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Secretary's Message

November 6, 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 Staff Compete in Charity Golf Tournament

Chief of Information Technology Dennis Hollingsworth, General Counsel Brian Berkowitz, Data Processing Manager Ken Mason and Circuit 2 Chief Probation Officer Dave Cornuet participated in the 18th Annual Corrections Foundation Golf Tournament sponsored by the Florida Department of Corrections. While victory may have eluded them, it was for a great cause and fun was had by all.

Pictured above (from left to right): Dennis Hollingsworth, Brian Berkowitz, Ken Mason, and Dave Cornuet. 

Bureau of Information Technology Conducts Statewide Meeting 

The Bureau of Information Technology recently held a statewide meeting in Tallahassee. During the meeting, the team discussed upcoming network changes, changes in server technology, inventory process improvements, teambuilding and specialized training in the areas of customer service and cybersecurity.  We appreciate everyone’s participation and a special thanks to those who stayed behind and provided critical IT support for their respective regions during this time.

Probationary Youth Takes Career Exploratory Visits

Every young person and their family who participates in the north region’s probation transition service, Project Connect, are afforded the opportunity to include Family Reintegration Circles (FRC) as part of their individualized service plan (ISP).  FRC was developed in partnership with the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding in Gainesville, FL as a restorative justice-based tool to identify the harm brought to the family unit caused by the youth’s criminogenic actions, identify how that harm can be repaired and how that harm can be prevented from affecting the family again.  Family goals are identified based on the FRC session and placed on the ISP.  Recently in Circuit 5, Youth RS enlisted the assistance of his Transition Specialist Robert Smith in completing the action steps of his FRC goal, which included getting a haircut and conducting career exploratory site visits.  His family was very satisfied with the haircut and Youth RS is now an interested firefighter candidate, especially when they shared their salary and benefit structure with him! 

I am pleased to share the following letter that was sent to Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Rachael Pierre-Louis from a parent regarding the outstanding client services she has received from Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Ilia Ortiz-Bergada. It reads:

Ms. Pierre-Louis,

I want to take a moment to let you know how much I appreciate Ms. Ortiz's efforts in keeping me up to date on all of my son's needs concerning his probation within Polk County. I live in Germany and my son's father does not communicate with me, so I have relied on Ms. Ortiz to keep me informed. Because of her diligence, together we have been able to keep him on a forward positive path to meet the terms of his probation.

Ms. Ortiz has been very helpful, kind, and a positive influence towards my son and I appreciate that very much.

I know working with youth in the manner she does is very hard work and she may not always hear positive praise.

It's an unfortunate circumstance my son finds himself in, but the adults in charge have the opportunity to make an impact and that is exactly what Ms. Ortiz has done.

Kuddos to Ms. Ortiz!

Circuit 9 GOC I Abby Anderson conducted electronic monitoring (EM) training last month for probation and detention staff members in Orange County. Circuit 9 historically hosts one of the highest number of youth on EM in the state, and the task is a shared responsibility between probation and detention staff members. Circuit 9 applauds Abby for facilitating this training and thanks to all the staff members who attended.

Probation staff in Circuit 15 partnered with the Riviera Beach Youth Empowerment Teen Program for their annual Paint Your Heart Out Project. Each year the program selects either an elderly community member, disabled person, or veteran homeowner in the city whose home is in need of painting. Our probation staff and several probationary youth did their fair share of painting and all of the youth earned community service hours for their efforts. The Youth Empowerment Program is one of the most influential community resources in the city of Riviera Beach. A special thanks to Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Frank Grant who provided transportation for the event.

Detention Youth Celebrate Halloween and Staff Recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The staff from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a Halloween party for the youth at the facility last week. All the kids enjoyed themselves and were very well behaved. The youth made paper masks and enjoyed a few Halloween treats

At the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center, staff and youth both got in on the Halloween festivities.  The facility enjoyed Halloween inspired treats, carved pumpkins, and the youth even went trick-or-treating from mod to mod on Halloween. 

Marion Detention celebrated a trunk or treat for all youth during Halloween. They enjoyed treats from 4 stations, played vegetable and corn hole games and ended the day with a party on Post 6. They decorated treat bags, cookies, listened to music and enjoyed the treats. Thank you to the staff, teachers, medical and mental health for participating.

Last Friday, Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center’s Students of the Week went trick-or-treating inside the facility.  Many of the youth wore their masks and carried their bags they created earlier in the week in VSA-Arts.  Master control, maintenance, mental health, medical, education, and transportation staff all passed out candy during the activity.

Food Service Director Anita Wohlert and Food Service Worker Juandal Huggins from the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center treated their youth to Spooktacular Halloween lunch treats last week in honor of the holiday. In addition to the treats seen in the pictures, the food service team prepared a special event for the level three boys and girls that was buffet table long, and included a puking pumpkin, spider cupcakes, two eyed tacos and blood clot punch.

Last week, the Central Region Office of Detention Services employees wore pink to commemorate October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The wearing of the pink hit close to home for the Central Region staff as two of their fellow employees are breast cancer survivors. 

Pictured above: Kameika Bonner; Lisa Arent; Jackie Vickery; April Walker; William Sargent; Troy Jones

Liz Dustin; Ruby Itzen; Annette Carter; Sandra Flament, Monica Gray; Mary Lardie; Melody Chisholm; Ronda Corr and Karla Edwards

Captain Kimberly Jacobs from the Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detention Center teamed up with the Junior League of Palm Beach to find a fun and creative way for the youth to get involved in the spirit of Halloween while in secure detention. The volunteers from the Junior League helped the youth decorate pumpkins and mini haunted houses to display. The group intends to come back and help the youth make Christmas ornaments as well. 

Office of Prevention Host State Advisory Group Meeting

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group (SAG) held its quarterly meeting October 23-24 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. During the final SAG meeting of 2017, SAG members received a briefing from Secretary Christina K. Daly about recent media attention.

SAG Chair Dwayne Maddron and Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims both delivered opening remarks. Chair Maddron also discussed recent OJJDP meetings that he had attended in Washington, D.C. Yvonne Woodard, Operations and Training Director, provided updates on federal sub grants and compliance.

Speakers included DJJ Director of Education Julie Orange, Circuit 9 Circuit Advisory Board DMC Committee Coordinator Tekoa Pouerie, and Muriel Jones and Crystal Lilly from the Federation of Families. SAG members also conducted site visits to the Orange County CINS/FINS Youth Shelter, AMI Kids and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims attended the Florida State University Women’s Track and Field Reunion on October 21 in Tallahassee. Assistant Secretary Sims and other women alumni were recognized for their outstanding performance and contributions in track and field during the FSU home football game.  During her career at FSU, Assistant Secretary Sims was a two-time National Champion in the long jump and 4 x 100-meter relay and a 7-time All-American.  She is still in the record books at FSU after competing nearly 40 years ago.

Following her career at FSU, Assistant Secretary Sims has been very involved within her local community, serving as the co-founder of Capital City Christian Cruisers (CCCC) Track and Field Club with her husband Ernie, Jr.  The CCCC is a component of The WAY Ministries, a community-based organization dedicated to meeting the spiritual, social and physical needs of young people and their families, and has served thousands of local at-risk youth since its inception in 1994.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson attended a meeting of the Seminole County Prevention Coalition on September 30 in Sanford. The guest speaker for this meeting was Circuit 18 Deputy Chief Probation Officer Omar Bohler who conducted a presentation on “Implicit Bias.” Deputy Chief Bohler presented a statistical look at implicit bias from a system perspective, with the primary focus on the criminal justice but also included education, housing and employment system.

The Seminole Prevention Coalition is aimed at preventing underage drinking, reducing prescription drug abuse and eliminating the risks of tobacco use and substance abuse in their community. Through research, consensus building and the coordination of resources, the Seminole Prevention Coalition takes a leadership role in improving the quality of life in Seminole County.

Pictured above: Deputy Chief Probation Officer Omar Bohler, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson with members of the Seminole County Department of Health, who were in attendance.

The PACE Reach Behavioral Health Services program hosted its first Family Night on October 12 at the PACE Center for Girls of Hillsborough County. PACE Reach Behavior Health Services is a unique program that provides free counseling that is strength-based and gender responsive.  Girls and young women, ages 11-17, who are referred from specified schools, Girls Court, juvenile probation and/or juvenile diversion programs are eligible for services. PACE Reach creates a safe environment where therapists support young women and their families to empower them to reach success in their lives.

The family night brought around 40 students and family members together to enjoy dinner, engage in parent- and girl-specific programming, and participate in an exciting raffle. At PACE, staff is as committed to families as they are to the girls, and their goal is to achieve an effective, respectful partnership with all of families.  During Family Night, they brought their Pinellas and Hillsborough Reach families together, allowing them to be honored, hear their voices and learn together, and highlight the individual and collective strengths of their community.

Residential Youth Share Words of Encouragement And Enjoy Special Rewards

The youth from Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, were invited to Harvest Time Christian Fellowship to share the importance of staying out of trouble, following rules and being a productive citizen in society with at-risk youth. The youth shared their stories and provided words of encouragement for all in attendance.

Earlier this month, the staff at Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and the Gulf Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys and are operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, rewarded six young men with dinner at the Olive Garden restaurant. The youth enjoyed the restaurant’s Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promotion. They devoured pasta of various varieties with marinara and alfredo sauces. One youth ate five bowls of pasta and said that he hadn’t eaten like that in a very long time. Another youth had never been to Olive Garden and really enjoyed the soup. While the youth could not agree on which sauce was the best, they all agreed that “nothing beats an All You Can Eat meal.”

Hastings and Gulf Academy rewarded their staff as well. They held two separate bowling nights to show their appreciation. The facility suffered major damage during Hurricane Irma and has been temporarily relocated until repairs are completed. The staff have shown tremendous dedication to their jobs and to the youth during this temporary displacement. The bowling nights were filled with fun, heated competition, and laughter. Thank you to all the staff as the TrueCore Behavioral team and DJJ expresses our sincerest gratitude to each of you. 

A few days later, Hastings and Gulf Academy took six youth to the Manatee Lanes in Crystal River. All have shown continued positive behavior and progress in the program. The youth bowled a few games and had soda and pepperoni pizza. There were no great scores, yet the joy of their smiles showed their gratefulness as they enjoyed their bowling outing.

The Marion Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 19, operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, Sequel Youth and Family Services staff, and Marion County Public Schools (MCPS) education staff took part in supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Our facility was beautifully decorated for Breast Cancer Awareness by Mrs. Heath. She also decorated for Halloween. On Fridays, the staff wore pink to support breast cancer.

On Friday October 20th, MYA staff Mrs. Heath presented a program which included a play called “The Fight for Survival.” The play was produced by Mrs. Heath and was narrated by MCPS education staff member, Ms. Lyles, with participation by MYA youth and staff. The play consisted of positive encouragement for a woman who was fighting breast cancer. She struggled with negative behavior and depression until she realized she needed hope, faith and strength to survive.

In addition, plaques were handed out to breast cancer survivors and a poem was read by MCPS staff member, Mrs. Cicci. There were gift bags given to everyone, line dancing and refreshments served. Our special guest was MCPS Director of Alternative Learning, Dr. Dama Abshier.

Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, hosted a domestic violence awareness day on October 20, 2017. Staff, mentors, and youth participated in a psychoeducation session in which therapists discussed domestic violence, it's impact on the victims, remaining safe in an abusive relationship, and ways to get out of one. Following the session was a balloon release for victims of domestic violence and inspirational quotes. As the balloons traveled in the sky, staff, including our corporate supports Kathy and Mike, mentors and youth walked and ran to raise awareness.

In addition, eligible youth from Central Pasco Girls Academy attended church service outings every other weekend. Bay Hope also comes onsite weekly on Wednesday for Bible Study and youth can fellowship with their assigned mentor at both times. The girls were also able to meet and speak with Pastor Matthew. This is also part of the preparation for the youth who want to get baptized, so they understand the purpose behind Baptism.

But it’s not all serious at the CPGA, as Rec Therapist Amelia Vazquez hosted a Halloween party for the girls on October 27. The girls and staff enjoyed music, a candy bar, dessert table filled with delicious sweets, and a punch with floating eyeballs. The youth in attendance earned all their points and did not receive any behavioral referrals to attend the Halloween Party incentive. Central Pasco Girls Academy holds an incentive nightly for all youth who meet this expectation as part of our positive performance system. The girls look forward to being able to attend incentive with the staff hosting it. Incentive also provides staff with the opportunity to interact with the youth in a fun way.

Earlier this month, the youth of Columbus Juvenile Residential Facility, a non-secure program for boys ages ten to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, participated in lending “A Helping Hand” to the Reasons family who own a farm in Dade City, FL. The farm had been in the same state of disaster left behind by Hurricane Irma. The Reasons family is an extended family to the Columbus facility, as they assist with the aquaponics organic growth farm located at the facility. It was the pleasure of the youth to assist in helping remove all debris, fallen trees, and branches throughout the farm for their horses and cattle to once again have a safe place to move about. They also assisted breaking down a bull cage that needed to be relocated to a different area of the farm. This experience gave the youth an up close and personal look at what it takes to maintain a farm and ranch.

I am pleased to share the following letter (left) from County Judge James Pierce to Ange-Loup Defay from the Kissimmee Youth Academy. After writing about a youth’s records, Judge Pierce goes on to applaud the facility for their great work in rehabilitating our young men.