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Secretary's Message

February 7, 2018

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

Youth Success Day Celebrated Statewide

As mentioned in last week’s letter, DJJ, along with our community partners, stakeholders and providers, celebrated Youth Success Day on January 23rd. Thanks to our dedicated DJJ staff, youth around the state were also honored on Youth Success Day for their hard work and accomplishments. Below are some of the stories of the deserving youth who are turning around their lives for the better. Thank you again to all of our staff who made these events possible and recognizing these inspirational young people!

Circuit 5 probation staff celebrated Youth Success Day by honoring a brother and sister both with exceptional youth awards. The young lady returned home from her commitment program in early August and is taking her transition back into her community very seriously. She completed her Project Connect workbook in a matter of weeks, passed the four-hour drug and alcohol course and road rules and acquired her drivers permit. She is currently on a wait-list to get back into school to finish her high school diploma. In the meantime, she got a job to help her family make ends meet.

Pictured above (from left to right): JPO Carolyn Hirvi, Transition Specialist Stacy Baker, brother & sister youth receiving award, Life Coach Brandon Holsey, Proud mom and Shawnda Roberts, Life Coach

Her brother came home from his commitment program in late October and has met with counselors from a vocational rehabilitation center and Career Source. In addition, he applied for his Social Security card and plans to get his GED and gain employment. He is committed to finding employment so that he can help his mother out with rent and other expenses. With his great attitude and love for life, this young man is headed for a successful future. 


The probation team in Circuit 8 celebrated the successes of two of their youth during Youth Success Day who are working very hard to turn their lives around. Both youth showed great growth while in DJJ programs, including becoming certified for CPR and Safe Serve and completing social skills, life skills and employability courses. One youth has already successfully completed the GED program while the other has returned to high school and is preparing to play football this fall. All in all, they have both shown that they are willing to work hard, have determination, taken responsibility, and are serious about making a difference.  They are setting off on a course that will lead them to a bright future. Congratulations to both of these youth and to Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Dollie Wygant who has guided them along the way. 

The probation and prevention teams in Circuit 11 held their Youth Success Day event where they honored three young men who are all true success stories. The first was homeless  and needed assistance from the Office of Prevention and Victim Services in finding him shelter, assistance with school and employment. The other two young men were in the care of probation services who overcame bad judgement and missteps in their lives to become productive citizens. One is now a restaurant manager and the other recently obtained his insurance license. All three young men were provided certificates acknowledging their success and gift cards.

Pictured above (from left to right):  Circuit 11 Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Frank Manning, Assistant CPO Concheita Gillum, the three successful young men, and Marie Boswell from the Office of Prevention

Probation Units 101 and 103 from Circuit 6 in New Port Richey hosted a Youth Success Day recognizing youth who demonstrated outstanding observance of their court ordered sanctions and made good choices to turn around their lives. Five probationary youth and their parents were highlighted. Each youth was greeted with a round of applause, a framed certificate, and was rewarded with an ice cream sundae buffet. 

 A couple of weeks ago, the 2018 DJJ Youth Ambassadors were highlighted in my Secretary’s Weekly Letter. If you missed it, you can catch up here. In addition, check out this clip spotlighting Youth Ambassador Carlos Veyva

State Advisory Group Quarterly Meeting 

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group (SAG) held their annual training retreat and quarterly meeting at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. The Training Retreat was an opportunity for SAG members and invited guests to learn about new trends affecting juveniles from across the country and to provide an update on federal changes. The SAG hosted some very special guests who spoke to the group about a variety of topics.

Acting Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Eileen M. Garry (pictured above) provided updates on behalf of the new OJJDP Administrator, Caren Harp, including the status of the JJDP Act reauthorization, budget and appropriation information, the January Title II solicitation, and SAG roles and responsibilities.

Pictured above (from left to right): SAG Chair Dwayne Maddron; myself, Alice Sims, Assistant Secretary, Prevention and Victim Services.

The SAG also heard from the Executive Director for the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ) Naomi Smoot who addressed developing stronger SAG collaboration and enhancing CJJ statewide efforts.

The Honorable Judge Steven Teske, Chief Judge, Clayton County Juvenile Court, Georgia, discussed best practices for delinquency prevention and rehabilitation. He also addressed detention assessment at intake, risk and needs assessment for disposition, juvenile justice rehabilitation programs, graduated responses to technical violations of probation, probation supervision, delinquency prevention, school justice partnership and working with deep end youth.

Ms. Kate Sanchez, Grant Compliance Coordinator, and Ms. Alyssa Beck, Advocacy Specialist, both from the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, discussed the importance of engaging youth leaders and addressing the needs of system involved juveniles.

SAG members also discussed establishing a timeline for the completion of the 3-year plan that will be submitted with the Title II application.

Staff Announcements and Kudos 

Congratulations to Corporal Patricia Copeland and Officer Matthew Robinson from the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center who were named Employees of the Month for the North Region of Detention Services for the months of August and October respectively. The pair were honored during a recent ceremony at the facility. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Captain Andrea Akins, Corporal Patricia Copeland, Officer Matthew Robinson and Major Paul Finn

Congratulations to Orlando Powell and Sharon Long for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for December.  Each month, IT recognizes one employee from headquarters and one from the field using a peer nomination process.  Being nominated by their peers speaks volumes to their work ethic and dedication to this agency.

DJJ Education Programs Score Big at the National Academic Bowl

Congratulations to Marion Youth Academy (MYA) on winning the National Academic Bowl on January 26th.  MYA, along with students from 14 different facilities in 9 different states, participated in this competition. 

Each facility entered three students to participate in the competition and each student joined a live quiz. The competition consisted of four rounds of 16 questions in each round. After each round, a number of students were eliminated based on the number of questions answered correctly. The final round consisted of the top five participates and a national champion was eventually crowned. Marion Youth Academy’s students finished in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. In addition, students from the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center finished in 4th and 5th place respectively.

Congratulations to the entire student body, the education staff, administration, and facility staff at Marion Youth Academy for this tremendous accomplishment!

We would also like to thank Kat Crawford and her staff at Unjammed for putting on this event.

Probation Officers Take Part In Career Day 

Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisors Matt Borboa and Terry Evans from Circuit 12 recently served as guest speakers at a Career Day event at McIntosh Middle School in Sarasota. The pair spoke to a group seventh and eighth graders about juvenile justice careers and what drove them into the field of juvenile justice. In addition, they discussed the types of juvenile crime that they see in Sarasota County, the types of services our Department provides, and the different conditions of probation.

Statewide Transition Coordinator Shauntrai Bruton from the Office of Probation and Community Intervention and Vanessa Wicker from the Office of Residential Services recently conducted a series of webinars titled Transition and Communication. The webinars were tailored towards probation transition liaisons and were focused on documentation, communication and collaboration between all departments and stakeholders.

During the webinar, which featured over 200 participants, the team discussed the Youth in Custody Practice Model, which is a collaboration between the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University, the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators and our agency. In addition, they provided an overview of new services that residential and probation would be highlighting as evidence of effective teamwork and stronger communication regimens. My thanks to Ashley Schwab from Residential Services and Sonny Peacock and Elizabeth Phillips from Probation for their help during this webinar.

Circuit 8 Juvenile Probation Officer Dennie Ledford and Baker County Teen Court Coordinator Ryan Brannan manned an information booth during the McClenney town hall meeting on drug awareness. The program was sponsored by the Baker Prevention Coalition, along with other community organizations.  Parents toured a “mock bedroom” in order to identify items that may be indicators of drug use by their children. 

Probation staff from Circuit 16 recently partnered with Roxanne Posada, Kids Come First and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to unload an 18-wheel tractor-trailer loaded with Hurricane Irma relief items. Items unloaded included hygiene items, baby items, zippered bags, clothes, pajamas, children’s books and children’s cots.

The items will be distributed through the schools and other community organizations to those still being impacted by the devastation left by Hurricane Irma. Some of these items will also serve DJJ youth and their families.

DJJ youth with the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge Transition team in Circuit 11 worked with Tree of Life Christian Ministry to help with the landscaping of the church. In addition to lending a helping hand, the youth were able to meet the wonderful team of this outstanding church. The youth also had the opportunity to meet 17-year-old film writer, Aaron Johnson, a young gentleman who faced many challenges and overcame them, most definitely serving as a role model for youth. 

Three DJJ youth from the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge program in Circuit 19 were recently accepted into the “Youth Build-Building Fort Pierce” program, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program featured a mandatory six-day mental toughness workshop which provided an overview of safety issues, program expectations, and a PowerPoint on “Building a Foundation.” The youth also worked on their educational goals, earned construction credentials and a stipend. Through the course of their learning and hands-on experiences, these youth will participate in building a Habitat Home for a single mother in the area. 

Circuit 9 Reform Specialist Melinda Wesley-Nelson and Delinquency Prevention Specialist Dionne Anderson hosted a DJJ informational booth during the first-ever MY Fest event in Central Florida at Barnett Park in Orlando. MY Fest is a free music, art, entertainment and youth empowerment festival designed to inspire and empower young people. This event also shares information and resources that can help youth and families overcome challenges and achieve their goals and dreams.

Circuit 18 Assistant Chief Probation Officer (ACPO) Omar Bohler was the featured speaker during the 3rd annual Freed Ring Black and White Banquet at the First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford. ACPO Bohler shared his thoughts about the need for patience and understanding with respect to parents and children. He also spoke about the need for membership in community organizations which provide services to children and how important it is to have children participate in community volunteer opportunities. The Mistress of Ceremonies for the banquet was Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Sharon Washington.

Recently, the co-founder of the Veteran’s Memorial Railroad in Bristol wrote a letter of appreciation spotlighting the participation of the Twin Oaks Juvenile Development JUST Program and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tabula Rosa for their help with the Halloween Ghost Train and the Polar Bear Express over the last few months of 2017:

Veterans Memorial Railroad located in Veterans Memorial Park in Bristol, Florida concluded a busy, but very successful, fall and winter schedule with the productions of the Halloween Ghost Train and the Christmas Polar Bear Express. These events were made possible by the 3,672 community service hours provided by the young men and staff from the J.U.S.T. program of Twin Oaks Juvenile Development.

The Boys and Girls club of Tabula Rasa (Liberty County High School unit), both student members and staff, also contributed many hours to these events. It is truly a “labor of love” for the volunteers to put hours upon hours into the design, construction, and installation of the elaborate scenes and thousands of lights.

Veterans Memorial Railroad was started in 2001 for the purpose of providing entertainment and a “train” experience for children and their families. Due to programs like J.U.S.T. and the Boys and Girls Club of Tabula Rasa, over 7,500 adults and children traveled to Liberty County this year to enjoy these events and fulfill the “Vision” of the Veterans Memorial Railroad.

Thank you, Liberty JUST, Boys and Girls Club of Tabula Rasa, and Twin Oaks Juvenile Development!!!

Submitted by,

Gloria Keenan


Veterans Memorial Railroad 

I am pleased to share the following letter that was sent to Juvenile Probation Officer Patricia Vargas from the grandparents of a youth on her caseload. It mentions the outstanding work Vargas has done with the young man and also speaks to the efforts of Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Matt Borboa. It reads:

Dear Ms. Vargas:

I just wanted to thank you for the many hours you have invested in my grandson JL due to his very wrong choices. Your professionalism, kindness and caring, and "tough love" have had an enormous effect on him. It has really made the difference in his thinking and his desire to change for the better.

Our family has been so appreciative of the "little things," which meant so much, like the breakfast sandwich from Baskin-Robbins, the donuts and coffee and his birthday gift card. You have gone over and above the call of duty.

We are so thankful for another chance for JL to change for the better.  We recognize the extraordinary opportunity that has been extended to him.  And we are thankful that you and Mr. Borboa have worked so hard to give him this chance. I know he will do his best not to disappoint you. We thank God you were assigned to be his probation officer.

Detention Facility Hosts Pajama Party and An Animal Show

Juvenile Detention Officers Samara Groom, Kelly Ayala and Captain Sabrina Aikens from the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) hosted a pajama party for several of the girls at the facility. The officers also dressed in pajamas for the evening and made the event enjoyable for all who attended. The activity included hair and nail care, a game of Twister and other board games, movies, and of course, snacks. It provided the girls a time to bond with each other in a stress-free environment. The girls were able to put their worries aside for the evening and enjoy each other’s company. 

The Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) welcomed Jamie from Cold Blooded Inc. and the Calusa Nature Center to the facility for an animal and reptile show. Jamie shared his knowledge with the youth about each critter.  The youth were fascinated by the creatures, asked many questions, and were able to touch and pet them.  

DJJ Prevention Staff Support Non-Profits in the Community

State and Federal Director Eugene Morris attended the Healthy Families Florida (HFF) and Kiwanis Clubs of Florida’s 7th annual Kiwanis Advocates for Kids breakfast at the First Baptist Church of Tallahassee. The event included a speech by Meghan Deese about her baby Carter, who benefitted from HFF services. Other speakers were Jack Levine, Capital City Kiwanis Club, who delivered an inspirational message, and C. Todd Smith, Governor of the Florida District of Kiwanis. DJJ was also recognized as a supporter of HFF.

HFF is a nationally accredited home visiting program for expectant parents and parents of newborns experiencing stressful life situations. The program improves childhood outcomes and increases family self-sufficiency by empowering parents through education and community support.

Parents voluntarily participate in Healthy Families so they can learn how to recognize and respond to their babies' changing developmental needs, use positive discipline techniques, cope with the day-to-day stress of parenting in healthy ways, and set and achieve short- and long-term goals.

Through their long-standing partnership with Kiwanis, HFF has helped many families. Florida Kiwanis clubs have provided portable cribs and other safe sleep resources for hundreds of families. Last year, Kiwanis helped purchase, assemble and distribute Zika prevention kits to more than 4,000 families in counties affected by the Zika virus.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Carmen Lundy provided school supplies and prevention information to attendees at the 2018 West End Community Wellness and Resources Fair at the St. James AME Church in Marianna. In addition to providing school supplies and prevention information, Carmen also set up a DJJ display table where she answered questions from attendees about ongoing Department initiatives and available services.

The following community agencies participated in this event: 90 Works, Chipola Healthy Start, SEDNET, Florida Therapy, Gulf Coast Sexual Assault Program. Also in attendance were representatives from the Federal Bureau of Prisons Re-entry Program, Kindred at Home and Emerald Coast Hospice and the Jackson County Health Department.

Pictured above (from left to right): Pastor Mizer, Youth Pastor Lewis and Carmen Lundy at the St. James AME Church.  

Residential Facility Begins Animal Therapy Program

In January, the TAILS Program began at Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by Sequel TSI of Florida. TAILS, which stands for “Teaching Animals and Inmates Life Skills,” is a collaborative effort bringing together prison inmates and hard-to-adopt shelter dogs. The program has since branched out to include work in the juvenile residential facility. Three dogs were brought to the facility and immediately adjusted to their new home.

The dogs are being trained by the youth, under the guidance of Ms. Jen Deane who provides homes to harder-to-adopt dogs in need. The youth are very excited to have the mixed breed dogs in the facility and are showering them with love. The youth in the program are doing an excellent job and really enjoy training, grooming and playing with the dogs. The dogs will be on site for at least 8 weeks while they are trained. After that, the dogs will graduate from the program and will be up for adoption.

In the photo below from left to right are Ms. Jen Deane, dogs: Penny, Beauty, Shiloh and Ms. Jessie Wilgis. 

The HBI program at Okaloosa Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 13 to 19, operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, has establish a great working partnership between HBI and Habitat for Humanity. The HBI students were able to form and prep for a driveway slab, along with completing the landscaping around the new home. This new partnership has afforded the HBI students the opportunity to experience real-life jobsite conditions and gain more hands-on experience in a true job setting. The program has also completed a few shop projects for Habitat for Humanity, including picnic tables and worksite step stools. Starting in February, Habitat for Humanity and HBI students will team up to build three new homes in the Crestview area.

Last week, the Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, both of which are nonsecure programs for boys and are operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, took five youth to Flagler College for a prospective student tour. Touring Flagler provided students with the opportunity to explore one of the oldest private colleges in the state of Florida. They learned the history of the college, visited the student center, walked through dorms, and learned about classes offered and financial aid opportunities. It was an eye-opening experience as none of the youth had ever been to a college before.

Hastings and Gulf Academy also rewarded five youth with a visit to the Metro Diner for brunch. The youth were rewarded for having shown consistent effort in completing their goals and being role models for their peers on their respective dorms. The youth enjoyed pancakes, eggs, bacon, and chicken & waffles. One youth was especially excited because it was his birthday and getting to eat a bunch of food was the best present he could have received.

Two youth from Melbourne Center for Personal Growth, a nonsecure program for boys, ages 13 to 18, operated by AMIkids, went to Tallahassee with Executive Director Cedric Cliatt, AMI supervisor Calvin Roper, and AMI Board Member Brad Roub to visit the State Capitol Building for Legislative Day. Legislative Day in Tallahassee was a great success and learning experience for the youth. They met with various legislators to thank each for their support of the AMIkids program.  Upon their return to the program, the youth had the opportunity to educate the young men on how the legislative process works. 

Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, was invited to participate in the “SMART’N UP” Black Male Summit held in historic Overtown of Miami, FL. The summit focused on the unique needs of young black males in America and abroad and was designed to provide tools to inner-city males to make better decisions in life. Since 2010, the summit has helped to transform the lives of hundreds of its participants in Miami and Houston. The purpose of the Black Male Summit is to expose black males to critical information presented in a way that INSPIRES them to make better choices in the future. 

Earlier this month, youth MY, AW, MR, and AG, from Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, were surprised with a "day of beauty" hosted by the Cosmetology students at Marchman Technical School. The youth were treated to a wash, deep condition, dry and hairstyle. Their pampering included basic manicures as well. In addition, they were provided lunch cooked by the aspiring chefs in the Culinary Arts program.

The youth chosen for this event have the highest completion averages and grades in APEX education. Special thanks to Lead Teacher Tim Guy and Marchman Assistant Principal Thomas Brochue with the Pasco County School Board for making this event possible for the girls. They enjoyed the day of pampering, and they sure worked hard to earn it.