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Secretary's Message

June 19, 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 Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Ken Mason for being named Agency IT Professional of the Year at the 2018 Florida Digital Government Summit!  Ken was recognized for his leadership and innovation related to the agency software deployment process and modernization to the Florida Accounting Information Resource (FLAIR) reporting tools used by agency personnel.  

Pictured above: Dennis Hollingsworth (left) and Ken Mason

DJJ Teams Up With NCIL for Clash of Heroes Competition

The National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL) has teamed up with our agency to combine literacy skills and fun in the classroom with the Clash of the Heroes competition this summer! The ten-week competition is open to youth who are currently served by DJJ prevention, day treatment, detention and residential facilities, and allows multiple winners to be recognized on a national level. The competition is broken down into three categories and includes a recording to be featured on the NCIL website, comic book character design and comic book story lines. The winning artwork and related stories created by our youth will culminate in a comic book anthology designed by our talented DJJ students. Throughout the summer we will bring you more information on contest winners and how you can get involved in the voting process.  Please click on the picture to the left for additional details!

Detention Center Hosts Pajama Party

The Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) hosted a pajama party for the girls at the facility and invited the young ladies from the Miami-Dade RJDC to join in on the fun. Arrangements were made for the girls from Miami RJDC to arrive via the HUB, and the girls from both facilities had a great time mingling, laughing and letting their hair down. The staff at Broward RJDC decorated their multi-purpose room, made a variety of hot and cold snacks and brought PJs for all of the girls. In addition, they had a schedule of activities which included games, movies and shirt decorating. My thanks to Juvenile Circuit Judge Stacy Ross who donated treats for the girls as well as Juvenile Detention Officer Kelly Ayala who volunteered her time in making this a memorable event.

The Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently welcomed their frequent guests, the Soul Flowers, to the facility. The volunteers brought donations of plants, flowers, mulch, dirt and informative gardening books for the youth. The Soul Flowers volunteers spent the day visiting with the youth, creating crafts, and preparing for an upcoming skit and talent show for the next week. The day ended in the Southwest garden where the volunteers and youth spent time planting and cultivating the donations. My thanks to Juvenile Detention Officers Helen Young and Ingrid Perez for participating in this event.

PACE Center Girls Take College Tours in Georgia

women of the all-female college continue to uphold and the impact that graduates of Spelman have had in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). On the tour of Emory, they learned of the school’s direct connection to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The college tour ended with a tour of Fort Valley State University. Here, the young ladies learned of the comprehensive veterinary technology program and animal science degree as well as the biology degree that many pre-med students successfully complete to enter either medical, nursing, or dentistry school.

As the young ladies and staff left Georgia behind and traveled back to Florida, they were already making plans to possibly attend one of the universities they visited. They reviewed their notes on what each school had to offer and talked about how they could “see themselves” on one or more of the various campuses.  The trip was summed up in the words of one of the students: “This tour has changed my life and allowed me to see that there are other opportunities out there for me.”

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims along with Doris Strong from the Bureau of Finance and Accounting, Stephanie McKinzie from the Office of Probation and Cheryl Robinson from the Office of Prevention volunteered during the Amateur Athletic Union’s (AAU) Track and Field District Championships at the Mike Long Track on the campus of Florida State University. Approximately 250 youth from Tallahassee and surrounding areas competed in track and field and set many records as they prepared to qualify for the AAU Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa. The 2018 AAU Junior Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 28 – August 4 at Drake University in Iowa. Thank you to everyone for volunteering your time to encourage these young athletes to excel in sports. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Cheryl Robinson, Alice Sims, Stephanie McKinzie and Doris Strong.

Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement Staff Receive Positive Recognition Statewide

When employees are treated well, they provide better customer service and enhance the reputation of the organization in which they work. An easy practice of treating employees well is the art of giving employees meaningful and authentic recognition and an acknowledging the great work they do each day. In the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement, following each on-site annual compliance review, each program/provider is sent a Review Evaluation Survey using SurveyMonkey, an online survey tool. Each program/provider is asked to rate the MQI Review Team as a unit, rate each reviewer as an individual, and rate the monitoring and quality improvement process as a whole. These surveys take only a few minutes to complete, but mean a great deal to our team members. Almost 70% of the surveys distributed are completed and returned to us for review. Each survey is shared with the director of program accountability, the bureau chief, the regional monitoring supervisors, the deputy regional monitors supervisors, and each regional monitor on the specific review team. The results of these surveys are used to recognize employees who are doing a great job, recognize those supervisors who are effectively coaching their review teams, and make necessary changes to processes in order to provide the highest level of service possible to our customer. Below are some examples of the responses we have received in the last 90 days:

Marion Youth Academy

“I thought the entire process was again outstanding. One of the BEST MQI reviews I have been a part of in a long time.” – Facility Administrator Todd Speight

Cypress Creek Juvenile Correctional Center

“Most professional MQI Review Team I have experienced.” – Facility Administrator Elonza Hendred

Probation – Circuit 11

“We would like to thank the MQI Review Team for making this review a positive experience.” – Circuit 11 Chief Probation Officer Frank Manning

Challenge Youth Academy

“The MQI Review Team was fair and provided good feedback concerning areas which were reviewed. The MQI Review Team was not a disruption during the review and this assisted the program maintain daily operations. The program appreciates the time and effort each Regional Monitor put into the review. Thank you.” – Facility Administrator Paul Brown

Dade Youth Academy

“Overall, the process was smooth with no difficulties.” – Regional Director Robbin Berry-Scruggs

Eckerd Connects Project Bridge

“The review process was presented clearly, it has a fair process, giving us the opportunity to respond and/or provide documentation of practices.” – Program Director Claudia Laos

Pompano Youth Treatment Center

“I have no suggestions for changes. It is a great method to see what your program is doing well and also where improvements can be made. There were no issues, all in all, a good review.” – Program Director Tameko Gore

Miami Youth Academy

“We are delighted with the process.” – Facility Administrator Johnny Richardson

Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center

“The MQI Review Team was very thorough and fair. We discussed a few indicators of concern and came to agreement in each case.” – Superintendent Paul Finn

Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center

“Being here for just over four months and not expecting a review so close to my assignment date, I was greatly pleased with the process, the MQI Review Team, and the comments stated by the reviewers. It was a week well spent. I cannot wait to go on my reviews as a Peer Reviewer.” – Superintended Daryl Wolf

The Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement would like to thank those programs/providers who have taken the time to provide this valuable feedback to our team and look forward to serving them again in the future.

Residential Youth Take Part in Community Service and Host Steak Night

St. Johns Youth Academy, a secure program operated by Sequel for boys ages 14 to 18, strives to reduce recidivism and provide youth with opportunities.  One of the five core norms is “Around here, St. Johns is an opportunity, not a punishment.”  Transitional Specialist Joe Warren is working hard to ensure that the norm is pushed throughout the program.  A great example of this is youth S.H. who was in the transition dorm and opted to take full advantage of the opportunities offered at the Academy and worked hard to elevate to Eagle status.  He obtained his GED and secured employment while at the Academy.  Youth S.H. became employed by UPS in Jacksonville after a successful interview.  The Human Resource Director was extremely impressed with his interview and offered him the job.  He has already completed his orientation and had his first day of work before he was released from the program. He has continued to work post-release. The employer was so impressed with his attitude and work ethic that they are requesting that any youth deemed appropriate be referred for potential employment. The Academy is pleased to have this partnership with UPS, which will add another layer of support to the transitional youth.

Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, held a steak night for the youth. Twenty-five pounds of top sirloin steaks, 20lbs of mashed potatoes, and 10lbs of corn was enjoyed by the youth. The youth have shown positive behavior and have been progressing in all areas of the program.

In preparation for the steak dinner, Hastings and Gulf Academy youth took a trip to Publix in St. Augustine to purchase the food. During the trip Recreational Therapist Andrew Crowley explained the health and nutritional benefits of different products in the produce and meat departments. The youth also took the opportunity to speak with the store manager about future employment. 

Youth from Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys ages 14 to 18 operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, visited local Highlands and Mathew Gilbert Middle Schools for their annual Man Up Conferences. The youth sat on a panel with other local entrepreneurs, motivational speakers and community leaders to provide words of encouragement, personal testimonies and give insight on being committed to a program. Special thanks to Mathew Gilbert and Highlands Middle School as well as N.E Regional Commitment Chief Virgil Wright for the invitation.

Cypress Creek, a secure program for boys ages 15 to 21 operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, rewarded the youth with a NBA Finals Party. Youth who exhibited consistently positive behavior were allowed to stay up and watch the basketball game with several appetizers. The administrative area was set up as a VIP section where pool, foosball, and air hockey were available for the youth that received the most positive behavior reports. This was a great incentive to encourage the youth to continue their positive progress!

Seven youth from Orange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Academy, non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, had the opportunity to attend a community service event at Up Orlando grocery store. The youth were asked to organize items in the store and do a little stocking of items on the shelves. All youth were very excited and appreciative to be able to help in the community.

Probation Staff Participate in Donation Drive for Our Troops

The DJJ Probation Office in Putnam County held their annual Youth Success Day event at the John Thebold Sports Complex in Palatka. Community partners and law enforcement agencies celebrated the over 100 youth who were in attendance. There was a plethora of activities for the youth to participate in including a bicycle obstacle course, kickball, a bean bag toss, cookie decoration and a double-dutch competition. The youth even had the opportunity to meet McGruff the Crime Dog. This annual event not only celebrated the youth in Putnam County but was an opportunity for us to thank our community partners for their continued dedication and support.

Pictured above (from left to right): SJPO Yolanda Massey, McGruff the Crime Dog, Reform Specialist Zemetria Anderson, JPO Clyde Witherspoon and JPOS DeShawn Deering.

Chief Probation Officer Rico Cooper and Reform Specialist Michael Byrd from Circuit 2 attended a meeting on school safety behavioral health strategies at the Department of Children and Families headquarters in Tallahassee. The meeting was called in response to an Executive Order of Governor Rick Scott, and was held to improve communication between agencies in the coordination of behavioral health services for those youth identified as the most in need. The meeting was held in conjunction with Big Bend Community-Based Care and local partners in Circuit 2 with a collective plan to ensure system-wide coordination.

Probation and Prevention staff in Circuit 6 and the Pinellas County Human Services Office of Justice Coordination recently celebrated the graduation of 18 individuals from the fourth Juvenile Justice Citizens Academy class in St. Petersburg. The Juvenile Justice Citizens Academy is a 10-week program designed to inform community members of the services provided by the Department of Juvenile Justice and its stakeholders. Each week, participants received education on every aspect of the juvenile justice system including prevention programs, the juvenile assessment center, the juvenile judicial process, the juvenile detention center, residential services and our community-based stakeholders. In addition, the Academy conducted a tour of the detention center, juvenile assessment center, residential program, and the probation office.

Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Dennis McKinney, Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Tonya Emsweller and Juvenile Probation Officers Xavier Bowie, Celia Kalis and Henry Valdes all from Circuit 13 participated in the Kids in Support of Soldiers (KISS) donation drive. Our officers collected donations to send to our troops overseas to show our support for all of their hard work. The remaining items will be sent to local veterans associations in Central Florida.

I’m pleased to share the following letter of appreciation that was sent by Case Manager David Greene form Eckerd Connects regarding Juvenile Probation Officer Mike Leverett in Circuit 1. It reads in part:


I wanted to take a moment to applaud Juvenile Probation Officer, Mike Leverett.  As an Eckerd Challenge Youth Academy case manager, I have had the pleasure of working with JPO Leverett to help several young men from Circuit 1, successfully complete their treatment program.  JPO Leverett makes every effort to participate in the youth’s Treatment Team Formal Reviews, and makes sure he has lived contact with his youths, on a regular basis. I’m sure that is a DJJ mandate, but JPO Leverett never gives a youth the impression that he is fulfilling a requirement, as his communication always demonstrates genuine and sincere concern. When one of his youths has accomplished good things in our program, JPO Leverett is quick to let him know how proud he is.

What I really wanted to bring to your attention, is this…

One of my youths recently received a letter from JPO Leverett, introducing himself as his caseworker while the youth is at ECYA.  The youth immediately wrote JPO Leverett back, thanking him for the letter and promising he will do his best. 

Today, the youth received a 2-page letter from JPO Leverett.  The sage advice and thoughtful words of encouragement went far beyond what I would expect from a JPO.  The letter had a personal touch to it.  Usually, I just scan the resident’s mail, but this time I found myself reading every word… and, I found myself smiling as I finished the letter. 


David L. Greene       

Case Manager

Clinical Department