, Cindy Intern and Major Mamine Saintil

The Collier RJDC held a BBQ for the youth at their facility to celebrate the July 4th holiday. Detention staff manned the new grill at Collier, while our food service workers prepared all of the fixings to make it a true Independence Day barbeque. All of the kids really enjoyed the holiday and of course the food. 

Probation Staff and Providers Attend Community Barbeque

DJJ youth from the Eckerd Project Bridge Program in Circuit 19 were treated to a “BBQ Under the Bridge” luncheon, hosted by Eckerd staff. The event also honored Eckerd’s mentors and community partners. Prior to the event, the youth participated in a beach clean-up where several bags of trash were collected.  All attendees were treated with good food, fun, games and fellowship. Attendees heard from special guest speaker Albert Wilson, wide receiver for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs who spoke briefly about how the youth should continue to pursue their dreams. Albert was involved in the foster care system and takes his advocacy for the children in the foster care system very seriously. Albert presented a signed football to CPO Dorothy Malik which will be given away during an upcoming DJJ Back to School event in August. 

Eckerd Kids Project Bridge youth in Circuit 10 had the opportunity to take a behind the scenes tour of the Publix Diary Plant located in Lakeland. Students were able to get a sneak peek at what it takes to produce, process, store, and deliver their favorite dairy products and teas! Afterwards, students and staff were treated to taste EXCLUSIVE flavors of upcoming limited edition ice cream! Mrs. Mayes and staff were very accommodating and rolled out the red carpet for the team.

Prevention Staff Participate in Juneteenth Event  


Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell joined the Concerned African Women, Inc. in the celebration of Juneteenth in Miami Gardens. In commemoration of Juneteenth, a group of community-based organizations dubbed the Equity & Advocacy Collective, co-hosted its inaugural induction of a community-wide Council of Elders.

This day-long Juneteenth event featured African drumming from dawn to dusk along with a Juneteenth Ride-A-Long through five areas of the community – Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown, Opa-Locka and Miami Gardens in preparation for a “Collective Impact” initiative led by St. Petersburg-based Urban Market Analytics and sponsored by The Children’s Trust and Allegany Franciscan Ministries.  Elders were selected from each area and received heartfelt recognition because of their longstanding commitment and contributions to people of color in Miami-Dade County. 

Pictured above with Council of Elders inductees (left to right): Tina Brown, CEO Overtown Youth Center; LaTrisha Carter, COO, Concerned African Women, Inc.; Jannie Russell, CEO, Teen Upward Bound; Elder Mary Alice Brown; Elder Shirley Gibson; Elder Alberta Camphor; Elder Emily Diane Gunter; Elder Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall; Elder Sybil W. Lee; Carolyn “Kiani” Nesbitt, CEO, Concerned African Women, Inc.; Thelma Campbell, CEO, Girl Power; Horace Roberts, CEO, Belafonte Tacolcy.

The culminating induction ceremony was hosted by Concerned African Women, Inc. and members of the Equity & Advocacy Collective group. The mission of the Equity & Advocacy Collective group is to advocate for the equitable distribution of funds, goods and services to people of color throughout Miami-Dade County.  

Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III attended the 32nd annual Florida Youth Challenge Academy’s (FLYCA) graduation ceremony at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts on the campus of St. Johns River State College campus in Orange Park.

The class theme was “I turn my cant’s into cans and my dreams into plans” and there were a total of 135 students in the graduating class.  The speaker was Dr. Saryn Hatcher, Principal of FLYCA Academy and Drop Out Prevention Administrator of Clay County School District. Opening remarks were delivered by Program Director Retired Sergeant Major James R. Ransom. Welcome and introductions were provided by Abby Vazquez, Deputy Director of FLYCA. Encouraging words and remarks were given by Brigadier General Trey Chauncey, Assistant Adjutant General and Colonel Tad Warfel, Director of State Programs.

Pictured above (from left to right): Verla Lawson-Grady, Sgt. Major (Retired) James R. Ransom, Program Director and Onazina Washington

The Declaration of Graduation was presented to the students by Addison Davis, Superintendent of Schools, District of Clay County.  The ceremony was closed with the Retirement of Colors by the Academy Color Guard. In addition to the graduates, there were approximately 300 parents, relatives, teachers, mentors and friends in attendance.

Young ladies from the PACE Center for Girls of Orange County had the opportunity to learned about an African Yoga Project, which delivers global wellbeing in and from Africa. Each Wednesday, Melissa Davis and Lyndsey McLaughlin with Warrior One, a Central Florida yoga studio, provide yoga for the girls. Melissa arranged for Millie Weke, an instructor with the African Yoga Project from Nairobi Kenya, to present at PACE Orange when Millie was in Orlando as a guest presenter at Warrior One. 

Millie Weke shared her story which mirrors many of the PACE girls.  She shared that she found yoga during a difficult time, how yoga became a refuge for her, and how she is now making a difference in her community. Millie even provides yoga at an orphanage in Nairobi which offers care to many children.  

Millie encouraged the girls to continue connecting with yoga to care for their minds, bodies, and spirits.  Mille’s story showed for many girls how finding an outlet will support growth and change.  When Millie comes back to Orlando, the PACE Orange girls are looking forward to a field trip to Warrior One to enjoy a class taught by Millie. 

Residential Facilities Engage in Outdoor Activities and Family Fun Days

 src=Okaloosa Youth Academy (OYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 19, which is operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, held a Water Day & Cook Out to kick off the summer for the residents.  It is amazing how a water slide brings out the kid in everyone.  The barbeque was great, with ribs, coleslaw, baked beans, and cookies.  

A few days later, OYA held its quarterly family day that included field day activities for the residents, their guardians, and visiting siblings.  The OYA food service staff hosted a cookout for everyone that included hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, ice cream sandwiches, and assorted beverages. The families enjoyed interacting with the staff and residents, and the opportunity to play basketball, kickball, run relay races, compete in pull-ups and dips, and play football toss. 

It’s not all fun and games at OYA this summer though. Last week, the program began its entrepreneurship business enterprise: a car wash. The students really enjoy the work and have learned how to start a small business. They have learned about time cards for employees, supply inventory, and how to get a small loan for the startup costs.  

Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and the Gulf Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys that are operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, held their monthly student awards ceremony last week.  They recognized the youth for a variety of achievements, from mastering table manners in dining hall etiquette, to athletic prowess on the field and academic progress in the classroom. 

Congratulations to the students of the month: youth DM and youth JP (Hastings), and youth MS and youth KB (Gulf).  Keep up the good work!  

In addition to the student awards ceremony, the two programs celebrated their graduates with a special ceremony to honor the residents who have begun the transition process and will successfully complete the program this summer. We anticipate 15 residents from Hastings and 11 residents from Gulf will achieve their treatment goals and transition back to their communities before the fall. 

At the ceremony, community martial arts expert Jim Niland was the inspirational guest speaker and he also demonstrated how to break a concrete block!

To celebrate Independence Day, Cypress Creek Treatment Center, a secure program for boys, ages 15 to 21, which is operated by G4S Youth Services, LLC, held several outdoor activities for the residents.  The boys participated in a 3-point shoot-out, 3-on-3 basketball games, a push-up contest, and a trivia contest.  All the residents enjoyed the day and the cheeseburgers prepared especially for the celebration.

Challenge Youth Academy (CYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by Eckerd Kids, was pleased to have CEO and President of Beast Athletics Tuck Taylor as the motivational speaker for the students last week.  Years ago, Mr. Taylor began his business by training a small number of clients in a parking lot and has since grown his business into a state-of-the-art facility in Clearwater, with more than 200 fitness members. 

Along with running his company and training professional athletes, he travels as a motivational speaker for students, giving them strategies for staying focused and becoming successful. 

In addition to the students’ enthusiastic response to Mr. Taylor’s outlined plan, they reported finding his enthusiasm and self-confidence contagious.  He challenged them to develop their personal goals and to leave behind anything and anyone standing in their way to success.  

July began with a family day, welcoming more than 50 family members, friends, and volunteers, to enjoy the day with the residents and staff of Charles Britt Academy (CBA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC

Family and friends participated in a facility tour, enjoyed a barbecue lunch, and cheered their favorite teams and players in a resident versus staff basketball game, a water balloon fight, and musical performances by the youth.  One of the brightest parts of the day was when the families were given the opportunity to complete surveys on how they thought their youth has progressed since being in the program. 

Almost all of the parents stated that they have seen growth in their youth since entering CBA.  Most of the parents stated that they have seen growth in respect, maturity, academics, and in how their child is now excited about performing so positively.  

In addition, three CBA residents passed the GED® test and the program held a graduation ceremony for the successful students that included family, friends, staff members, and Pinellas County School Board officials. The ceremony also served as a visual reminder to other residents that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to, regardless of their current situation.

Special thanks go to the Pinellas County School Board, CBA staff, and mentors who worked tirelessly with the students to ensure they were prepared and in the best position to pass the exam.