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Secretary's Message

August 29, 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

Early Bird Registration Deadline Upcoming for the National Symposium on Juvenile Services

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice along with the National Partnership for Juvenile Services will host the 23rd National Symposium on Juvenile Services on October 8-12 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando. This unique forum brings together leadership and direct care professionals from juvenile services and professionals from other human service programs for training and the opportunity to network and share innovative service approaches being implemented within the juvenile justice system throughout the country.

DJJ Assistant Secretary for Probation Paul Hatcher, Director of Education Julie Orange, Statewide Civil Citation Coordinator Theda Roberts, and Government Analyst II Maureen Honan from Detention Services will be leading individual breakout sessions along with juvenile justice experts nationwide.

Early-bird registration for Florida residents is now underway and will continue through September 1 and the deadline to register for this event is September 6. You may register for the conference by clicking here.

Staff Announcement and Kudos

On August 4, North Regional Director for Detention Services Colette Antozzi and Residential Commitment Chief Michell McCarthy graduated from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) Executive Leadership Seminar at the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute. Colette and Michell represented DJJ among 30 other criminal justice leaders from across the state who were selected to participate in the rigorous three-week program. The seminar focused on communicating through a crisis, critical thinking, managing organizations, overcoming adversity and servant leadership.

Colette and Michell’s class was just the fifth in this program and one of the outcomes was to strengthen the partnerships with staff from other agencies who interact with DJJ. I would like congratulate Colette and Michell on their successful completion of the leadership seminar and thank Assistant Secretary for Detention Services Dixie Fosler, Assistant Secretary for Residential Services Laura Moneyham and LEAD Institute Project Manager Jon Howard for attending the ceremony. DJJ is committed to continuous leadership development of its staff at all levels of the agency. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Laura Moneyham, Michell McCarthy, Colette Antozzi and Dixie Fosler

Congratulations to Juvenile Detention Officer II (JDO) Milton Spence from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center for being recognized as the Employee of the Month at the facility for the month of July. JDO Spence, a 19-year veteran with DJJ, was nominated for his willingness to assist at St. Lucie as well as other facilities in the Central and South Regions. He has received praise from the education department at St. Lucie for his professionalism and group control in the classrooms.

JDO Spence recently graduated from Indian River State College with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and since that time has shown great leadership ability in training newly hired officers. He has compassion and concern for the youth at St. Lucie and goes above and beyond to meet their needs. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Sargent Mildred Towns, Officer Spence and Sargent Lee Davis

Congratulations to Superintendent Jack McCotter from the Collier Regional Juvenile Detention Center who recently announced his retirement from the Department effective October 5. Major McCotter began his career as a juvenile detention officer at the Monroe Regional Juvenile Detention Center. He then worked in various capacities at the Southwest Detention Center before being promoted to the position of superintendent at Collier. Major McCotter plans to enjoy his retirement while he travels the country visiting our national parks. DJJ congratulates him on a distinguished career and thanks him for his commitment to the children of Florida.

Center Row: Vincent Vurro, Steve Owens, Dixie Fosler, Jack McCotter

Back Row:  Dennis Driscoll, Jonathon Hackley, Kevin Housel

Front Row:  Latesha Thomas, Dedilia Finlayson, Katiscia Bruce, Kim Jacobs

Detention Facility Begins EJECT Program to Help Youth Transition to Residential Commitment 

The Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) recently created a new program designed for all youth who have been court-ordered to a residential commitment. The program, known as EJECT (Encouraging Juveniles to Embrace Commitment Transition), helps youth prepare for the transition to residential commitment by developing skills focused on family, career, education and personal enrichment.

EJECT was started six weeks ago and provides youth with key information regarding their commitment program. In addition, EJECT provides youth with an opportunity to reflect on the negatives and positives about their pending commitment and to set goals to accomplish within their commitment placement as well as post commitment.

The Escambia RJDC is also working with local advocacy groups to assist these youths upon their release. After release from residential commitment, many of these young people leave with inadequate or no clothing, and the program is working to supply the youth with proper clothing. Volunteers and members of the faith community, Pastor Demetrious Brinson and his wife Kimberly, have assisted the facility in developing a place to store clothing and accessories by working with the DJJ Office of Probation in donating two rooms within the Juvenile Assessment Center.  The rooms and clothing will be used for youth released from detention without proper clothing and youth identified by either detention or probation that are in need of clothing for job interviews, school, and other important functions. 

The Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center welcomed special guests Daniel Zamora, Bret Helton and Stephen Alemais from the Bradenton Marauders minor league baseball team. The players toured the entire facility, making stops in the classrooms and dining halls to provide words of wisdom to youth on how to make the right decisions in life. In addition, the youth at Manatee played a few team building exercises with the Marauder players and really enjoyed the experience. The Marauders, a single-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, have decided to make Manatee a community partner and plan to make monthly visits with the youth at the facility.  

Probation Staff Members Attend Community Expo

Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Marilyn Walker and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee hosted a DJJ resource table during the 2017 Community Solutions and Empowerment Expo in St. Petersburg. The event featured more than a dozen of Pinellas County’s solution-based youth programs and included a family-focused dialogue which was hosted by Hip-Hop Icon Darryl “DMC” McDaniel of RUN-DMC, National Spirit Coordinator Jared Williams, and local celebrity Marcus Dixon. The expo also included the official launch of SpringZone St. Pete, which is a grassroots community and youth mentoring engagement movement.  

The Circuit Advisory Board’s RED (Racial and Ethnic Disparities) Committee in Circuit 12 recently hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives)Conversation in Manatee County. The discussion was moderated by Chief Circuit Judge Charles Williams and featured 15 law enforcement officers from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Palmetto Police Department as well as youth from Teen Court, Paxen Day Treatment, DJJ Probation and Eckerd’s Project Bridge. The youth spoke candidly regarding their experiences with law enforcement while the officers spoke regarding their interactions with juveniles. Everyone involved left the discussion experiencing a great exchange of ideas and opinions. 

Probation staff from Circuit 13 including Senior Juvenile Probation Officers Rickayle Zanders and Sara Folkins, Juvenile Probation Officers Dexter Battle, Jennifer Urra, Melanie Hope, Melissa Tramutola and JDAI Coordinator Sara Blumberg teamed up with members of the Tampa Police Department in District 2 to conduct ride-along curfew checks for those youth who are on home detention, absconders, and failure to appears.  The curfew check was organized by Officer Christopher LaFramboise and around twenty Tampa police officers joined our staff members over the five-and-a-half-hour ride along. Approximately 40 youth were contacted throughout the night. 

Juvenile Probation Officers Jamie Rea and Jennifer Young from Circuit 6 assisted the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office during a large-scale enforcement operation on August 16. The Pasco County Enforcement Action Plan targeted prolific offenders, code enforcement violators and those with outstanding warrants. DJJ joined the Department of Corrections, Code and Building Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to help conduct the enforcement of the action plan.

Juvenile Justice Officer Academy Graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to the newest juvenile justice probation officers (JPO) who graduated from the Florida Public Safety Institute on August 4th.  Thanks to Judge Charles Dodson, for delivering the graduation address for the JPO graduation. Kudos to Learning Consultant Christina Ash and Senior Learning Specialist Artavia Parrish for training the officers in these positions of critical responsibility. 

Back Row(L-R): Zachery Stackhouse, Breton Tambasco, Stephanie Wise, Marvin Blue, Charles Reilly, Tyson Kemp, Brandon Mitchem, Norman Sherrod, Angela Pereles-Santiago, Blair Dodson


Middle Row: Pamela Givans, Christian Jackson, Paul Czekanski, Khariel Livingston, Amanda DeHaan, Shamika Whitlock, Jarvis West, Moya Campbell, Marissa Wisniewski, Morale Durden


Front Row: Krystal Deleon, Turquoise Hogan, Breton Tramutola, Knasas Warren, Patricia Vargas

Residential Youth Assist a Local Horse Farm and Work With Habitat for Humanity

The residents from Highlands Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 15 to 19, which is operated by TruCore Behavioral Solutions were given the opportunity to assist with the Heartland Horses in Sebring. This program helps the disabled to improve their confidence, dignity, mobility & self-esteem. Highland Youth Academy students were excited to give back to the community and were also allowed to ride on the horses.

The HBI program of Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy—both of which are non-secure programs for boys that are operated by TruCore Behavioral Solutions continued its partnership with the Putnam County Habitat for Humanity to finish painting a newly constructed home. The youth did an excellent job and received tremendous praise from Ramicah Johnson, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity. Ms. Johnson said that the youth’s painting skills rivaled that of professional painters and she looks forward to continuing to work with the youth on future projects. As an added surprise, the recipients of the new house, Mr. Thomas and Yvonne Links stopped by to see the work the youth had done. Mrs. Links is a local veteran who was so excited to see the work of the youth. After many hugs and praise, the youth were excited to be able to put a face to their hard work.

In addition, Hastings and Gulf Youth Academy celebrated Ms. Tamera Vaughn for her hard work, dedication, and 18 years of service to our program. Not only is Ms. Vaughn the business manager at Hastings, but she also manages the Jacksonville and Daytona facilities, along with the education department of St. Johns Youth Academy. She is also one of the ‘founders’ who opened the doors. Ms. Vaughn is an invaluable resource and has dedicated so much to the program. Hastings staff and youth cannot say enough words of gratitude to her and how thankful we are for her continued service. 

Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by TruCore Behavioral Solutions hosted their 2nd Annual Jacksonville Invitational Track Meet, which included participation by Hastings, Duval and St. John’s Youth Academies. Youth participated in 6 track events including the 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 4x100 Relay and 4x400 Relay along with 1 field event the Hammer Throw. After a long day of running and competition, St. John’s Youth Academy beat Jacksonville by 4 points to place 1st, Jacksonville placed 2nd, and Duval Academy took 3rd. All youth who placed in events received gold, silver, and bronze medals for their efforts. Overall, it was a great day of fun and friendly competition! Special thanks to NE Commitment Chief Virgil Wright for supporting our youth on this special day.

Residents from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC along with members of the Advisory Board and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, helped clean up in the Jacksonville community. They were happy to help and are looking forward to the next volunteer project.

Earlier this week, residents from Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by TruCore Behavioral Solutions along with Case Manager Danielle Dickson and Assistant Facility Administrator Amelia Vazquez volunteered at a Metropolitan Ministries soup kitchen. Youth helped to prepare the meals and serve the food and Youth Q.B (pictured to the left), was named "The Chef" for her skills in the kitchen! The girls said they learned a lot from the experience and it felt good to give back. Youth also passed out prayer cloths that they hand crocheted.

Residents at Orange Youth Academy and Bartow Youth Academy, non-secure programs for boys operated by TruCore Behavioral Solutions, participated in a basketball game which took place at Caber Park Rec Center in Bartow. Youth from both facilities had a great time competing against each other. Recreational Therapist Taverius Roberson and Staff Mentor Mr. Williams organized this event and will continue to plan a sporting event twice a month for the youth. 

During the back-to-school celebration week, a motivational mural was created, which was led by the extraordinary creative team of Ms. Brittney Ashley, Ms. Arielle Deverson, and Ms. Sheratanairy Flores at Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by TruCore Behavioral Solutions. These creative geniuses facilitated the unique visual art project as a way to motivate youth and nurture their artistic talent. Working with 9 program youth, the staff were assisted by community partner Mr. Jonathan Molina from Calvary Chapel.

This mural is a living testament to the program graduates and each one will have opportunity to leave a short motivational phrase for all future youth.

MYA routinely presents therapeutic activities involving uniquely designed concepts, encouraging youth to be creative and embrace creativity to further promote positive thinking and interactions.

Prevention Staff Attend Local Faith Expo Designed to Get Youth Ready for School

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson attended a community festival at the New Life Church of Orlando-Church of God in Christ on August 12. At the event, youth were provided with free shoes and a book bag full of school supplies to help them prepare for the new school year. In addition, student volunteers from Herzing College were on hand to provide free blood pressure screenings. Dionne provided information to community members about the initiatives and resources that our agency has to offer. The mission at New Life Church of Orlando is to “exceed your expectations by offering a powerful experience with a positive word in a practical way.”