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Secretary's Message

December 19, 2017

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter

As the holiday season is upon us, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year and pondering what the new year will hold. It’s been quite a year for us all and I hope that during this joyous time, you have the opportunity to celebrate with your friends and loved ones. I would like to express my sincerest appreciation to our DJJ staff, providers, partners, and friends for all that we have achieved this year and I look forward to all the great things we will accomplish in the new year.

As our year comes to a close, I would like to wish you season’s greetings and good wishes. May your holidays and new year be filled with happiness, peace, and prosperity.


Christina K. Daly

 Remember FJJF when you Shop at Amazon 

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) has teamed up with Amazon Smile to provide a convenient and philanthropic way for you to support FJJF every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop through AmazonSmile at http://smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to FJJF.  Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations.

Simply go to AmazonSmile  anytime you want to make a purchase on Amazon and search “Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation” in the search box as your charity. The proceeds from your purchase will go to FJJF and benefit our children who are in need. Add a bookmark to AmazonSmile to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.  It’s convenient, charitable and the perfect way to shop for the upcoming holidays.  Thank you for supporting an important cause and making a difference in the lives of our youth!

DRAI Committee Meeting 

Last week, our agency hosted the first Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) Committee meeting in over ten years. As outlined in Florida law, DJJ, in conjunction with members of the community, are tasked with the development, implementation, and evaluation of a detention risk assessment instrument (DRAI) for determinations and court orders regarding placement of a child into detention care.

Michael Umpierre from Georgetown University, Dr. Kelly Dedel from One in 37 Research, Inc., and Dr. Kristen Early from Justice Research Center provided an overview of the data-driven analysis they conducted and an overview of the newly proposed instrument. At the culmination of the meeting, the committee unanimously decided to move forward with the preparations for implementation of a new Detention Risk Assessment Instrument in 2019.

Pictured above (from left to right): Michael Umpierre (Georgetown); myself, Kelly Dedel (One in 37 research); Kristen Early (Justice Research Center); Statewide DRAI Coordinator Minnie Bishop; Chief of Research and Data Integrity Mark Greenwald and Lisa Macaluso (Center for Children’s Law and Policy). 

I would like to thank the following committee members who attended, including: Judge David Goodling, Judge Angelica Zayas, Palm Beach Schools Police Chief Lawrence Leon, Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham, Pinellas County Sheriff Robert Gualtieri, Hardee County Sheriff Arnold Lanier, Public Defender Carlos Martinez, Assistant Public Defender Jeannie Moore, State Attorney Ed Brodsky and Assistant State Attorney Rebecca Shinholser. 

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Circuit 6 Probation held their annual staff appreciation day and presented service awards to the following employees: Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Blaise Debreus (5 years); Juvenile Probation Officers (JPOs) Tonya King (5 years); Cheryl Stevenson (5 years); Michelle Reinke (10 years); Lynda Hampton (10 years); Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Patricia Johnston (15 years); JPOs Randi Gomillion (20 years); Rick Christie (30 years); Secretary Specialist Rene Lopardo (30 years) and Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell (30 years). Congratulations and thank you all for your years of dedicated service to the state of Florida! 

Detention Facilities Welcome Local Musicians and Receive a Visit from Justice 

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently welcomed a group of volunteers from the local Hispanic community to play music and sing traditional Latin songs. The volunteers encouraged our youth to dance and clap during the performance and the youth really enjoyed themselves.

DJJ girls from the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center have been working on something new in their aquaponics garden, which was established in part by the STEM funded program Farming the Future. The girls at Leon built their own bioreactor and then seeded it with plants. We are looking forward to seeing the harvest from this endeavor. 

The Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) has been focused on brightening up the facility with loads of holiday decorating.  Youth have been decorating doors,  their shoes with paper, the lobby and windows in preparation for a happy holiday season. Broward RJDC is bringing the holiday spirit to the facility and will be celebrating throughout the month.

Broward RJDC also recently welcomed Justice, the Department’s first resident therapy dog, to the facility. He is bringing comfort, happiness, laughter, and companionship to some of the toughest youth in the system.  He makes his rounds each morning and throughout the day, bringing his calm and loving self to those youth who request to spend time with him.  He attends treatment team meetings, recreates with the youth outside, attends staffing’s, briefings, assists with intakes and continues to have a calming effect on those youth who are sad, anxious, and/or just need some unconditional love throughout the day.  His presence makes the saddest youth smile and forget their troubles.  Staff and youth are all happy that Justice is now assigned to the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center.  

Also happening at Broward RJDC, teacher Akil Jabari from the Broward County School System organized a chess tournament for the youth. Mr. Jabari has been mentoring the youth at Broward for some time and teaching them the game of chess. Once the newer students have mastered the game, Jabari held a tournament in the facility dining room. Youth JR took home top honors winning all five of the matches he played. JR is an avid player and has taken on the role of mentoring new chess players at the facility.

Finally, the girls from Broward RJDC joined Superintendent Daryl Wolf and Juvenile Detention Officers Kelly Ayala and Lotoria Hubbard to make a dinner for the facility’s holiday party. The menu was highlighted by traditional fare including glazed hams, green bean casserole, deviled eggs in the shape of Santa Claus and a variety of cookies. The girls learned how to use cookie cutters, read recipes, make the filling for the deviled eggs and how to use parchment paper to decorate cookies.

Probation Staff Host Annual Holiday Dinner for Local Families 

For the fifth consecutive year, DJJ team members partnered with our steadfast stakeholder, Living Stones International, as well as Toys for Tots for the annual holiday Family, Food and Fellowship dinner at the Walker Ford Community Center in Tallahassee. The event served over 400 families, most of whom received toys from our friends at Toys for Tots, while the older youth received donated gift cards from our ELT members.

The purpose of the annual dinner is to bring together families to share a meal together and spend quality time. Many of the youth present at the dinner have a parent or caregiver currently incarcerated. 

DJJ youth enrolled with Eckerd Connects Project Bridge program in Circuit 19 had the opportunity to participate in a “Building Fort Pierce” earn-while-you-learn program. This program is offered through Career Source Research Coast – Youth Connections.  Youth will have the opportunity to earn construction credentials, work on a construction site, and earn $10/hour for up to 4 months. They will also receive job placement and career assistance, gain leadership skills, attend free GED classes, and earn incentive money up to $500.  Youth who attended from Project Bridge were excited about the opportunity and look forward to participating in the program.

Earlier this month, the Circuit 7 probation team held their annual holiday party. The party included an annual awards ceremony for staff members, years of service acknowledgements, and presentations from providers.

In addition to the great food, the gathering featured a slideshow presentation as well as circuit updates from Chief Probation Officer Daniel Merrithew and Regional Director Jill Clemens

The Circuit 8 probation team recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Duval Park project in Gainesville, in conjunction with the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department. The work at Duval Park has brought youth and staff from probation, JDAP and the local Teen Court together to participate in this community service project where they work hand in hand with city officials to beautify the neighborhood park. DJJ is excited to continue this partnership and community service opportunity for our youth and looks forward to the coming year.

Pictured above (from left to right): JPOS Alan Guthrie, CPO Rogers, ACPO Brannan and RS Melanie Kretzman 

The Circuit 6 probation team recently held their community re-entry team (CRT) meeting. The meeting gave our staff the chance to celebrate the holidays with our community stakeholders. After a delicious breakfast, stakeholders were given a light-up holiday necklace which was inscribed “Thank you for being a bright light on our team! Your friends at DJJ.” The team then reviewed the re-entry plan for eight of our youth before opening their secret Santa gifts. The CRT consists of sixteen community partners who make up an integral part of the probation team.   

DJJ youth from the AMIkids Fort Lauderdale facility recently traveled to Tallahassee to meet with State Representatives Evan Jenne (left), George Moraitis and Barrington Russell. The youth were afforded the opportunity to share their personal stories of success with each representative while learning first-hand how elected officials pass legislation and what the top priorities were for upcoming 2018 session. Than you to each representative for taking time out to meet with the youth and support their efforts.  

 Prevention Team Members Sing Holiday Carols 

Recently, Prevention team members sang holiday carols at DJJ Headquarters in conjunction with their holiday gathering. During the Prevention HQ holiday gathering, team members shared breakfast with one another and also shared stories of festive holiday times with families and friends.

In the spirit of the holiday season, before the breakfast had ended, team members began sharing glad tidings of great joy and began singing holiday carols. They sang “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night” and “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.” Once the gathering ended, the suggestion was made to take the holiday songs from the Prevention program area to the main lobby of the Knight Building. After a few practice sessions the team, many adorned in red and green holiday colors, relocated to the lobby for their performance.

Pictured above (from left to right): LaTonya Hill, Shaundra Mitchell, Cheryl Robinson, Gloria Gatlin, Yvonne Woodard, Racquel Piper, Marcus Smith, Trevor Gilmore, Alice Sims, Cheryl Howard and Verla Lawson-Grady

Sharing the lobby with a baked goods auction to benefit the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation, the Prevention chorus continued to make a joyful noise, much to the delight of Secretary Daly, Chief of Staff Schuknecht, Deputy Secretary Niermann and other members of the Executive Leadership Team. The team was led by Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, directed by Prevention CCC Coordinator Jean Hall and Procurement Specialist Travis Ligon, who served on keyboard.

Other chorus members included: Program Specialist Trevor Gilmore, Financial Coordinator Cheryl Howard, Prevention Assistant Cheryl Robinson, Administrative Assistant III LaTonya, Hill, Federal Assistant Gloria Gatlin, Operations and Training Director Yvonne Woodard, Chief of Policy and Planning Marcus Smith, Federal Grants Supervisor/JJ Specialist Racquel Piper, Community Engagement Coordinator Verla Lawson-Grady, and Procurement Specialist Shaundra Mitchell

The PACE Center for Girls of Hillsborough County recently welcomed nationally celebrated, formerly homeless hairdresser, Vanessa Howard to their facility. Ms. Howard’s visit was a part of the PACEWorks Vocation and Education program, which is designed to provide the job-readiness skills and vocational and higher education exposure necessary for young women to create financially stable futures. 

Once homeless, Ms. Howard is now a successful salon owner who has been featured nationally on television and radio sharing the story of her journey from being a homeless teenage mom to now providing full makeovers to homeless women and girls to encourage them to never give up. Ms. Howard visited PACE Hillsborough to inspire the young women to follow their dreams.  The young women had the opportunity to see two of PACE Center for Girls’ guiding principles in action: creating partnerships and investing in the future.

Ms. Howard is working with PACE to encourage the young women to commit to a better future for themselves and will be providing free makeovers and a full day of pampering to seven of the young women who embody the guiding principles of PACE. 

Girls from the PACE Center of Pasco County toured the Pasco Campus of Hernando State College and the University of South Florida. The young ladies are making big plans for their futures touring college campuses and considering their options for higher education.

First, they visited Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) to learn about the variety of programs offered at the college.  They were led on a tour by PHSC Ambassadors and received an in-depth tour of the nursing simulation lab. After the tour, the girls learned about other programs at PHSC and how to apply for admission.

Next, they visited USF to learn about college life.  Girls visited with student support services and toured the campus, visiting various classrooms and dormitories. The girls really enjoyed the experience and are excited to continue their education after graduating this year.

Statewide Circuit Advisory Board Coordinator Tina Levene and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Andria George recently toured the River Oak Center in Jacksonville. River Oak is the only pilot school for youth in recovery from substance abuse in the southeast United States and the only one of its kind in Florida.

This remarkable school provides a safe environment for students in recovery with the academic, emotional and social support necessary to foster a commitment to earn a high school diploma and progress toward a college degree, all while maintaining a drug-free lifestyle. Dan Renaud, Founder and Executive Director of Florida Recovery Schools, discussed partnering with DJJ and many other agencies in the community to help more youth achieve academic success while sustaining recovery from drugs.

Pictured above (from left to right): Tina Levene, Dan Renaud and Andria George.

Established in 2014 by concerned parents and addiction experts within the Jacksonville community, the objective is to combine ideas from local educators and leaders dedicated to making a difference in the lives of students with substance use and addiction disorders. Acknowledging the therapeutic need for a school dedicated to supporting teens who are recovering from addiction and co-occurring disorders, the team brings together experts in the fields of education and recovery to provide an environment of encouragement and support. Their vision is to support a safe and sober learning environment for students in the community who are ready to commit both academically and therapeutically.

Residential Facilities Get Ready for the Holiday Season

Earlier this month, the Residential Services Northwest team held their annual holiday staff meeting at the Panhandle Area Education Consortium (PAEC) in Chipley, where, among other things, goody bags of donated, hotel-size toiletries were made. This year, they received donations so numerous that they were able to make a total of 139 bags. These bags (and candy canes) are given to area residential programs to give out to the youth as a part of their Christmas activities. This year’s bag recipients are: DOVE Academy, JUST/Twin Oaks Academy, and Ram-C, non-secure programs operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, Inc. and JoAnn Bridges Academy, a non-secure program for girls operated by Rite of Passage.

We would like to thank the many, many contributors for their donations and for making this annual project possible every year! Without their donations and support, this project would not be possible.

Cypress Creek JOCC, a secure program for boys, ages 15 to 21, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, chose several youth who consistently exhibited positive behavior during the week to come to the administration area to decorate the Christmas tree with Administrative Assistant Ms. Roberts (pictured). It seemed to be a difficult task for them as they had never put a tree together, coordinating colors with the branches. Each youth earned this opportunity and enjoyed themselves, especially untangling the lights. This experience was symbolic in a way, as it showed them how they can untangle their own lives as they make better decisions.

Last week, 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, took a few residents to the local Golden Corral for an all you can eat buffet. The youth dined on steak, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and lots of different desserts.

The youth were rewarded for demonstrating consistently positive behavior and encouraging other youth in following their example. We commend the youth for their hard work and dedication towards displaying positive behavior. 

Facility Administrator Javonte Crenshaw for the Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility, a secure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, was invited to attend the Educational Strategies and Student Engagement Institute Conference in Orlando, Florida to witness the success story of former Daytona youth A. Taibi. Former Assistant Principal Tracy Hines, nominated A.Taibi, who was selected, to sit on the student panel forum at the conference attended by the Department of Education, Department of Juvenile Justice and educators from across the state of Florida. A. Taibi shared his personal and inspirational journey and showed his gratitude for the opportunities he was given while at Daytona. He attributed his success to the caring and compassionate staff at Daytona. The student panel was asked to provide their opinions on how to improve the learning environment in residential programs and for at-risk youth. A. Taibi was motivating and encouraged the youth not to give up on their education. A. Taibi is currently a full-time student at the University of North Florida, majoring in computer programming. He truly represents what Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility stands for and is a role model for overcoming adversity.

Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by Sequel TSI of Florida, held a graduation ceremony for youth J. B., who completed high school while he was at Duval Academy. The ceremony was a large event with members of the program’s advisory board, school board, church members and the youth’s family members (pictured). We are very proud of the graduate and wish him the best of luck in his future!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Central Pasco Girls Academy, a nonsecure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions. This week the youth decorated their Christmas tree, which is an annual activity with Steadfast Mentoring group. The mentors brought cookies and hot chocolate to share with the girls and each youth decorated hung an ornament on the tree. Two youth also assisted with adding snow to the window frames of the buildings.

The fun didn’t stop there as 12 girls at Central Pasco Girls Academy earned monthly incentive with a party. The girls were able to enjoy music, games, raffles, pizza, snow cones, popcorn and their favorite, the bounce house. Each girl had a chance to win a bag filled with hair and skin care products, body wash and lotion gift sets, socks gift set and various scented lotions.

Two youth from Orange Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solution along with and Recreational Therapist Tavarius Roberson were invited to attend the 2017 Educational Strategies and Student Engagement Institute event in Orlando, Florida.

Both youth were members of the student panel and were chosen by the Orange County Public School Lead Teacher of Education Charnetta Star. Both youth did a great job answering questions on the panel, were excited about the many people they were able to meet, and to receive positive feedback. The questions each youth had to answer were provided by teachers all over the state of Florida, This was a great experience for the youth. 

Facility Administrator Johnny Richardson for the Miami Youth Academy, non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solution recently presented mentor Mike Marion with two Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for boys and girls filled with toys, school materials, hygiene items. Miami Youth Academy are supporting the efforts of Riverside Baptist Church to collect 1000 shoeboxes for boys and girls.