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Secretary's Message

October 16, 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

23rd National Symposium on Juvenile Justice and Teacher of the Year Awards

Last week, DJJ cohosted, along with the National Partnership for Juvenile Services, the 23rd National Symposium on Juvenile Services in Orlando. The National Symposium on Juvenile Services is a unique forum that brings together the leadership and direct care professionals from juvenile services and other human services professionals for training and the opportunity to network and share innovative program service approaches being implemented within the juvenile justice system throughout the country. I had the honor of providing opening remarks to the many juvenile justice professionals in attendance from around the country. It was a great opportunity to share with them an overview of Florida’s juvenile justice system and the successes we have seen statewide in our reform efforts.  

At the symposium, we were excited to honor our 2015-16 Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award finalists and announce this year’s award winner. This year, our Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award winner is Caleb Bates, a math and science teacher at Les Peters Academy, a juvenile residential commitment program serving males, ages 14 to 18, in Hillsborough County. Mr. Bates began his teaching career in the traditional school setting before transitioning to juvenile justice schools three years ago. Mr. Bates believes that all interactions with students are relevant to them, and that teaching is more than sharing knowledge, but is about inspiring others to discover their purpose.

Our other two finalists for teacher of the year were Charli Wutzler, an intensive reading teacher at the PACE Center for Girls in Marion County and Kelli Goff, a reading teacher at the PACE Center for Girls in Pasco County.  Ms. Wutzler, Ms. Goff and Mr. Bates were chosen as three finalists out of many juvenile justice educators throughout the state of Florida.  Each finalist receives a medal and monetary award from the Florida Association of Alternative School Education.  

Pictured above: 2015-2016 Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Award winner, Caleb Bates.

Transition specialists from Eckerd Kids and DJJ also co-facilitated a workshop at the symposium entitled “Maximizing Resources for the Juvenile Justice Transition Population”. Participants had an opportunity to hear about recent efforts to streamline processes and strengthen partnerships between juvenile justice agencies. The team provided an overview of system improvements for the at-risk youth population transitioning to their home communities and how solution sharing is the key to enhancing service delivery among this service population.

Pictured above (from left to right): Claudia Laos, Eckerd Kids South FL Transitions Director; Shauntrai Bruton, FL DJJ Statewide Transition Coordinator; Laurie Stern, Eckerd Kids Central FL Transitions Director; Ana C. Lewis, Eckerd Kids Senior Operations Director

Staff Announcement and Kudos

Statewide Employee of the Month Awarded to Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Jenny Hickox

Congratulations to Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Jenny Hickox who has been named DJJ’s Statewide Employee of the Month.

SJPO Hickox, who serves in the Circuit 19 Okeechobee Probation Office,  excels in representing the Department and our mission in the office, community, and courtroom. She goes above and beyond in providing guidance and support to youth both currently on her caseload as well as youth she has previously supervised. She takes great pride in her work and fights tirelessly for the progress of our youth, helping to guide them towards a successful future. Congratulations again to SJPO Jenny Hickox on this well-deserved honor!

We look forward to highlighting our next Statewide Employee of the Month in the near future. If you know of a dedicated DJJ employee deserving of this distinction, please send in your nominations for Statewide Employee of the Month by clicking here (this link can only be accessed by DJJ employees). 

Chief Probation Officer Rick Bedson, Assistant Chief Probation Officer Lori Bright and Reform Specialist Randy Reynolds from Circuit 5 were honored with the 2017 Child Welfare Excellence Award for the Central Region. This award was given for our team’s instrumental and groundbreaking work in furthering crossover efforts within the circuit. The DJJ team were awarded along with their community partners including: The Department of Children and Families, Arnette House, Kids Central, Camelot, Lutheran Services of Florida and the Centers.

This extraordinary team is committed to the staffing process and developing individual service plans for youth.  The collaboration demonstrated by these amazing individuals and agencies has directly impacted youth and their families access to services. On behalf of the entire agency, I would like to say congratulations to the Marion County Crossover Youth Practice and County Review Team. 

Probation Provider Donates Clothing to a Worthy Student

The first day of school can be scary for any kid of any age. As probation staff and community-based providers know all too well, it can be especially challenging for youth who have been involved in the juvenile justice system.  In Circuit 14, Youth JW recently faced just such a challenge.  JW completed his residential commitment at Twin Oaks’ Juvenile Unit for Specialized Treatment (JUST) and was direct discharged from DJJ supervision.  He requested and was referred for transition services through Project Connect prior to his return to his community. 

Project Connect worked with JUST to make his transition as smooth as possible.  It was in transition that Project Connect’s Transition Specialist, Andrew Starr, identified that the youth needed clothing to attend school.  Youth JW’s family was not able to self-provide and had recently lost their home and were living with relatives.  Life Coach (mentor) Todd Harless and Transition Specialist Andrew Starr sprang into action and gathered clothing donations while using some of their own funds to purchase Youth JW some appropriate clothing, including a brand-new pair of Nike shoes.  They met him at New Horizons Learning Center on his first day of school and presented him with his new wardrobe.  Youth JW and his mother were extremely thankful for this kind gesture.  It speaks volumes about this youth that he would volunteer to participate in extended transition services.  With support like this from his community, the future is full of hope for him! 

DJJ Probation staff in Circuit 4 recently participated in the 4th Judicial Circuit’s 3rd Annual Resource Fair, which was hosted by Judge Suzanne Bass. In addition to DJJ, many of the other community service providers including Daniel House, Bay Area Youth Services, Hubbard House, AMIkids and the Youth Crisis Center were on hand to share information about the services offered through their organizations. 

Pictured above (from left to right): JPO Rose Sanon, JPO Megan Brady, JPO Rodneiyka Thornton, JPO Tiffany Gause, Reform Specialist Donna Clayton, and JPO Melissa Przybylski

Reform Specialist Donna Clayton, Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Minetricia Monbrun and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Andria George from Circuit 4 recently hosted the Parenting with Love and Limits (PLL) therapy model for parents of youth who are re-entering the community from a residential placement. The PLL model is delivered by our contacted provider North American Family Institute and combines parenting management groups and family therapy into one continuum of care to quickly engage parents. The intent of the model is to work with the youth who are committed to residential approximately 90 days prior to release while simultaneously working with the parent in the community where the youth will be returning.  

On October 6, Circuit 12 Probation staff from Bradenton Units 201 & 202 participated in the Annual International Coastal Cleanup.  As members of Keep Manatee Beautiful, the DJJ team adopted Bean Point, on Anna Maria Island over 10 years ago and have maintained the area ever since. During the recent clean-up event, the team covered over four miles of beach at the most northern tip of Anna Maria Island.  All items that were picked up were categorized and logged and the data will be included in the final International statistical report.  

I am pleased to share this letter from a probationary youth sent to her Circuit 18 (JPO) Candy Haddix. The letter praises JPO Haddix and credits all the DJJ staff who she views as beacons of hope.  It is always encouraging to receive letters like this one to know that the work we do is truly making a difference. 

Pace Education Staff Kicks Off the Halloween Season With a Flash Mob

The education staff from the PACE Center for Girls in Pasco County is kicking off the Halloween season in a SPOOKTACULAR way! The staff surprised the girls with a Zombie Flash mob choreographed to Michael Jackson’s famous Thriller. Everyone had a great time and the girls loved it. The event served as the kickoff for incentives in the month of October.  

Pictured above (from left to right): Cindy Kerigan (Math Teacher), Renee Shelton (Intake Counselor), Wendy Vazquez-Ernest (Science Teacher), Kelli Goff (Reading Teacher & Academic Manager), Belle Cucalon (English Teacher)

Detention Facility Welcomes New Cadets 

The Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center would like to welcome its new cadets including Calvin Mason, Christopher Separa, Krystal Anderson and Jada Choice. These new cadets are under the direction of the facility’s new training coordinator (FTC) Frelicia Davis. FTC Davis has put our new recruits through a series of rigorous training exercises. Davis will blindfold the cadets and test their listening skills as they walk through a makeshift mine field. FTC Davis has taken the training exercises to a new level that will make the training memorable and promote team building.

Back row (from left to right): Captain Rodney Goss, Calvin Mason, Christopher Separa, Training Coordinator Frelicia Davis

Front row (from left to right): Krystal Anderson, Jada Choice and Mercedes Bosanto 

Last week, the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center welcomed attendees from the National Symposium on Juvenile Services in Orlando. Registered guests from Mississippi, Colorado and Georgia took a tour of the facility which was followed by a question and answer session with Superintendent Lawrence Palmer

Prevention Staff Attend Benefit Drive for Victims of Hurricane Irma

Statewide Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Onazina Washington III, and Senior Professional Accountant LaKay Jackson took part in a “Stuff the Truck” drive to benefit Hurricane Irma relief efforts at the New Mount Zion Church in Tallahassee.

The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) Executives North Florida Chapter and Mt. Zion Church in partnership with the Black & Missing Foundation presented Hurricane Irma (“Stuff the Truck Drive”), relief supplies to families who experienced damage during hurricane Irma and/or were in need of assistance. Verla, LaKay and Onazina packed & distributed bags of diapers, baby formula, water, children’s books, toys, clothes, shoes, soap, lotion, shampoo and non-perishable food, and furniture.

Central Communications Coordinator Jean Hall and Program Specialist Trevor Gilmore held a Central Communications Center (CCC) Reportable Incident training session September 26-27 at Interface Youth Shelters of Palatka, Gainesville and Lake City as well as the PACE Center for Girls of Gainesville. This training stressed the importance to provider staff of timely reporting of incidents, nature of incidents to report, and how the process operates.

The trainings occurred based on the programs’ number of erroneous incidents that were reported during the previous year. The trainings were an effort to reduce the total of erroneous reports and number by a significant margin. The trainings were also meant to curtail the number of reporting errors involving distribution of medication to youth in DJJ facilities.

The trainings were well received by staff at each program and has begun the trend of fewer error-related incidents. Additional CCC trainings are being planned for the coming months.

Pictured above (from left to right): Trevor Gilmore; Regional Coordinator, Cindy Starling; Registered Nurse, Terrie Brantley; Jean Hall; Residential Supervisor, Angela Williams; Residential Counselor, Alex Culbreth; back row (left to right): Youth Care Worker, Rachel Gaines; Senior Youth Care Worker, Karen Bethel and Youth Care Worker, Jeremiah Drains. 

Young Ladies from the PACE Center for Girls of Marion County have been participating in the Junior Achievement Titan Program. The Titan program, which began on October 3, will run seven weeks and teaches students to apply business concepts to a virtual stimulation program to learn how key business decisions affect a company’s bottom line.  Students will learn to clarify personal goals, ethics, and working styles by using decision-making skills from a business-leadership perspective. PACE Marion is the first school in Marion County to present the Titan program to its students.

Residential Youth Volunteer at a Local Horse Camp and Participate in Family Day

Earlier this month, the Highlands Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys ages, 15 to 19, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, sent seven youth to volunteer with one of its community partners, the Heartland Horses and Handicap riding program. The riding program is for individuals with special needs and puts together riders and horses in a unique mixture of physical interaction, exercise, education, and fun! Youth assist the program in many ways and are responsible for saddling, walking, and cleaning for the horses.

From volunteering to vocational training, Highlands Youth Academy had eight students successfully complete the CTECH certification in either audio video or copper cabling. These youths are prime examples of pro-active residents who are looking to better their future. Being able to complete the program and have so many opportunities in their future is what CTECH provides. Congratulations to each of them on this great achievement! 

Charles Britt Academy (CBA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18 operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, LLC, once again stepped out of the box by ensuring that youth are in the best possible position for life after Charles Britt Academy. The academy has recently partnered with All Children’s Hospital to participate in monthly Young Men improvement workshop groups. This partnership opened the door for our young men to be invited to a fatherhood workshop this week.

Charles Britt Academy escorted 3 youth, who are fathers, to a fatherhood conference in Tampa, entitled “Extreme Fathering”. Extreme Fathering is a two-day seminar that encourages, informs, educates and trains men on how to be the best fathers they can possibly be. The conference was sport-themed to show that you must be active as a father. The conference included breakfast, lunch, guest speakers, health and wellness checks, community leaders and activist who showed participating fathers the evolution of fatherhood and the importance of being positive fathers in today’s society.

The highlight of the conference was that LSU standout and former NFL star Michael Clayton was the keynote speaker on positive fatherhood. Our young men absolutely loved the seminar and said that they feel better prepared to embrace fatherhood once they graduate from CBA. Even our staff members who attended the conference with our youth stated that the seminar has opened their eyes in the way they see fatherhood.

In addition, Charles Britt Academy hosted their quarterly Family Day and it was a huge success. More than 50 family members, friends, and volunteers flooded CBA to participate in this event. The academy provided their guests with a tour of the facility, lunch, fun and games including a 3-legged races, egg and spoon races and water balloon tosses. Free musical entertainment was provided by our youth and CBA even went the extra mile and provided free chair massages for our guests. Family and friends were totally blown away by the event, but also by the growth that the youth have made. Parents were given surveys at the end of Family Day to rate the facility and the progress that they witnessed from their youth during their visit and the ratings were awesome. Family Day at CBA was once again a huge success and the families exited the facility feeling confident that their children were in great hands. CBA looks forward to the next Family Day and plan to make it even bigger and better than the last.

Register Today for the 8th Annual Florida Faith Symposium

The eighth Annual Florida Faith Symposium will be held November 7-8, 2017, at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. The symposium is one of the state’s largest gatherings of faith leaders and government agencies joining forces to serve and strengthen Florida’s children and families.  

The conference will feature dynamic speakers, more than 35 workshops, and a variety of exhibits focused on enhancing faith- and community-based programs. Attendees can also look forward to inspiring musical performances by Dove and Grammy award-winning jazz musician Ben Tankard and the Camp Anderson Band, a youth-led group that is living proof of the positive impact of faith- and community-based programs.  

This event is hosted by the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, in partnership with the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council, as well as other statewide partners. 

To register and for more information, visit http://faithsymposium.com/.