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Secretary's Message

December 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

Call for Nominations-Youth Ambassador Awards!

Each year, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), members of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA), the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF), and youth program providers celebrate Youth Success Day. It is hard to believe, but Youth Success Day 2018 is quickly approaching!

To celebrate youth success, DJJ selects Youth Ambassadors to be recognized for their hard work and accomplishments. This year, we will be honoring our Youth Ambassadors at the FJJA Legislative Reception on the evening of January 23rd at the Historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

We need your help identifying youth who are celebrating success! Youth Ambassadors must have touched the juvenile justice system in some fashion and be 22 years of age or younger. Please go to the link here to nominate a deserving young person. Nominations will be accepted through December 14th.

We look forward to receiving your nomination and to recognizing these inspirational young people for their hard work and achievements.

If you have questions about the nomination process or Youth Ambassador awards, please contact Amanda Slama at Amanda.Slama@djj.state.fl.us.

DJJ Recognizes Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year Finalists

Last Monday, Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims, Director of Education Julie Orange and I traveled to the PACE Center for Girls in Marion County and Pasco County to honor two of our finalists for Juvenile Justice Teacher of the Year. 

Our first stop was at the PACE Center for Girls of Marion County where we honored intensive reading teacher Charli Wutzler. Ms. Wutzler is both patient and compassionate and has the ability to see the potential inside each and every one of her students.

Next, we traveled to the PACE Center for Girls of Pasco County where we honored reading teacher Kelli Goff. Ms. Goff has fostered a love of reading and learning in her students and she motivates them to keep moving forward to achieve their goals.

It was so wonderful to have the opportunity to honor these amazing teachers among their colleagues and students. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many dedicated and passionate juvenile justice educators that work within our programs and who are making a real difference in the lives of our students. 

Last Friday, I traveled down to Melbourne for a site visit of our Melbourne Center for Personal Growth residential facility which is operated by AMIkids. During my visit, I toured the facility with program director Cedric Cliatt who introduced me to the staff members at MCPG as well as the youth at the facility. I listened to several of the youth give presentations during my visit, and concluded my tour with a wonderful lunch. My thanks to all of the staff and youth at MCPG who made me feel welcome.

MCPG is a non-secure program for males, ages 13 to 18, who are in need of Substance Abuse Treatment Services.  The program provides a structured residential environment for committed youth offering opportunities for personal growth, social development, and vocational training.

State Senator Tours DJJ Facilities in Marion County

Deputy Legislative Affairs Director Sam Kerce, Regional Director for Detention Services North Region Collette Antozzi and Regional Director for Residential Services Northeast Region Billy Starke recently accompanied State Senator Dennis Baxley on a tour of the Marion Youth Academy and the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Both facilities reside in Senator Baxley’s legislative district and during his visit, he took the opportunity to thank staff members for their hard work and speak to youth at the facilities. 

Juvenile Justice Officer Academy Graduation Ceremonies

Congratulations to the newest juvenile justice detention officers (JDO) and juvenile justice probation officers (JPO) who graduated Friday, November 3, 2017 from the Florida Public Safety Institute, Valencia College, Hillsborough Community College and Broward College.  Thanks to all the guest speakers for delivering the graduation address for the JDO and JPO graduations. The graduates will work in the regional juvenile detention centers (RJDC) and circuits listed next to their names.

Florida Public Safety Institute JDO Graduates

1st Row (Left to right):  Brittany Bryant (Duval), Tabitha Carr (Duval), Olivia Young (Okaloosa), Jazzmine Barber (Leon)

2nd Row: Malcom Kirtsey (Duval), Christian Blocker (Duval), Jonte Koonce (Leon), Rafael Castro (Monroe), Byron Barnes (Escambia), Jaleesa Jackson (Leon)

3rd Row: Rick Abbot (Escambia), Allen Steinhart (Alachua), De’Andre Graves (Alachua), Kipper Poor’e (Alachua), Eddie Williams (Alachua), Robert Walker (St. Lucie), Javonte Anderson (Escambia)

Florida Public Safety Institute JPO Graduates

1st Row (Left to right):  Lydia Gardner (Circuit 1), Rousan Sanchez (Circuit 1), Danielle Borden (Ft. Myers), Caitlin Jed (Circuit 1)

2nd Row: Rodneiyka Thornton (Circuit 4), Jessica Pena (Trenton), Stuart Davis (Circuit 19), Melissa Evans (Circuit 14), Heather Hawkins (Circuit 2)

3rd Row: Michelle Chatterton (Circuit 4), Robbin Alexander (Circuit 1), Robert Rutherford (Circuit 14), Corey Henley (Circuit 18), Jessica Blackwell (Circuit 1), Rodney Player (Circuit 18), Robert Pass III (Circuit 19)

Valencia College Graduates

1st Row (Left to right):  Francis Sarivola (Brevard), Elizabeth Caldwell (Brevard), Roger Mason (Brevard), Delphanie Williams (Volusia)

2nd Row: Christopher Mitchell (Volusia), Jacob Burd (Volusia), Jaquan Dorsett (Orange), Reyneisha Smith (Brevard), Bobbi Davis (Orange), Norman Knapp (Seminole)

3rd Row: Todge Jackson (Brevard), Darien Johnson (Volusia), Wynshad Medley (Volusia), Jonathan Roberts (Volusia), Wilfredo Sabater (Orange), Justin Pettis (Orange), Alvin Codner (Orange), Gabriel Soto (Seminole) (, Dayshia Johnson (Seminole)

Hillsborough Community College Graduates

Right Row (Left to right):  Elsa Arzu (Pinellas), Terrell Brown (Manatee), Kenyetta Holmes (Hillsborough)

Middle Row: : Geoffrey Mitchell (Manatee), Ronnie Evans (Pinellas), Jamal Martin (Pinellas)

Left Row: Gino Carna (Pasco), Stephanie Galan (Hillsborough), Richard Atwater (Pinellas)

Broward College Graduates

1st Row (Left to right):  Emilourde Exantus-Jeune (Palm Beach), Dimjpho Jeter (Palm Beach), Georgina McLeod-Knight (Miami-Dade), Shakima Daniel (Miami-Dade), Tequeila Hazel (Miami-Dade)

2nd Row: Detroy Graddick (Palm Beach), Ismael Montalvo (Miami-Dade), Sunil Mittoo (Broward), Mackenson Louis (Palm Beach), Corey Pierre (Miami-Dade), Kevin Morgan (Palm Beach), Denise Cannon, Learning Consultant

3rd Row: Anson Dieujuste (Miami-Dade), Darryl Epps (Palm Beach), Micaela Wimberly (Miami-Dade), Mykia James (Palm Beach), Aggrey Quintyn (Broward)

Staff Announcements and Kudos

I had the opportunity to recently attend a regional meeting for the Central Office of Probation in Orlando. I was honored to hand out several awards to probation team members. 

First Row (from left to right): ACPO Stiles (C10), ACPO Clay (C6), CPO Donovan (C12), myself, AA II Nivea Malave (C6), OMC Manager Lucille Rapale (Regional), AA II Neekeida Woodall (C13).

Second Row (from left to right): ACPO Hammersley (C13), CPO Fuller (C6), ACPO Alderman (C9), CPO Fulford (C10), CPO Roysden (C13), AA I Rita Peck (C18), ACPO Bohler (C18), CPO Devlin (C18), RD Lake

(In attendance but not pictured: ACPO Hunkeler (C12), Bridget Rumph (C12), Regional Office Staff - AA II Connie Coffey, Deb Wright GOC II, Cheryl Guglielmo GOC II, Liz Gattarello OPS, Kristen Richardson ORS) 


First up, I would like congratulate Circuit 6 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Michele Hancock (pictured above left) who was chosen as the Juvenile Probation Officer of the Year for the Central Region.

Next, congratulations to Circuit 18 Assistant Chief Probation Officer Omar Bohler (pictured above right) who was selected as the Assistant Chief of the Year for the Central Region.

I would also like to congratulate OMC Manager Lucille Rapale (pictured right) from Probation’s Central Regional Office who was selected as the Central Region Employee of the Year. The Central Region would not be as successful without the hard work Lucille puts in every day.

Also at the meeting, Central Region Director of Probation Cathy Lake recognized other staff members for their accomplishments. Director Lake recognized Circuit 18 Chief Probation Officer Denise Devlin  for her 30 years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. Congratulations Chief Devlin for all your hard work that you do for the youth and families in Circuit 18.

Director Lake also recognized Circuit 18 Administrative Assistant Rita Peck  for her 25 years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. In addition, Peck received a “Courage Award” for being an inspiration to all after for her going through some difficult challenges. Congratulations Ms. Peck for your continued service to the Department.

Finally, Director Lake recognized Circuit 10 Chief Probation Officer Alison Fulford for her 15 years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. Chief Fulford handles Circuit 10 encompassing Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties.

I am pleased to congratulate the following officers from the Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Officer Charlene Grooms  and Officer Terrell Brown  were both presented with their badge and certification training certificate. In addition, Sergeant Frisner Bien-Aime  was chosen as the Supervisor of the Month for the month of October. 

Congratulations to Randy Reynolds who was recently named as the new Circuit 5 chief probation officer effective December 1. Prior to his new role, Chief Reynolds served as the reform specialist for Circuit 5 where he demonstrated great leadership in both the implementation of EPICS and the CYPM project. His experience includes service in both the detention and probation arenas as well as case management and supervisory experience from Indiana.

Congratulations to Circuit 12 Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Paul Wagner who recently announced his retirement from DJJ after sixteen years of dedicated service. Assistant Chief Probation Officer Rena Hunkeler presented Wagner with a plaque and thanked him for his outstanding commitment to the youth and families we serve. Best wishes to Mr. Wagner in his retirement! 

Detention Centers Host Thanksgiving Meals for Youth and Their Families

The facility administrators from the Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) put together a staff appreciation luncheon for their employees on November 15. The meal was in appreciation for Duval’s front-line employees who provide exemplary care for our youth, and provided them with some down time to be able to come together and enjoy themselves. The meal was prepared by long time Duval employee Annie Ezell.

In addition, the Duval RJDC thanks the members of the facility’s advisory board (shown right) who made a generous donation of holiday gift bags for the youth that are currently placed in secure detention.

The Duval RJDC also hosted their annual Fall Festival on November 17. The festival featured various educational booths set up for the youth that included trivia questions about geography, mental health, English, nutrition, and physical fitness. It was a fun day for the youths, staff, and providers.

The Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center welcomed Tallahassee City Commissioner Curtis Richardson for a tour of the facility and their interactive STEM learning experience. DJJ has partnered with Farming the Future for the STEM project, which focuses on aquaponics- based productions and 21st century farming.

Commissioner Richardson enjoyed his tour of Leon RJDC and hopes to expand the STEM program into Gadsden County Schools as well

The Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently held an all staff meeting which focused on training including suicide prevention, positioning while supervising youth and intake and release training. The meeting also included a holiday buffet luncheon where Manatee Superintendent Terry Carter thanked each employee for all of the hard work they put in and wished them happy holidays.

The good food didn’t stop with the staff for Manatee’s Major Carter. On Thanksgiving Day he took time out of his schedule to sit down and have a meal with the youth at the facility. All of the girls had a wonderful meal and conversation with Manatee’s top man! 

The Thanksgiving Day activities at Manatee concluded with a visit from one of the facility’s volunteers LeAnn Hunneke. Ms. Hunneke led the youth in an arts and crafts project where they created hearts for their loved ones. 

Congratulations to Science teacher Shawndera Butler from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was honored as the Teacher of the Year for Alternative Education by the St. Lucie County School System. Ms. Butler was given balloons and a card, and was invited to participate in the Night of the Stars for St. Lucie County Schools. Captain John Johnson from St. Lucie said that he is proud of the work Ms. Butler is doing and glad that she is a member of the team. 

The Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center ensured that two less fortunate families in their local community would have a festive Thanksgiving with the donation of turkey dinners. The facility collected donations of turkeys, canned food and desserts and they were delivered on Thanksgiving morning to the two families in need. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Officers Nina Marks, Katreeina Robinson, Jorge Carrasquillo and Samara Grooms

The Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center got into the Thanksgiving spirit as all staff members were placed into a drawing for a free Thanksgiving basket, purchased by the administration team. The lucky winner was Sergeant Brenda Johnson (shown right).

In addition, the facility hosted a Thanksgiving meal for the youth and their families. With the help of our juvenile probation officers and a teacher from Marion County, the youth created cards for their family members and presented them during the luncheon. 

The Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted their annual Thanksgiving meal for the youth and their families. The facility had an increased parent participation rate this year and the youth that did not have visitors ate their meals with an officer. The girls decorated one of the classrooms at Alachua and transformed it into their banquet hall. The meal featured a total of eight turkeys, which were smoked by Captain Robert Loyd, as well as stuffing, cranberry sauce, ham, green bean casserole, cabbage and mac and cheese. 

Probation Staff Members Donate Canned Goods for Hurricane Relief

Circuit 13 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Shelley Turner organized a canned food donation drive for Metropolitan Ministries of Tampa to help the victims of recent hurricanes. In total, Circuit 13 donated over 1100 pounds of canned goods to the church. Our thanks to Juvenile Probation Supervisor Jesus Sosa for delivering the canned goods to Metropolitan Ministries as well as Juvenile Probation Officers Ken Goss, Dexter Battle, Frank Mitchell, Art Russell and Phillip Mack for loading the truck with canned goods.  

Pictured above (from left to right): Ken Goss, Phillip Mack and Frank Mitchell.

Circuit 1 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Anthony Mallory has served as a local youth football coach for the 7U Bellview Packers of the Northwest Florida Youth Alliance League for the past five seasons. On November 17, his Packers won the championship after defeating eight other teams to earn the title! Officer Mallory stands as an outstanding example of a staff member who uses his free time to provide guidance and leadership to the youth of Escambia County. 

On November 18th, the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge staff in Circuit 17 were privileged to help serve the homeless at Christ Delivery Church in Broward.  As staff assisted, it was evident that we were more blessed in serving others.  The homeless came one by one, with different stories; one gentlemen whose entire family was homeless, was willing to carry a sign to draw others. Amongst those whom we served were also veterans. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve others and to the church for donating turkeys to two of our youth and families.

Assistant Chief Probation Officer Dorothy Malik and Juvenile Probation Officers LaSheri Baker and Felicia Fowler from Circuit 19 attended the Community Day of Transition in Fort Pierce. The unique event allowed our DJJ staff members to connect with youth and community stakeholders and distribute information about DJJ initiatives.

Pictured above (from left to right): Felicia Fowler, Dorothy Malik and LaSheri Baker.

Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement Hosts South Carolina Delegation

The Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement recently hosted a team from the state of South Carolina’s Department of Juvenile Justice, Office of Quality and Compliance. The purpose of the visit was to highlight the monitoring and quality improvement efforts here in the state of Florida. During their time here in Florida, Ms. Tomiko Williams, lead quality assurance manager, and Ms. Tekara Odom, quality assurance specialist, spent two days observing our Monitoring and Quality Improvement processes in the Central Region. As part of their visit, the team conducted on-site visits of the Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center, the Monitoring and Quality Improvement Central Region Office, the Tampa Residential Facility and the Paxen / Eckerd - Hillsborough (Day Treatment) Office.

In addition to the on-site visits, MQI staff spent one afternoon presenting an overview of the Monitoring and Quality Improvement process from start to finish, including our organizational structure, monitoring standards, our Outcome Based Correction Action Plan process and training, live demonstrations of the Program Monitoring and Management (PMM) System, the Monitoring Prioritization Tool, the Department’s SharePoint sites, and the new on-line surveys currently in use in the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement. Our goals were to showcase the positive work we are doing in Florida with regards to our monitoring and quality improvement efforts, to compare our monitoring tools and practices to those currently in use in the state of South Carolina, to learn from mistakes, as well as our successes, and to discuss opportunities and suggestions of how both states can make their monitoring and quality improvement processes more robust, effective, and efficient. Department staff who participated in the visit were: Ms. Amy Johnson, director of Program Accountability, Ms. Dixie Fosler, assistant secretary for Detention Services, Mr. Christopher Goodman, bureau chief of Monitoring and Quality Improvement, Ms. Jennifer Bailey, prioritization and planning team supervisor, and Ms. Teresa Andersen, central deputy regional monitoring supervisor, Mr. Paul Sheffer, central regional monitor, and Ms. Stephanie Lobzun, central regional monitor.

Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement (MQI) Regional Monitors Bonita Williams and Paul Czigan participated in the 2017 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk raises awareness and funds to help save lives from breast cancer. Bonita and Paul each donated to the charity and completed a three mile walk with over 80,000 other participants and breast cancer survivors to help make a difference for everyone who has been touched by breast cancer.  Bonita’s mother is a 42-year survivor of breast cancer and Paul lost his mother to breast cancer.  Both Bonita and Paul were honored to participate in the walk and we are proud to have both as part of our MQI family.

 Prevention Youth with the PACE Center Take Part in Fashion Show

Youth from the PACE Center for Girls of Clay County recently took part in the “Falling for Fashion” show at the Club Continental in Orange Park. The “Falling for Fashion” show was held to benefit the PACE Center for Girls in Clay County.  Six deputies from the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, two PACE staff members and seven PACE Clay girls modeled fashions from The Orange Park Mall during the show.   The models could pick any two outfits from JC Penney or Dillard’s and their diverse personalities showed in their clothing choices. The PACE girls had so much fun and were very proud of their outfits. 

Congratulations to Ricky Aiken, founder and president of Inner City Innovators in West Palm Beach and Todd Patterson, executive director of Youth Foundation First (YFF) in Clearwater, who were recognized as co-recipients of the 2017 Champions of Hope (COH) Award during the Florida Faith Symposium on November 7 in Orlando.

Ricky conducts a gender-specific mentoring program called “Beyond the Wall” at the Palm Beach Youth Academy. “Beyond the Wall” is a 12-week violence prevention program designed to help youth in detention and residential settings to overcome problems they may face once they return to their home communities, such as gangs, crime and drugs.

Pictured above: COH winner Ricky Aiken, Inner City Innovators, standing at center and holding award, to the right of Alice Sims, Assistant Secretary, Prevention and Victim Services; and COH winner Todd Patterson (wearing blue jacket and holding award), Youth Foundation First, and other COH nominees during the Florida Faith Symposium.

Inner City Innovators not only supports youth in the juvenile justice system but supports at-risk youth throughout Palm Beach County and beyond. Their main focus is to “bring good to the hood” through outreach efforts such as one-on-one mentoring sessions and empowering residents to uplift their communities through volunteer service efforts.

YFF has worked closely with the superintendent and staff at the Pasco RJDC in supporting the individual needs of the facility, each youth and family.

The COH award celebrates and recognizes outstanding faith-based and community-based organizations that have gone above and beyond the ordinary to improve the lives of at-risk youth, children in care, and families in need. 

The Circuit 2 Circuit Advisory Board’s Faith Network, under the leadership of Pastor Ernie Sims, has embarked on the One Voice initiative to engage local churches in participating in a mentoring program for youth involved in the juvenile justice system that may not otherwise have access to mentoring services.  The initiative has started in Leon County and currently serves over 20 youth and growing.  Juvenile probation officers from the circuit identify and refer youth/families who are in need.  In support of the CAB’s Faith Network, Project Connect, DJJ’s probation transition services provider for the north region, has volunteered to provide mentor training, database construction and background screening support for the program as it strives to serve youth beyond those who receive these services through their own mentoring program.  In utilizing existing faith partners in this way, prevention and probation services achieve a real force multiplier in minimizing the risk for these youth to re-offend. 

In the week of November 13-17, One Voice conducted partnership initiation and mentorship training with two churches in Circuit 2; Salem AME Church in Greensboro, FL (17 mentors trained) and Rock Hill Missionary Baptist Church in the Centerville area of greater Tallahassee (12 mentors trained). DJJ Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims provided opening remarks and words of inspiration for the volunteer mentors and thanked them for their decision, as a church body, in taking a leadership role in their community to serve the youth who are most at risk of juvenile crime.  Pastor Ernie Sims provided partnership initiation for the group and discussed background screening procedures and volunteer opportunities at the Leon County Detention Center as well as the One Voice mentorship program.  Tony Read, the executive director for Project Connect, discussed Adverse Childhood Experiences with the group to help them understand the challenges faced by the youth population they would serve and provided mentorship training to include best practices, boundaries and safety precautions.  Both churches’ pastors and congregations were very excited to be a part of the solution in their communities.  It is quite an honor to have them join the Circuit 2 CAB’s One Voice initiative!     

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson recently conducted a site visit to the North Carolina Outward Bound FINS Program in Mims. Outward Bound FINS Program helps teens and their families address the challenges that they may face. The teens went on a 20-day wilderness expedition where they learned technical skills, set up camping tents, navigate a canoe, while addressing behavior issues such as stress and anger management, learning positive decision-making skills, and positive communication techniques.

Dionne had the opportunity to witness the youth return to the site from their expedition and reunite with their families and loved ones. The youth gave a presentation on what they learned and were given special awards from staff for their unique characteristic they displayed while on their expedition.

Faith Community Network and Volunteer Services Consultant Andy Hindman led a meeting of the faith community network volunteers in conjunction with the Florida Faith Symposium. In the beginning, there was a vision of people working to help prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency in Florida by providing services for youth with partnerships with faith-based organizations through the faith community network.

Andy, who most recently served as the director of Faith and Community Based Partnerships with DJJ, recounted early discussions with previous DJJ Faith Coordinator Ernie Sims, who now serves as the Circuit 2 faith representative for the Circuit Advisory Board (CAB).

The discussions centered on the need to support faith- and community- based organizations, recruit faith partners and ensure availability of chaplaincy services and faith volunteers statewide. Andy met with about two dozen pastors, faith- and community- based stakeholders to discuss strategies to strengthen the network, provide greater services to youth and families and to recruit more volunteers. The discussions will continue through conference calls and the development of an ongoing plan focused on restoring hope. 

DJJ Students Take Part in Cardboard Arcade

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, education students from the Marion Youth Academy participated in Unjammed’s Cardboard Arcade event. Cardboard Arcade teaches students skills and attitudes like critical thinking, resourcefulness, perseverance and teamwork. The students had the opportunity to get creative by imagining, exploring and discovering new ideas. They built their games out of cardboard and other recycled materials.

The education staff, along with Sequel’s facility staff, had the opportunity to play the games and then vote on the most creative and playable games. The winners were announced at an awards ceremony.  The students did a great job working together in teams and truly enjoyed the experience.

Residential Facilities Celebrate Thanksgiving and Participate in Fall Fundraiser

Earlier this month, residential commitment managers and commitment chiefs met in Orlando for a statewide retreat. This event had last taken place several years ago so it was a great opportunity to have all our commitment staff together for team building and networking opportunities. Commitment staff took part in presentations from the legal, education, mental health, and medical departments and was followed by open discussions with each presenter. The group also took a tour of the Kissimmee Youth Academy campus where they received in-depth knowledge of the programs from both staff and youth. The retreat received tremendous feedback from all of those who participated. 

Our Department, in coordination with Dr. Monique Marrow, recently held a Trauma Responsive and Caring Environment (TRACE) workshop for the Northwest Region. The TRACE is intended to be a tool that will help providers assess their program's progress in implementing a trauma-responsive approach for youth and staff. Unlike other tools to assess a program, the TRACE is a best-practice, aspirational tool and not one that is designed to look at meeting minimum, basic standards. Dr. Marrow led the workshop and discussion regarding the dissemination of trauma-focused interventions for youth in the juvenile justice system. This workshop focused on understanding the application and use of the TRACE Self-Assessment in improving services for the youth. The TRACE Self-Assessment along with honest and candid staff and youth feedback can help to identify opportunities for program and environmental improvement, assist in professional development planning, and can be used to inform modifications in organizational policy.

Okaloosa Youth Academy (OYA) and Crestview Sex Offender Program (CSOP), both non-secure programs for boys, ages 13 to 19, operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, held their holiday meal for the youth and their families. Earlier this week, a total of 61 guest arrived to visit their sons and eat the traditional Thanksgiving Day meal. Families could visit and play games during this visitation and OYA allowed up to four guests per child for this special visitation. The entire meal was prepared by the youth who are working in our culinary intern program. The event was a great success! 

Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, also held a Thanksgiving family day. The families came and visited, played games, and ate with the youth. It was a great day and the youth really enjoyed spending time with their families.

A few days later, the Duval Academy Advisory Board and several youth put together Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for families that may need a little extra food through the holidays. There were canned goods, popcorn, water, Cornish hens, laundry detergent and many other items placed in these baskets. The boys had a really great time decorating the baskets and filling them and enjoyed doing something good for other people.

To celebrates TrueCore’s inaugural employee appreciation, Jacksonville Youth Academy decided to have a good old fashion country hoedown!

Staff members were encouraged to dress up in their best overalls, plaids and boots. Staff enjoyed lunch catered by Chick-Fil-A, interactive games, raffles and prizes. Special thanks to Ms. Francis, our assigned champion, for planning such a great day!

The youth at Cypress Creek Treatment Center, a secure program for boys, ages 15 to 21, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, along with Transition Specialist for Education Ms. Bishop spent some time making decorations. Ms. Bishop enjoys art and wanted to share with the youth how art can be easy and therapeutic. She utilized the Students of the Week for the project. After the art work is used to decorate the facility, it will be given to the staff.

Youth from Melbourne also had the opportunity to cater the Treasure Coast Archaeological Society (TCAS)’s annual scavenger hunt. President of TCAS, Richard Hart, allowed the youth to participate in the scavenger hunt with their own metal detectors. After the event, the TCAS presented AMIkids with their own metal detecting set-up and sponsorship of the fall fundraiser.

Richard Hart said “The boys couldn’t have been better. They were respectful very well mannered. We hope to be able to do more with them in the future. Joan and I have made metal detecting a learning experience for all who are interested. Metal detecting leads to so much more. It will lead you to coin collecting. The more interest you take in the hobby the more you learn about history. Not to mention the food was awesome."

The staff and youth at Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. The administrative staff at Bartow put the luncheon together for the youth and staff to sit and have a meal together. There were two youth that helped set up and clean up at the end. The youth were served turkey (of course), sweet potato casserole, mac and cheese, corn casserole, macaroni and potato salads, and had a choice of several different desserts including sweet potato or pumpkin pie, as well as red velvet cake. Everyone had a wonderful time!

The youth also hung a thankful tree in the main hallway of Bartow. Each youth was tasked with designing their own leaf with what they are thankful for in their lives. The tree turned out great and the youth could design several leaves with different reasons for why they were thankful. 

Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, packed over 100 shoeboxes stuffed with toys, hygiene items, and bibles. The youth personally decorated and wrote a card for each box and a prayer for every child that will receive these boxes, which are packed full of presents and love by the amazing girls at Central Pasco Girls Academy! This project is part of the ministries led by Steadfast Mentoring and Bay Hope Church. The girls participate in this outreach activity every year. To date, Central Pasco Girls Academy has packed over 600 shoeboxes that have touched children’s lives all over the globe.

Earlier this month, nine girls from Central Pasco Girls Academy were baptized at Bay Hope Church. The girls were supported by the members of the church, their mentors, staff and family. The whole church made so much noise with their noise makers and applause as each girl was baptized 

Also at Central Pasco Girls, Steadfast Mentoring has implemented a sewing program at the program. The girls have learned to use a sewing machine to create pillows and small quilts. The group is compiled of 3 youth selected by the programs treatment team. The youth selected meet risk assessment criteria, are on Elegance level, and perform well in the program. Being in the sewing club is a coveted position due to its limited seating, so youth work hard to be selected. This also allows the youth to have more one on one instruction from Steadfast Mentor Lillian, who hosts the group every Friday. Lillian loves teaching the girls this valuable life skill, which is also a great hobby!

Finally, TrueCore Behavioral Solutions hosted a companywide staff appreciation day earlier this month. At Central Pasco Girls Academy, everyone laughed together, ate together, competed against each other, supported each other and most of all they created memories together. Thank you to facility champions Kathy and Mike for organizing the event. Everyone had such a great time!