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Secretary's Message

April 2, 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

Staff Announcement and Kudos

Congratulations and best wishes to North Regional Director for the Office of Probation and Community Intervention Jill Clemens who will soon be retiring after 29 years of dedicated service to the state of Florida. Director Clemens has worn many hats for this Department and began her career as a juvenile probation officer and later a juvenile probation officer supervisor. She also served as a facility administrator for a residential program and as a superintendent for a detention facility. She has spent the last eight years as north regional director. Clemens has spent a lifetime improving the lives of Florida’s youth and we wish her well in her retirement. 

Congratulations to Corporal Travis Montgomery from the Alachua Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named regional Employee of the Month for the month of February. Corporal Montgomery has been with the Department for the last ten months and in that short time has excelled in his commitment to the Department and the youth. Travis Montgomery has a willingness to learn and serves as a positive influence to the youth he serves.

Pictured above (from left to right): Major Forrest Hallam, Corporal Montgomery, JDOS Stacy Oliver, ADS Shirly Edmond and ADS Robert Lloyd

Probation Staff Meet Governor Rick Scott and Donate Blankets to the Homeless

Probation staff in Circuit 10 had the opportunity to meet with Governor Rick Scott during his recent trip to Lakeland to highlight efforts to fight human trafficking during the Securing Florida’s Future budget event. The event was held at the Porch Light – One More Child Center, which is an organization dedicated to helping the victims of sex-trafficking in Polk County.

Pictured above (from left to right): CPO Alison Fulford, ACPO Amy Stiles, Governor Scott and Reform Specialist Natalie Montgomery

Eckerd Connects Project Bridge in Circuit 11 is beyond proud to announce the GED certificate completion accomplished by Gerald Duverglas. This youth began the Eckerd Connections Project Bridge program unfocused with no goals for himself. Gerald explained to Eckerd staff members that he did not believe he could really do anything and that a GED is something he wanted but did not believe he could get.

As a collective team, Eckerd put together a game plan with Gerald and he executed it to perfection. Gerald went on to complete all four of his official GED exams with Eckerd Connects Paxen. He is now interested in obtaining a college degree and the Eckerd team will continue to work with and guide this youth to a better life. This all started with a game plan for a youth who wanted success but did not know yet how to accomplish this endeavor on his own.

Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Clayton recently attended a job fair at the AMIkids facility in Jacksonville. The job fair hosted DJJ youth from AMIkids Jacksonville, AMIkids Clay and residential youth from the Jacksonville Youth Academy. AMI arranged for an array of local employers to attend this event including Chipotle, City Walk, Subway, Checkers, Krystal, McDonald’s and CiCi’s Pizza. All of the young men and women were properly dressed for their interviews with these various businesses. The youth from our residential program were in the transition stage, and this job fair was a great opportunity for them as they begin their transition back into the community.

Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Melissa Fuller and Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Thomas Garcia made a presentation to a juvenile justice class at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg campus on March 22. CPO Fuller and JPO Garcia gave an overview of the job duties and responsibilities of a probation officer and a provided a brief presentation on the Roadmap to System Excellence. The students from USF were very engaged and interested on how the justice system responds to juvenile crime and the impact of the implementation of various programs such as civil citation and enhanced supervision for prolific offenders.

Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Irma Melendez and Juvenile Probation Officer Jeffery Jones from Circuit 9 made a presentation on delinquency at the Florida Judicial College last week in Orlando. Both officers were recently recognized for their participation in a letter by Judge Richard Hersch. It reads:

On behalf of Judge Prescott and I, (and really, all of the students in our Juvenile Fundamentals class) we want to thank you for your participation last Thursday in the Delinquency portion of the Florida Judicial College.  It was not a surprise that you both arrived with a complete knowledge of law and policy surrounding Juvenile delinquency.  What made the experience so rewarding for the judges in the class was your passion for the mission of helping young people.  You gave this class of experienced judges, some with extensive experience in dependency, delinquency and other disciplines, a unique and special view of your day-to-day work with our most at-risk kids. The initial feedback we received from the judges was very good and all were clearly impressed by your professionalism, energy, and obvious love for your job.  The suggestions you gave us on assisting JPOs on their work, and communicating the message we have for our juveniles, were invaluable.  The Department is lucky to have you on the job.  Keep up the great work.

Thank you again for spending time with us and we hope to see you again soon.

Richard Hersch

Circuit Judge, 11th Jud.Cir.

Youth from Eckerd Connects Paxen Community Connections Manatee visited Keiser University Center for Culinary Arts in Sarasota to participate in their hands-on culinary program for a day. The youth learned many skills including balance, creativity and practicality. This was a very supportive environment, encouraging our youth to explore a new career while developing a wide range of culinary skills.

Circuit 17 Chief Probation Officer Cassandra Evans served as a panelist during the Women in Action: We’re All That showcase on March 22 at the Majestic Palm Room on the campus of Florida Atlantic University (FAU). The event was a part of FAU’s Women’s History Month festivities and it was sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. FAU Section. Women in Action showcases the entrepreneurship of women of different demographics, and the panel discussion brought together women who shared their experiences and stories on how they overcame adversity to be successful as minority women.

A thank you was also sent by Ms. Jennifer Goolsby, Secretary for the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. FAU Section. It reads in part:

On behalf of The National Council Of Negro Women, Inc. FAU section, we would like to extend a warm thank you for helping us on such a great event. Thank you for being kind, real, and simply taking the time out of your day to be a part of such a wonderful panel. You all received such positive feedback and I'm sure a couple of people will be reaching out to you. Having you as a panelist definitely helps us obtain our mission and goals as an organization. Your words have touched the lives of many and we hope that with those words, we can do the same thing to others one day!

Circuit 11 Secretary Specialist Wanda Jones organized a blanket drive for DJJ staff members to donate to the homeless during the winter months when those less fortunate had the greatest need. Circuit 11 staff in the Lincoln Square building filled Jones’ box with donations and she distributed them to those in need. In addition, Jones also provides faith blankets to the sick at a local hospital.

Probation staff in Circuit 16 teamed up with Key West High School and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to hold a Bridging the G.A.A.P (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) conversation at the school library on March 8. Youth from school clubs including the Explorers, as well as those on DJJ supervision, participated in the conversation along with Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay and Chief Probation Officer Donnie Lee. Youth in school received a certificate for either participation or observance to assist in the completion of their community service hour requirement for the school.

Detention Facility Host Chili Cookoff

The Manatee Regional Juvenile Detention Center hosted a chili cook-off for their staff members on March 21. Three staff members entered the cook-off including Administrative Assistant Joanne Thomas who cooked white chili, while Captain Brandon Jennings and Major Terry Carter cooked red chili. Congratulations to Captain Jennings who was deemed the winner of the cookoff.

The Okaloosa Regional Juvenile Detention Center welcomed Dr. Eddie B and his team with Conviction for Christ Ministries from Albuquerque, New Mexico to speak to our youth. The team put on a full concert with original uplifting music, words of inspiration and testimonies of hope. The youth at Okaloosa enjoyed their message of rising from the ashes and not allowing your past to dictate your future. Dr. B donated books and CD’s of his music, which has been nationally recognized.

DJJ Students Featured for Their Participation in Debate Class

The education website Getting Smart recently featured juvenile justice students in Broward County who are participating in the debate program with the Broward County Schools. The article discusses the weekly debate class that began last year in partnership with the Broward Debate Initiative and how this opportunity has given a voice to our students. You can read the feature here. I would like to thank Getting Smart for highlighting our program!

Prevention Program Conducts a Series of Focus Groups

The City of Fort Lauderdale Police Department, a DJJ Prevention Provider, conducted a series of focus groups at various school locations within the city of Fort Lauderdale. Since the training began back in 2015, four focus groups were held at Whiddon Rogers Education Center. Each group lasted 3 to 4 hours in length and incorporated themes of adolescent development, the impact of perceptions and life experiences on outlook/behavior, role playing scenarios with the youth pretending to be police officers, and ended with restorative justice circles. These groups ranged in size from 20 – 30 youth, ages 7-14.

Focus groups were also conducted at Seagull Alternative High School, Carter Park and Lauderdale Manors Park. The groups incorporated similar themes. The two Seagull groups lasted well past 4 hours as a few of the students stayed back after to discuss some personal issues with the participating officers. At times, the discussions in the restorative circles grew rather heated due to the intense passion of the youth.

Two groups met at Carter Park and one at Lauderdale Manors. These kids were younger, ranging from 9 to 14 years old. However, this did not lessen the degree of passion and awareness they had to societal issues. Several of the officers said they felt very hopeful for the future at the end of the last Carter Park group.

Focus groups were scheduled for Dillard High School and Sunrise Middle the week of February 12. However, in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting incident, the focus groups were postponed.  It is anticipated that they will be rescheduled after Spring Break. They are also coordinating with PACE Center for Girls to bring the focus groups to their location.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Marie Boswell attended Circuit 15 Advisory Board Meeting (CAB) on March 8 at the Palm Beach County Community Services Center where DJJ-funded prevention programs conducted presentations and community recognition took place. Prevention program presentations included an array of funding sources, such as local funded programs from the Invest in Children License Tags and Community Partnership grants, as well as statewide funded programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Home Society, Gulfstream Goodwill Industries, PACE Center for Girls and Urban League of Palm Beach County. 

The presentations included a program description, instructional objectives, specific services provided, demographics of the youth served, achievements/success, challenges and dreams.  Some of the dreams were to extend the length of stay in the programs, competitive salaries for program staff, and funding to expand programs.

The Circuit 15 Circuit Advisory Board also recognized the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach for the services provided for the book reading on March 1, by Author IBI Zoboi.  Ms. Zoboi is the author of “American Street,” nominated for National Book Award 2017. Two hundred books were available for youth in the county to include the Palm Beach Juvenile Detention Center, 12th Floor of the Jail and for judges and juvenile probation officers to distribute. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) discussion between local youth and law enforcement officers on February 12 at the Harlem Civic Center in Clewiston. The purpose of the discussion was to start a dialogue with law enforcement and youth and to provide a forum where youth and law enforcement officers could speak freely so that their issues could be heard and understood.

Pictured above: Sandra Ferguson, Commissioner Byrd, Lt. Stevens, Lt. Rowan, Dr. Pavelka. PhD., Capt. Harrelle, Deputy Wingate, Deputy Campbell, Deputy Nunemaker & Deputy Moore.

These goals were achieved with the moderator, Dr. Sandra Pavelka, PhD., professor and director, Institute for Youth and Justice Studies, Florida Gulf Coast University and Chairperson for Circuit 20 Advisory Board. Dr. Pavelka was the focused moderator for this session and successfully engaged the middle school youth and law enforcement officers in a robust discussion.

Youth spoke candidly about their views and officers took the time to put the youth at ease. Many of the youth had never been within arms’ reach of law enforcement so they had a unique opportunity to gain insight and have positive feedback to their thoughts and feelings.

Harlem Clewiston youth and families along with Hendry County Commissioner Emma Byrd District 1 - Vice Chair, and officers with Hendry County Sheriff's Office, supported the G.A.A.P discussion. Local after-school program youth, community helpers and Clewiston Police participated in the discussion. Additional GAAP discussions are scheduled throughout the state.

The girls from the PACE Center for Girls of Marion County have started a chorus with the help of Music Director David Bedenbaugh from the First Presbyterian Church of Ocala. The purpose of the chorus is to give the girls an outlet for emotional expression through music. The girls in the chorus meet every other week and they enjoy singing and making music with one another.

The first public performance was held on February 22 at the Voices of PACE fundraising luncheon.  The chorus sang a ‘Musical Mash-up’ of songs that honor the female spirit through their messages of hope and inspiration. The group has raised more than $40,000 at their annual luncheon. The money will be used to support the operations of PACE Marion.

Staff Development and Training Holds Generational Differences Training

On March 26th the Office of Staff Development & Training facilitated Generational Differences and Situational Leadership Coaching Training.  The training provided opportunities for participants to understand the core elements of each of the current generations in the workforce, to understand similarities and differences across multi-generations, to understand the components of Situational Leadership, and how to utilize Situational Leadership to assist in coaching staff performance. The training was extremely well received and participants felt confident that they had gained additional tools that would help them when they return to their workplace.  Participants included representatives from Lutheran Services, Family Resources, General Services, Boys Town, Quality Improvement, Personnel, Budget, Aspire Health, Staff Development & Training, Prevention, Probation and Residential Services and the Office of the Secretary.

Residential Youth Attend Basketball Game and Enjoy a Girls Day Out

At the beginning of this month, RAM-C, a non-secure program for boys, ages nine to 18, which is operated by Twin Oaks, has had one of the most rewarding and exciting partnerships with FSU’s basketball team! They have let the youth attend practice and several games throughout the past two years! This is a major incentive for the boys as several of them aspire to be athletes. It was a great time for all the RAM-C youth and staff that attended!

One youth wrote, “Dear FSU, you should know that I feel like that was the best trip I have ever been on in my time here, because I always wanted to be a basketball player, and for me going to the game that’s just going to make me push myself more just to become one because that’s showing me if they can do it I can do the same. But I am going to try to do my best so I can become better like them but I like the moves they did. I feel like FSU is the best at what they did that day. I had a very nice time, and we were even on the big screen my first time! That was the best day I had here! Thank you very much for the tickets!”

Another youth wrote, “I had a lot of fun going with Ms. Miller and Jones to the FSU basketball game. I love basketball and it was such a raw and close game! They are a great team and we got to see them in great seats! We also got free cool FSU shirts so we can rep their team. It was a great day.”

Earlier this month, students from Alachua Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 12 to 18, which is operated by Sequel, enjoyed a “Girls Day Out” full of pampering and relaxation. This activity was provided to students for their continuous excellent progress. The students received manicures, pedicures, and back massages in the massage chair. We are extremely proud of the progress the students are making and are happy to encourage them to continue on this track!

A few weeks later, seven students from Alachua Academy enjoyed a fun activity at “Painting with a Twist” located in Gainesville, FL. These students were able to utilize their artistic talents to create paintings that were awesome. The students enjoyed the time they had and learned various aspects about canvas painting. Alachua Academy wants to thank Painting with A Twist for teaching their students canvas painting, and for their hospitality.

Ten youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, which is operated by Sequel, participated in an outing to help clean up the community with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and members of the Advisory Board. The youth had a great day and enjoyed food and games at the end of the cleanup. A great day of giving back to the community!

A few weeks ago, Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys and are operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, had a visit from a volunteer group all the way from Johnson City, Tennessee. Every year these dedicated volunteers travel down to Florida for the annual bike week in Daytona and make a stop at Hastings to perform a concert for our youth. With a mixture of Christian hymns and contemporary selections, the youth were thoroughly entertained by the group. A few of the youth were given the opportunity to try their chops at the drums. A heartfelt thank you from Hastings and Gulf Academy for such dedicated volunteers.

Lake Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 12 to 19, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions began its inaugural girls’ basketball team and competed in its first gameagainst their sister facility – Central  Pasco Girls Academy – on March 9, 2018. This was an opportunity for the young ladies to showcase additional skills as well as work on social skills with individuals outside of their living environment while working on their treatment goals in a competitive environment. Although Lake Academy won the game, the girls did a great job of displaying awesome sportsmanship and Lake Academy is very proud of all the young ladies and their efforts. They also had their outstanding step team cheer during the game! 

Kissimmee Youth Academy (KYA), a secure program for boys, ages 14 to 21, which is operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, hosted the Star Struck Family Day event. Family Day has been a huge success within the program and continues to grow exponentially. This Family Day extravaganza was nothing short of spectacular in every aspect. Approximately 125 family members traveled from various areas throughout the state to enjoy this event.

There were a variety of fun filled activities to include The Walk of Fame, The Paparazzi Room and a Rap Battle. All events were paired with some delicious food available to all families in attendance. The RAP Battle was a huge success, and after performing,  the youth were judged and each received a trophy for their participation. Lastly, each module had various youth who put on skits during the festivities. Special thanks to all of KYA staff who continue to push the envelope for the youth they serve

Also happening at KYA, the program was fortunate to recently provide college enrollment opportunities for a couple its students. Enrollment counselor Mary McGowan from Valencia College was on site to assist two of the KYA youth with the orientation process in preparation for class registration. These young men have worked diligently on their career development objectives and education goals throughout the duration of their time at the Academy. Kissimmee Youth Academy is excited to continue the partnership with Valencia College and look forward to the bright educational future of these two young men.

Five youth from Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, engaged in community service at Farm Share warehouse in Homestead, FL. At Farm Share, volunteers are utilized to re-sort and package an abundance of surplus food aiding Farm Share to distribute to individuals, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, churches, and other organizations feeding the hungry in Florida — free of charge. Farm Share is working to alleviate hunger and malnutrition by recovering and distributing fresh and nutritious food to those who need it most. Farm Share provides food to hundreds of non-profit organizations that serve more than 1 million families each year with 23.4 million pounds of food. More than 15 million pounds of fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables are trucked each year to participating community groups throughout Florida. Established in 1991, Farm Share is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, dedicated to recovering, sorting, packing and distributing nutritious food for people in need.

Earlier this month, youth K.F., E.G., S.P., J.B., S.C., and M.R. along with FA Christina Roberts and Recreational Therapist Amelia Vazquez from Central Pasco Girls Academy, a non-secure program for girls, ages 13 to 18, which is operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, attended the Pinellas County Great American Clean Up at Indian Shores Beach. The CPGA team cleaned up the beach while enjoying the sand between their toes and the calming waves. The girls received t-shirts, water bottles and gift cards to Chick-fil-A for their service.