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Secretary's Message

June 25, 2018

Secretary Daly’s Weekly Letter 

Last Thursday, we celebrated the official start to the summer, but as Floridians, you know we’ve been celebrating the “unofficial” start of summer for the past few months. I’m sure many of you are busy making your summer travel plans or enjoying the warmer days close to home with family and friends. Even with the dog days of summer upon us, our DJJ staff remain committed to the mission of our agency and to the youth and families we serve.

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 Field Training Coordinator Eric Buff from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was chosen as the Employee of the Month for the month of April by the Office of Detention Services South Region. Mr. Buff has traveled throughout the South Region to assist with training staff in the Blended Academy curriculum, CPR and AED certification and PAR techniques. He has proven to be a model trainer and deserving of this award. 

Congratulations to GOC II April Walker who was recently named Support Employee of the Month for the month of May by the Office of Detention Services Central Region. Ms. Walker always displays a positive attitude and serves as a role model for her co-workers. She provides technical assistance when needed and was instrumental in providing training and preparation for the recent QI review at the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Ms. Walker was presented with a certificate and gift card by Central Region Director Monica Gray.

Pictured above: April Walker (left) and Monica Gray

Prevention Team Delivers Presentation During NOBLE Meeting

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson delivered a presentation titled “The Law and Your Community,” during the recent National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) meeting at the Church of God of Prophecy in Lehigh Acres. The purpose of the training was to bring awareness of the rights of individuals within the community and to prepare them for positive encounters with law enforcement.

NOBLE serves as the conscience of law enforcement by being committed to “Justice by Action”. NOBLE serves more than 60,000 youth through its major program components which include: mentoring, education, leadership development, and safety. The “Law & Your Community” is a nationally recognized hands-on interactive training program designed to improve communications with law enforcement officers and their understanding of federal, state and local laws.

Pictured above: NOBLE team and training participants conduct a role-playing exercise of a routine traffic stop. 

Assistant Secretary for Prevention and Victim Services Alice Sims recently conducted a site visit of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville. Assistant Secretary Sims received a tour of the headquarters office and then met with President and CEO of the Policy Center Lawanda Raviora and other staff members regarding the awesome work they are doing with the young ladies at the center.

Ms. Ravoira and her staff members provided information on the upcoming 5th Annual See the Girl Summit that will take place October 18-19, 2018. This year’s theme is “Hope is What We Do,” with workshops focused on creating safe spaces for difficult conversations and the power we hold to give hope. 

Established in January 2013, the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is the outgrowth of the girls’ reform movement that began more than 15 years ago. Its mission is to “engage communities, organizations and individuals through quality research, community organizing, advocacy, training and model programming.”

Pictured above: Assistant Secretary Alice Sims (far right) with staff members from the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center

Assistant Secretary Alice Sims, Delinquency Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally, Reform Specialist from Circuit 2 Michael Byrd and Faith Network Representative Pastor Ernie Sims attended the organizing and planning meeting of the One Voice Youth Conference at the Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee. The conference is slated for July 6-7 at Trinity United and will target youth currently on probation who are being served through the One Voice Mentoring Program. 

DJJ Students Participate in Words Unlocked Poetry Competition

In partnership with The Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS), Martin Girls Academy recently participated in the Center’s annual Words Unlocked Poetry Contest. As a result, Martin resident R.L. was recognized as one of the ten finalists in the nation, for her poem submittal. The chosen theme for this contest was Multiformity. The Center stated “Multiformity is the quality of existing in many different forms and speaks to the complexity of human being”.

Resident R.L.’s poem (shown below) was originally part of Martin Girls Academy’s celebration of Black History Month. One of the culminating activities of this month-long project was that each student presented their completed poems to a gathered audience that were assembled to view and appreciate the hard work undertaken by the students. The program’s Lead Educator Arlene Soberg, stated, “Everyone (in attendance), including the therapists, realized that the students were using poetry as an outlet for what they had previously experienced”. Ms. Soberg went on to state, “the presentations were awesome! In fact, one visitor was moved to tears.” Special recognition is due to Kim Littrell, the program’s English teacher, who was instrumental in encouraging the students as well as being a valuable resource in assisting the students’ progress.

Marion Youth Academy had four students participate in an eight-week Introduction to Sociology prep course. The students worked extremely hard to prepare for the CLEP exam.  These students were dedicated to self-study, virtual sessions and group discussions. One student J. G. passed the exam and earned three college credits. The other students’ scores were very close and we are exceptionally proud of all these students.  The next College Now cycle began June 11, 2018, and the students will be taking courses to prepare them to take the ACCUPACER assessment for College Math and Reading readiness.

Office of Detention Services Awarded Technical Assistance Grant

I am very pleased to announce that DJJ’s Office of Detention Services is one of four jurisdictions in the country to be awarded the Reduce Isolation in Youth Facilities (RIYF) grant by OJJDP and the Center for Coordinated Assistance to States.  The funding and support for this grant will allow Detention Services to explore alternatives within their system that will provide opportunities to empower staff and reduce the number of confinements in detention centers.

Hillsborough Regional Juvenile Detention Center and Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center have been selected as the two sites for this project. Representatives from across program areas and offices have been selected to serve on the workgroup overseeing the grant and include: Research and Data Integrity, Quality Improvement, Detention Services, Education, Health Services, Staff Development and Training and the Office of the Secretary.

Detention officers within each of the participating facilities will serve as subject matter experts and work very closely with workgroup members to ensure their voices are heard as their operational knowledge of secure detention will serve to drive this project.  Areas of focus for the grant include policy and procedure, data, behavior management, staff development and officer support.

I am confident that the officers within our centers and the RIYF workgroup members will be diligent in their efforts to create a system that will serve to decrease the use of confinement and promote safer centers for our youth and staff.

The traveling music group Mirror Image recently made a visit to the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) to present their Freedom Hymn and Straight Talk Project. Mirror Image consists of youth and a band led by Reverend Steve Skinner. The group  traveled all the way from South Carolina to share their music and stories. The boys and girls from Southwest RJDC really enjoyed the program and are hoping that they will be back again soon.

Youth from the St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center participated in a wonderful art project to honor the dads and father figures in their lives. The youth made Father’s Day cards which included positive Father’s Day quotes and poems. Some of the youth presented their fathers with the cards during visitation, while others mailed them out.

Probationary Youth Attend Summer Camp, Hone in on Construction Skills

While summer camp has traditionally been a predictable right of summer for a lot of kids, it has often been out of reach for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Thanks to William Bloodworth and his wonderful staff at Camp Anderson in Old Town, FL, summer camp is a reality for many DJJ-involved youth. One such young man was driven to Camp Anderson by his Project Connect Transition Specialist, Ashley Ward, last week. Ms. Ward expressed great satisfaction in being afforded the opportunity to take this young man to his first full week summer camp. The youth was very happy to be going and excited to get a full week to participate in the plethora of activities planned at Camp Anderson, from fishing to paintball to archery and much more.  He was ready to soak it all in!  Many thanks to the staff at Camp Anderson, the Circuit 3 Probation Office, and the Project Connect team for making this possible. 

DJJ youth from the AMIkids Miami-North facility continue to receive technical and vocational education from carpentry teacher Wayne Dawkins. The youth take carpentry classes each Wednesday and Thursday where Mr. Dawkins shares his knowledge of carpentry with the youth while encouraging each one of them to stay on track. Recently, the AMIkids construction crew began working on a round-high table. Mr. Dawkins showed them each aspects of making the table including proper use and safety when using the belt sander and detail sander.

DJJ Probation staff from Circuit 2 and Leon Detention Center Superintendent McCray attended the AMIkids graduation ceremony at the New Destiny Church in Tallahassee. Family members and community partners were in attendance to celebrate the achievements of the seven new high school graduates who received their high school diplomas. It was great to share in the success of these youth as they make positive steps toward a better future for themselves and their families. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Major Conrad McCray, Dena Foster, AMI Kids Board Chairperson and CPO Rico Cooper

The Circuit 3 probation team recently held their monthly unit staff meeting in Live Oak to discuss procedures and updates within the circuit. During the meeting, Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor Tuwuana Rossin recognized probation officers who are fathers in honor of Father’s Day with a few kind words and a #1 Dad trophy. These dads play an important role in many of the lives of the youth they serve by helping to fill the “gap” of a male role model that may be missing from their family units.

Recently, the Circuit 18 probation staff held two separate community events in Sanford. The first was a community empowerment discussion which featured panelists Juvenile Circuit Judge Susan Stacy, Defense Attorney Deon Thompson, and Captain Trekelle Perkins from the Sanford Police Department. The panelists shared their personal stories which allowed them to relate to the attendees.

The next day, Circuit 18 held their Community Empowerment Block Party at the Westside Community Center in Sanford. The party included a host of different vendors and stakeholders including the United States Armed Forces, Seminole State College, Florida A&M University, the Boy Scouts, Teen Motivation and the Sanford Police Department. Food and drinks were provided and a local DJ played music.

I would like to thank the Seminole County Parks and Recreation for the use of the community center as well as Juvenile Probation Officer Nekeisha Pelham whose dedication made both events possible.

Circuit 13 recently held a chief probation officer meeting where they welcomed Aaron Love and Tabitha Shannon from the Project Bridge program. Aaron and Tabitha made a presentation where they discussed the Project Bridge program model, service delivery, referral process and the outside the box activities that separate Project Bridge. The presentation brought together the perfect combination of data, passion and success stories.

Pictured above (from left to right) Tabitha Shannon, Reform Specialist Sandra Pinkney and Aaron Love.

Staff Development and Training Holds Master PAR Instructor Meeting

The Office of Staff Development and Training (SD&T) recently hosted the semi-annual Master Protective Action Response (PAR) Instructor meeting at the Valencia College School of Public Safety. At the meeting, a recap of the PAR revision project, which highlighted the first two and half draft modules of the proposed Youth Engagement Model (YEM), was presented. The master instructors provided recommendations on enhancements and modifications to the current PAR physical intervention techniques, which will be presented to the YEM workgroup to guide the continued development of this section of the revised curriculum. 

(From Left to right, back row) Max Fils-Aime, Duane Pace, Jason Pimentel, Kiva Hagans, Gale Wire, Denise Cannon, Paul Britten (From left to right, front row) Joe Gerstenfeld, Andrea Minnis, Welton Sanders, Johnny Odom, Christy Ash, Gina Creuziger, Neil Stier, Tara Frazier, Alisa Hetzel (not pictured: Ayo Hinkson)

The master instructors also finalized their PAR Physical Intervention technique recommendations and discussed the PAR Fidelity Process.  PAR Physical Intervention evaluations were completed on all Master Instructors in attendance in order to maintain their certification

SD&T Director Cina Wilson-Johnson provided closing remarks where she thanked the master instructors for their unwavering commitment to ensuring the fidelity of the PAR process and for serving as the subject matter experts on the PAR revision project.

Residential Youth Pitch Their Business Ideas to Local Chamber of Commerce

As a reward for positive progress in the program, six youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys, ages 14 to 18, operated by Sequel, went to the movies to see the movie Rampage. The boys enjoyed the movie at the theater and having snacks and slushies during their time off campus. The following day, six youth from Duval Academy attended a Flapjack Fundraiser at Applebee’s in Jacksonville with the Duval Academy Advisory Board. The youth helped the Advisory Board members set up and had a great time working with the board members while enjoying being a part of the activity.

Also happening at Duval Academy, two youth that are part of the entrepreneur program went to the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. They presented their product and company, The Brothers Business, and got positive feedback on how to make their presentation better. They had a great time and liked the valuable information they received.

Jacksonville Youth Academy’s, a non-secure program for boys ages, 14 to 18 operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, Entrepreneur Class also had the opportunity to visit The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Pitch Day’ to propose their current business “Logic Luxuries” to local officials. The youth did a great job presenting their business plan, while receiving feedback and words of encouragement from local business owners and grant writers. Special thanks to Dr. Carlton Robinson, Evone Pina, Ashlea Justice and Daniel Davis, president of the Jacksonville Chamber for inviting our young men out!

Youth from Jacksonville Youth Academy also participated in the annual Impact Church Man-Up Challenge Event. The youth had the opportunity to hear from former eight-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney and former NFL players. In addition, the youth participated in interactive games and tested their athletic skills by participating in a 40-yard dash, vertical jump test and a variety of other family friendly activities.

Cypress Creek JOCC, a secure program for boys, ages 15 to 21, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, recognized those who sometimes go unnoticed in their daily responsibilities, the maintenance department. They all received verbal recognition from staff, donuts for breakfast and a hotdog and hamburger luncheon was provided in their honor. Each staff member also received a gift bag with a special Mr. Fix It mug, mug rug, tape measure, multi-tool and sweets. The maintenance department is appreciated for all their hard work and dedication.  Thank you Jonathan Waymire, Tom Facto, Charles Jonaitis and Brian Hays.

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, celebrated Father’s Day by serving up subs for the staff. The staff enjoyed a variety of subs to include turkey, roast beef, tuna, and spicy Italian. They washed it down with a variety of sodas. The fathers were much appreciative for their recognition.

Later that day, Hastings and Gulf Academy beat the Florida heat by having a water day. The youth enjoyed a huge water slide with a pool at the bottom, frisbees and the chance to dunk some of their favorite administrators. Mr. Shuler, the facility administrator and Mr. Perry, the program’s youth advocate, braved the dunk tank and took many baths in the water. The only question on the youths’ minds after water day was, “When is the next water day?”

Columbus Youth Academy (CYA), a non-secure program for boys, up to age 19, operated by Sequel, have started the H.O.P.E. (Holding On to Positive Expectations) initiative. It is a step program started by Transitional Service Manager Carlos Thompson. This initiative was created to help the youth learn more about the importance of discipline, togetherness and team work. The step team helps young men depend and trust beyond their family and friends and learn to trust other peers, who they’ve only known for a few weeks to a couple of months, to achieve a common goal. Recently, the H.O.P.E. step team performed for the first time at the Columbus Youth Academy facility amongst staff, family and friends for their quarterly family day event. The six young men who make up the step team have chartered a program at Columbus Youth Academy in which the interest from their peers has grown tremendously.

Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for males, ages 14 to 18, operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, welcomed visitors to the program to kick off their Father’s Day weekend. The talented and creative staff thought how Kool is it having so many Kool dads working at Miami Youth Academy. Well, it's as Kool as popsicle, ice cold tea, water, homemade cookies, and you better believe it, cool sliced watermelon and gummy bears. All youth had the opportunity to send out personal cards to the father figure in his life, and sign the HEY POP! greetings card for the men of Miami Youth Academy, their volunteers and visitors. Special thanks to the dietary staff, recreation specialist and youth for embracing this opportunity to show appreciation to the men of Miami Youth Academy.