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Secretary's Message

September 4, 2018

Secretary Niermann’s Weekly Letter

Welcome to our weekly letter! I am proud to share the stories and events that encompass what we do here at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. I hope you will take a moment to read about the ways our DJJ staff, providers, and partners are working to improve the lives of Florida’s youth and families and how we are working to make our communities even better.

To share even more of our great work and all that we are doing, please send in your successes and accomplishments both on and off the clock so we can feature them in our next weekly letter. Please send your good news to news@djj.state.fl.us or call (850) 921–5900 by Thursday at noon.


Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Superintendent Dennis Driscoll, Support Worker Kiera McManness and Food Service Worker Juandal Huggins from the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who were recognized by the Office of Detention Services in the South Region for their outstanding service to the agency. Superintendent Driscoll was named Superintendent of the Year, Ms. McManness as Support Worker of the Year, and Mr. Huggins as Food Service Worker of the Year. All three were selected and nominated by their peers in the South Region Office for striving to do their best for the youth and staff at the Southwest RJDC. Since receiving this honor, Mr. Huggins has been named food service director at the detention center.  

Pictured above (from left to right): Kiera McManness, Dennis Driscoll and Juandal Huggins

Prevention Staff Attend Youth Success Day and Host G.A.A.P. Conversation

Earlier this August, Secretary Christina Daly served as the keynote speaker during the Circuit 4 Youth Success Day festivities at the Kids Hope Alliance in Jacksonville. Secretary Daly’s message for the youth in attendance was one of encouragement and motivation as she challenged each one to continue working to achieve their goals and aspirations.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III and several juvenile probation officers and community providers were also in attendance as they recognized and honored youth who have made tremendous strides.

Pictured above: Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III and Secretary Christina Daly

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Carmen Lundy and Circuit 14 Advisory Board Chairman Michael Johnson spearheaded a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) discussion between law enforcement, youth, parents and community leaders at the Glenwood Community Center in Panama City. Dr. Tammy Anderson, Director of JUDOS (Juveniles Understanding Discipline, Order & Service) moderated the discussion. The conversation was very lively and youth expressed their feelings on being stereotyped and how they felt toward law enforcement and adults in general. The most amazing part of the evening was to discover that many of the youth in attendance had never spoken to a law enforcement officer prior to this event. The following law enforcement agencies were represented at the discussion:  Florida Highway Patrol, Bay County Sheriff’s Office and the Panama City Police Department. The youth in attendance were from AMI Kids, Teen Court, juvenile probation, JUDOS, and the After-School Assistance Program (ASAP).

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Jashett Omeally participated in the “Cone With a Cop” community engagement event with the Tallahassee Police Department. This event allowed local children to interact with members of the police department and gave them a chance to ask questions. Everyone in attendance was given free soft serve ice cream, compliments of Chick-Fil-A, and the youth in attendance had a chance to have ID cards made. Ultimately, it was an amazing gesture by the police department and it all took place while sharing an ice cream cone.

The Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency, Chapter II coordinated a school supply donation drive which took place at DJJ Headquarters in Tallahassee. The drive was spearheaded at DJJ by Assistant Secretary for Prevention Alice Sims, Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann and General Counsel Brian Berkowitz. Our team at DJJ realized that many parents struggle to provide new school supplies and clothing for their kids, so our staff from DJJ Headquarters donated generously to the cause. Donations included notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, crayons, rulers, scissors, book bags, water bottles, erasers, glue sticks, note cards, calculators, binders, folders, books, book covers and other assorted supplies for the young people.

Pictured above (from left to right): Prevention staff members, Cheryl Robinson, Program Assistant; LaTonya Hill, Administrative Assistant; Jean Hall, CCC/PMM Coordinator; Assistant Secretary Alice Sims; and Gloria Gatlin, Federal Specialist, pose with donated school supplies.

Office of Detention Services Hosts Superintendents Meeting

The Office of Detention Services recently held their annual superintendents meeting in Orlando. During the meeting, the group had a chance to network, talk about rules and regulations, and participate in a vast array of team building activities. During the meeting, the group handed out several awards. Plaques were handed out to those superintendents who received a 100% quality improvement (QI) score for the 2016-17 fiscal year. A total of six plaques were handed out to the following individuals: Conrad McCray at Leon Detention, Irma Terry at Marion Detention, Mamine Saintil at Palm Beach Detention, Regina Berry at Escambia Detention, Rhonda Hartwell at Bay Detention and Dedilia Finlayson at St. Lucie Detention.

Major Dennis Driscoll from the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center was presented with the Superintendent of the Year Award while Rhonda Hartwell from the Bay Regional Juvenile Detention Center was honored with the most improved facility.

Pictured above (from left to right): Conrad McCray, Irma Terry, Mamine Saintil, Regina Berry, Rhonda Hartwell and Dedilia Finlayson who all received 100% satisfactory on their QI scores. 

I am pleased to share the following letter from Juvenile Probation Officer Ryan Bullard in regard to the great work Juvenile Detention Officer Teri Rodgers has done on behalf of one of the youth in his care. It reads:

I am impressed, to say the least, with the intervention, time, and well thought out caring and nurturing interventions one of your staff members has provided. Teri has worked with one of my youth, CF, since she has been put in ORDC pending commitment. Committing Youth CF was not an easy decision and came at the heels of a terrible home life and one of the worst substance abuse problems I have encountered. C did not take the commitment well. She was delivered to your door withdrawing from a multitude of drugs and a victim of sickening human trafficking. Teri stepped up and offered support and intervention on a level I have not seen from a JDO, a time when C was vulnerable and needed someone. Not only am I thankful for Officer Rodgers help and interventions, I thrilled that the youth feels comfortable and has opened up to a wonderful, professional, caring officer. I encourage the command staff at ORDC to recognizes Officer Rodgers for her exceptional interventions and perhaps life changing intervention. Officer Rodgers may not know the full back story of CF, but she probably saved a life from suicide. – Ryan Bullard, MSW, Juvenile Probation Officer.

Captain Reginald Allen from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Juvenile Probation Officer Supervisor April Stack, and Juvenile Probation Officers Lucas Lee and Orenda McCrimmmon teamed up for a community service project for the youth at the detention center. The youth spent the day painting roads and parking lots around the detention facility. Each youth earned valuable community service hours for their efforts.

Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor Nacoya Sproles and Juvenile Detention Officers Tylisa Bulger and Shanteeika Ray make up the behavior management team at the Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Last week, they hosted a party for level three youth exhibiting good behavior and treated them with pizza and cupcakes. The party also included a visit from Major Conrad McCray and Captain Toshmon Stevens.

Probation Youth Achieve Success In Both Work and School  

Over the last two months, Probation staff members in Circuit 17 have participated in county-wide back to school events which were hosted by the Children Services Council. All together, these four events served over 1000 families in the local community by providing them with backpacks, clothing and a host of great information. Our DJJ team provided participants with information regarding our reform efforts, resources for at-risk youth and helpful tips for navigating through the delinquency system.

Pictured above: Julhi-Ann Francis and Haley Campbell

Two DJJ youth involved with the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge Program in Circuit 12 recently had job interviews with their local Chuck E. Cheese. Both young men were admitted to Project Bridge less than thirty days ago and with the help of Eckerd staff were given proper clothing, transportation, and much needed support for their interview. Both men were hired on the spot and begin their employment journey this week! 

All twenty AMIkids programs from across the state of Florida recently celebrated the AMIkids Family First Staff Appreciation Week. Each day featured something different to celebrate the staff at AMI who work so hard with the youth and families that AMI serves. There were potluck dinners, car washes for staff members, gift bags, fun activities with the youth and much more. This initiative to honor staff was started this year by AMI President and CEO Michael Thornton.

Project Connect started serving Youth DK shortly after her return home from a commitment program. In the short time that Youth DK has been back home in the community, she has been working hard to complete her individual service plan goals and action steps. She completed a career interest assessment with her Transition Specialist Stacy Baker, which confirmed her interest in the medical field. Youth DK and Mrs. Baker took that information and visited Marion Technical College where they had an opportunity to look at the course options. Youth DK has decided to enroll in the medical assistant program which she will start in January 2019. With the help of Project Connect, Youth DK was able to quickly complete a 10 hour parenting course, a required court sanction of her conditional release. Youth DK has done so well in all areas of her transition that her conditional release has been terminated. Her future goals are to get her driver’s license permit, find employment, and get registered and properly resourced for the medical assistant program. 

Pictured above (from left to right): Transition Specialist Stacy Baker, Youth DK and child

Through Project Connect’s HP Computers in Transition program, Youth JG recently earned a laptop computer donation. Initially, she was living in the New Beginnings Youth Crisis Shelter however, with the guidance of JPO Erica Ortiz, Youth JG was placed in the care of a family friend in a well-maintained home. Lead Transition Specialist (LTS) Frank Major temporarily assigned her an HP Computers in Transition to aid in her education endeavors, employment searches and in searches for long term housing solutions. Youth JG completed her high school diploma and recently enrolled in a dental assistant program with an anticipated graduation date of July 2019. She completed employability, life and social skills training through Project Connect and is currently studying for her driver’s permit.  Anytime LTS Major or JPO Ortiz contacts Youth JG, she has shown a positive attitude and respectful demeanor. So it was with great pride that Project Connect was able to donate the laptop to her and have all confidence that she will use it to continue her current educational and vocational endeavors. 

Residential Youth Participate in Family Fun Day and Display Their Talents

Staff from Crestview Youth Academy, both a secure and non-secure program, for boys which are operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, joined the youth in participating in the Wet & Wild themed Family Day. With over 100 people in attendance, the day was filled with laughs, water balloon fights, and furry creatures. It was a great and much needed time for everyone. The staff worked extra hard to make it a wonderful experience for the youth and their families. It was a great way to end the summer!

Nine youth from Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment Program and Gulf Academy, both non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, attended a movie at the Epic Theaters of St. Augustine to see the new action movie Skyscraper, staring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. One youth, JW stated, “every movie the Rock stars in is awesome!” The youth were excited to see this movie, and of course, enjoy popcorn.

Hastings and Gulf Academy youth have exceptional talent and skills. One display of these talents is a drawing in one of the therapist’s office. Therapist P. Vernon’s favorite book character is Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh stories. One of the youth shared with Therapist Vernon that he could draw a Tigger portrait freehand and he did just that. The youth also decided to write a poem to remind all the youth who enter the office to make the right choices.

In preparation for the start of the new school year, the youth of Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, received haircuts. Barbers came out to the facility to cut hair for all the young men. Good hygiene is encouraged by all staff and youth are reminded to always look their best. You only get one chance to make a first impression! 

The Duval Academy has also started a new vocational class. The youth that participate earn a certificate indicating that they have been hazmat trained. Mr. Alan Dallas (pictured in the white hat) is the instructor and provides education on the different Personal Protection Equipment, such as the yellow suit and respirators. The youth are excited to learn more in this class.

“Family Day” was held at Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel. A total of 23 parents were in attendance and 113 visitors in all. The youth and their visitors had a very eventful and joyous time. There were plenty of smiles and laughs amongst the group. Games and movies were provided for entertainment and everyone in attendance enjoyed the lunch that was served. The youths’ parents, siblings and other close relatives complimented staff for the genuine care given to the youth. Surveys were distributed to the visitors to get feedback regarding the program and all of the feedback was positive. Those completing the surveys shared their observations of the positive changes in the program as well as the progression in their sons’ behaviors. All parents and visitors were pleased and very appreciative of the courtesy and professionalism displayed by staff. Overall, family day was an awesome day at Marion Youth Academy!

Marion Youth Academy’s HBI class and its instructor, R. Alexander, had the honor and privilege to witness two families receive keys to their new homes. During a ceremony in Ocala, Habitat for Humanity of Marion County presented both families new homes. Several dignitaries and other members of the Marion County community were in attendance. The HBI crew played a major role in preparing the homes and Habitat for Humanity graciously involved Mr. Alexander and his HBI crew in building them. HBI class has been involved in such community projects for several months. The youth worked diligently as a team on these homes and were delighted to see the finished product.

Columbus Youth Academy recently competed against Charles Britt Academy, both non-secure programs for boys operated by Sequel, in a great game of basketball. The game was led by recreational therapist Josh Glanton and Transition Services Manager Carlos Thompson of Columbus as well as Floyd Headen, the Recreational Therapist at Charles Britt Academy. The game of basketball is a sport that is great for helping youth build interpersonal skills and gaining important leadership qualities. Having good interpersonal skills makes it easier to develop other important life skills later. Youth in the program are always trying to find positive ways to deal with anger and stress. This game gave them a way to positively channel that anger as well as keep them physically active to reduce their stress. The sportsmanship between the two programs was amazing and made staff on both sides very proud of these young men!

Kissimmee Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, hosted the Summer at Kissimmee Family Day event. They were excited at the opportunity of bridging the relationships between the youth and their families. Family Day continues to grow immensely and this Family Day continued the excellence that the youth and families have become accustomed to. Families traveled from all over the state to visit their sons, brothers, cousins and nephews. As always, there were a variety of fun-filled activities, including creating tie-dye t-shirts, Karaoke Star Search, flip flop decoration, family vs. family water relays and beach volleyball.

After exerting energy participating in all the events, families and youth enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the kitchen staff. Sysco Food Distributor and Kissimmee Youth Academy Community Advisor Board Member Scott Shepard joined in on the festivities by donating various food as well as showcasing his skills on the grill. Lastly, Kissimmee Youth Academy ended the day with various raffles to include, gift and gas cards! All families, youth and staff raved about the day and stated they will be anxiously awaiting the next event! 

Twenty-eight youth from Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, welcomed 16 families (70 visitors), a Guardian ad Litem, seven educators from Miami Dade County Schools, and three steadfast mentors to help celebrate the end of summer. The youth worked their magic decorating, creating a beach backdrop and organizing various games and crafts. 

"Families that build together get closer," stated Facility Administrator Johnny Richardson. So, they all got busy building a kite before playing various games, coloring and enjoying lunch. Miami Youth Academy was honored to provide financial and transportation assistance for two families to attend the event.

A big thank you to Assistant Facility Administrator Ainsworth Miller and Clinical Director Francine Walker for being supportive for the youth and their families. Thanks also go to the amazing Miami Dade County Schools Staff Lead Educator Dan Wynne and Vocational Instructor Debbie Sanchez for working with the youth to make delicious cupcakes and cookies for the guests.

Three Okeechobee Intensive Halfway House youth and three Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center youth, both non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, had the experience of a lifetime! The youth, who were so well-deserving because of their behavior, were taken to a Tampa Bay Bucs Preseason game. The youth were given access to the locker room, t-shirts supporting one of the players, and even “Buc bucks” to purchase whatever they wanted to eat. The night started out with a rain delay but as soon as they entered the stadium the rain stopped, and the youth could truly enjoy this experience.