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Secretary's Message

October 1, 2018

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Today, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice celebrates its 24th birthday, marking this date in 1994 when legislation went into effect which created our agency and assigned it responsibility for juvenile delinquency cases and children and families in need of services (CINS/FINS) cases. As many of you know, our agency’s duties fell under the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS). HRS was created by the Florida Legislature in 1969 and was originally organized into several divisions including family services, youth services, aging and adult services, public health, mental health, and children’s medical services. When the Florida Legislature created DJJ, it was the first of Florida’s gradual efforts to shift the state’s juvenile justice system away from a social services model.

DJJ has come a long way since its inception over two decades ago. However, our approach to juveniles as children in need of treatment and reform rather than punishment was a philosophy that began during the early days of our agency. Now, this approach to treating young people is not only a practice, but at the very core of who we are as an agency and what we represent. This is to the credit of the many dedicated and hardworking staff members within our agency, some who once served at the former HRS. Today, I would like to thank all our staff who serve at our agency and who have contributed to our growth and transformation over the years.


Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann

Staff Announcements and Kudos

DJJ is proud to announce that Deputy Regional Supervisor Maryann Sanders in the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement has been chosen as the recipient of the Florida Council on Crime and Delinquency Distinguished Service Award for Juvenile Justice. The award ceremony was held at the Florida Council on Crime and

Delinquency’s 89th Annual Banquet in Boca Raton.

Deputy Sanders has been employed with the Department since 2001, with a total of 35 years of public service to the state of Florida. She began her career with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in the Communications Division and was promoted to watch supervisor/duty officer in 1988. In 1990, she was promoted to correctional counselor/program specialist with the Department of Detention. As a program specialist, Deputy Sanders developed the first in-custody substance abuse program for male inmates at the North Broward Detention Center, working in collaboration with the adulty drug court. She also co-developed the first self-help program for female inmates. In 1995, Deputy Sanders served as a social worker for the Homeless Outreach Program of Broward County assisting with temporary and permanent placement of individuals and families. During her tenure with the Homeless Outreach Program, she worked on a special team assigned to find placement for all the homeless occupying Broward County’s “tent city” located in downtown Fort Lauderdale. This location was finally closed in 1998 with a commendation from the Board of County Commissioners.

Deputy Sanders began working as a lead case manager for Pompano Academy in 2000 and moved to DJJ to work in Office of Probation in 2001, where she was subsequently promoted to juvenile probation officer supervisor (JPOS) before moving to the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement in 2016. As a JPOS, she served as a lead instructor for the juvenile probation officer academies. In addition, Deputy Sanders served as a Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT) and Youth-Empowered Success (YES) Plan instructor.

Deputy Sanders is a veteran employee who has local, regional, and statewide criminal and juvenile justice experience and has continuously proven herself to be an invaluable asset to the DJJ and to the state of Florida. DJJ and the Bureau of Monitoring and Quality Improvement are proud to have Maryann on our team!

Congratulations to Ana Vidal (left) and Mark Shubrick (not pictured) for being recognized as the Information Technology (IT) Employees of the Month for August. 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.

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) presented a certificate of appreciation to Detention Review Specialist Abbey Anderson from the Circuit 9 Probation Office. Ms. Anderson is transitioning to a new position within the agency and she will be greatly missed at Orange RJDC during their weekly detention reviews. Ms. Anderson has been a wonderful resource and liaison within Circuit 9 between the Offices of Probation and Detention and is always available and quick to respond and assist. 

Congratulations to Nurse Melanie Sapp from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center as their Provider Employee of the Month for August. Nurse Sapp is an asset to the facility, providing medical care for the youth. She always has a smile on her face and displays a wonderful example of professionalism, even under tough circumstances.

Congratulations to Greg Dyer from the Brevard Regional Juvenile Detention Center who was named Maintenance Mechanic of the Year for the Central Region of Detention Services.

Pictured above (from left to right): Capt. Derrick Cason, Major Margie McKinney, Mr. Dyer, Capt. Edward Guerra

Probationary Youth Participate in Job Shadowing Program

DJJ youth with the Eckerd Connects Project Bridge Program in Circuit 12, along with staff from the program, served breakfast to over 30 circuit-wide juvenile probation officers. The breakfast was organized to thank the juvenile probation officers for their support with referrals and ongoing involvement with the youth at Eckerd Connects. 

As a part of its new marine education program, DJJ youth from AMIkids Manatee took part in a fishing expedition in the waters of Tampa Bay. The youth caught several nice sized fish and learned about the ecosystem in the bay. The marine education program helps youth to form stronger bonds with their teachers, therapists and staff members.  

Youth and staff members from AMIkids Tampa and AMIkids Southwest Florida participated in two days of marine education activities.

Discover Scuba Diving was conducted at Bill Jacksons Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park and offered the participants a quick and easy introduction to what it takes to explore the underwater world. The kids learned the basic safety guidelines and practiced the basic skills needed to dive under the direct supervision of an instructor. The Southwest Florida group was joined by a group of employees from Apple, a corporate partner of AMIkids. 

The Floating Classroom was conducted on board the Orlando’s Rose, a Silverships landing craft donated by Bill and Carol Barrows. The Floating Classroom is an innovative tool to inspire youth in AMIkids programs to get involved in the outdoors and become better stewards of the environment around them. The AMIkids youth were also joined by four participants from AMIkids Tampa. On board was a biologist from MOTE Marine Laboratory, another corporate partner, providing valuable lectures and environmental interpretation on board.

This extended two-day curriculum is part of the AMIkids Marine Education Program expansion, an initiative designed to offer this experience to even more at-risk youth. 

DJJ youth from the AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute (PCMI) are participating in the Read Around the World program, in partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Panama City. The youth from PCMI make a monthly visit to the Chapman Early Learning Center to read to a group of VPK kids. Reading is the fundamental building block for all education and getting kids hooked on reading early is a great way for the AMIkids students to see the value of reading themselves. The students love reading to the kids at the Chapman Center and both the AMIkids kids and the Chapman kids benefit from the monthly reading dates.

AMIkids Gainesville has partnered with their local area McDonalds to be a job shadowing program for the students at AMI. Select students are chosen from the program to gain hands-on experience by job shadowing crew members from the fast-food giant. This valuable experience will be beneficial to our youth from AMI when they enter the job market.

Circuit 4 Reform Specialist Donna Collins facilitated a probation orientation meeting for sixteen youth and their parents. The class was informative, and there was great interaction and participation by the parents and youth who asked questions regarding curfew, community service and probation compliance. In addition, the youth did a great job at participating in the “Know the Law” portion of the class. 

Many thanks to Assistant Chief Probation Officer Ashley Graves, Senior Juvenile Probation Officer Tori Boatman and Juvenile Probation Officers Minetricia Monbrun, Rose Sanon, Rodneiyka Thornton, Domonique McCoy, Marion Burgess and Timothy Denton for all of their efforts during the orientation. This monthly class has proven to be a successful component of the Circuit 4 Probation program to help youth successfully comply with and complete their probation in a reasonable amount of time. 

Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee and Reform Specialist Adrienne Conwell from Circuit 6 attended the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Community Resource Fair. The fair brought together child protective investigators, foster care case managers, and other community agencies who had an opportunity to meet with local service providers and obtain useful information. Pat and Adrienne hosted a DJJ information table where they disseminated brochures and formed relationships that will assist them in their work with crossover youth.  

We are pleased to share the following thank you letter that was sent to Circuit 12 Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Jenelle Beckford from a youth on her caseload. Officer Beckford assisted in getting the youth’s charges dismissed after he completed community service and wrote an apology letter. The young man was very grateful to JPO Beckford and praised her for her efforts.

PACE Youth Visit with Elected Officials and Participate in Bridging the G.A.A.P.

United States Congressman Daniel Webster recently made a recent visit to the PACE Center for Girls of Hernando County. He received a thorough overview of the PACE program and several of PACE students provided testimonials about their experience at PACE. The congressman also toured the campus and visited with students in their classrooms. PACE Hernando was honored to have the congressman visit and appreciate his support of the PACE program and the girls.

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Sandra Ferguson hosted a Bridging the G.A.A.P. (Gaining Appreciation by Adjusting Perspectives) discussion between girls from the PACE Center for Girls Collier and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. Reform Specialist Jon Vertrees also assisted in this event. Dr. Sandra Pavelka, PhD., Professor & Director, Institute for Youth and Justice Studies, Florida Gulf Coast University and the Circuit 20 Advisory Board Chairperson, was the moderator. The shift in perspectives from some of the young ladies during the discussion was prevalent, because they asked questions and shared individual thoughts. Sitting in the same room with law enforcement, in a no judgement zone, was impactful, more so than some of the young ladies had imagined. This forum provided them the opportunity to voice their opinions, which was a very new experience for them.

The officers were understanding, engaging and very candid with their discussion. They shared firsthand experiences, challenges and successes. All participants in the discussion did an outstanding job and are appreciated for their time and commitment to building a healthy community.

The PACE Center for Girls of Pasco County honored three state legislators for their outstanding leadership on juvenile justice prevention and early intervention issues. State Senator Wilton Simpson was recognized with the statewide 2018 Believing in Girls Award while State Representatives Amber Mariano and Danny Burgess each received a local award from the Pasco Center. DJJ would like to thank these legislators for their continued efforts to support the youth that we serve.

Detention Youth Participate in Yoga Classes, Staff Earn Safe SERV Certification

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) offers yoga classes five days a week for the youth in the facility. These classes are a great form of exercise, provide stress relief, and are a wonderful activity to improve the overall health of youth at the detention center.

Once a month, Orange County Public Schools’ teachers and school administrators at the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center attend visitation night bringing food and information to the parents and family members visiting youth at the center. The goal is to update families about the educational progress of their youth as well as providing information about re-enrolling their youth back into school following their release from detention.

This innovative practice is an above and beyond effort by the Orange County Public School system to assist youth and families through this difficult experience. These visits help with the transition between schools and minimizes any disruption to a youth’s education.

Pictured above (from left to right): Transition Specialist Ms. Tiffany King and Teachers Ms. Inta Carrero, and Ms. Tausha Reddick.

Facility administrators and food service staff from the Central Region Office of Detention Services recently received Safe SERV food protection manager training. This training is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and upon completion, each staff member received their Safe SERV certification.

Pictured above: 1st row, left to right: Captain Jason Grice, Pasco RJDC; Major Ariel Veguilla, Pinellas RJDC; Major Marcus Wilson, Hillsborough RJDC 2nd row, left to right: Food Support Worker Chris Fisher, Manatee RJDC; Food Service Director Cristy Harris, Pinellas RJDC 3rd row, left to right: Food Support Worker Natalie Cole, Pinellas RJDC; Food Support Worker Sonia Rodriguez, Pasco RJDC; Captain Zoe Sexton, Hillsborough RJDC 4th row, left to right: Food Support Worker Jaquavia Sanders, Pinellas RJDC; Instructor: Cindy Belcher

The Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center is recognizing family members of youth who are survivors of, battling, or who have succumbed to breast cancer, or any form of cancer, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The staff at Escambia RJDC are trying to turn a difficult situation into a positive learning experience. Over the next month, our mental health and medical professionals will be working closely with the youth for training and support.

Staff members from the Escambia RJDC also honored elderly veterans and staff from the Rosewood Healthcare facility in Pensacola in honor of September 11th. Detention staff provided meals and care packages to the elderly and the staff from Rosewood. This is one of many ways the Escambia RJDC is working to develop stronger community connections.

St. Lucie Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently began a greeting cards program at the center. Every month, youth send cards to the local nursing facilities and veterans’ hospital. Juvenile Detention Officer Pamela Durant is the facility’s behavior management champion, who supervises the program. The youth enjoy being able to use their creativity to give back to the community.

Also at St. Lucie RJDC, Level Three youth were treated to popcorn and a movie during a recent school holiday. The movie was arranged by Major Dedilia Finlayson. The youth and staff enjoyed eating popcorn with a drink while watching the movie. 

Residential Youth Attend Local Job Fair and Spend Time at a Horse Ranch

The youth at Okaloosa Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Gulf Coast, attended the Panhandle Job Fair at the Elks Lodge in Fort Walton Beach. The purpose of the trip was to allow the youth to gain experience speaking to employers with open vacancies. The youth were encouraged to talk to at least ten employers at the fair, and all nine youth exceeded that number for the day. Many of the youth returned with multiple employment applications, and one of the youth expressed interest in three job opportunities that he wants to pursue when he is released from the program next week.  In addition, all youth were encouraged to visit the local CareerSource table at the job fair, where they were given information on support programs available in their local community. 

The non-secure youth at Crestview Youth Academy recently ventured off campus to attend the opening home football game at Crestview High School. Crestview Youth Academy is a non-secure and secure residential facility for boys, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments. This game was not only much needed, but also well deserved! Throughout the summer months, the non-secure youth maintained weekly visits to the high school and assisted with restoration for the 2018-2019 school year. They assisted with cleaning classrooms, rearranging furniture, and had the school looking better than ever! As a thank you for their impeccable work helping out the school during the summer, Crestview High School’s Head Football Coach Tim Hatten graciously invited the boys out to attend all the home football games free of charge. The boys could kick back and enjoy the game with their peers and staff. Crestview High’s football team pulled off a win as well!

Northeast Regional Director for Residential Services Billy Starke and Residential Commitment Chief Virgil Wright were on hand to celebrate with Founder of Krumpin 4 Success Dr. Shanna Carter when she was accepted into the inaugural Leadership Accelerator program with the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida. Dr. Carter has also provided Krumpin 4 Success' Youth Entrepreneur and Culinary Programs at Duval Academy and Jacksonville Youth Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys in Jacksonville. These services have provided opportunities for several youth in the programs to create products, develop business plans, and present their businesses in the Jacksonville community and to well-known celebrities. Congratulations to Dr. Carter and thank you for helping to develop entrepreneurial and culinary skills of the youth in these programs. 

Recently, St. Johns Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, had the opportunity to host Tanner Jones with UPS Human Resources. He spoke with several youth and explained to them that they are currently in a hiring "frenzy" and are looking to fill over 200 positions. Due to the success they have had with a former youth in the program, they are willing to extend offers to youth currently in the program. He discussed with the youth that some of the benefits of working with the company included training programs for managers and tuition assistance. This is an excellent incentive for our guys to complete their GED or high school diploma, with the understanding that there are opportunities for employment prior to leaving St. Johns Youth Academy. Mr. Tanner and his associate were excited about the possibility of employing at least three youth that would qualify as they already have their GED or their high school diploma. 

Eight youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, attended the first of six sessions at Haven Horse Ranch for the fall season. During the first session, the youth learned about tacking up the horses and grooming them. This first session was an orientation to inform the youth of safety requirements around the horses and to ensure that they are aware of the expectations the ranch has for them. Initially, the youth were nervous to be around such big animals, but they warmed up to the horses quickly. 

Melbourne Center for Personal Growth (MCPG) Career Coordinator Robin Weeks recently ran into a former student and invited him to return to the program for a visit. Steve Perkins graduated from the AMIkids program about nine years ago. He came to the program when he was 14 years old and was a resident for two years. He had the opportunity to speak to the current youth to pass on the wisdom he's gained since his graduation. He talked about how the program matured him and woke him up to who he should associate with so he never got back in trouble again. He socializes with other people that work, go to school, and avoids the people he used to hang around with when he landed in the program. Steve currently works as a lead machinist for a cabinet making company in Atlanta. Steve was just one of three past graduates who stopped by the program recently to say hello.

Also at MCPG, members of Pineda Presbyterian Church recently showed an outpouring of generosity by donating numerous packs of socks, boxers and t-shirts for the youth. Every fall, for many years, the church members have come together to do an underwear drive for the youth. Their continued support is a boost to the youth and to our program.  

At MCPG’s recent graduation ceremony, guest speaker Larry Carter imparted a powerful message to the youth and guests about how to achieve their goals in their future. Mr. Carter retired from 31 years in law enforcement and is currently the CEO of L Carter Group. He’s a certified instructor in workplace diversity, racial profiling, community policing, sexual harassment, domestic violence, conflict resolution, crime prevention, workplace violence, and many others. Larry is an educator at heart and wants to educate youth, parents and the community on the negative impacts of drugs, bullying, crimes police interaction, and incarceration.

On September 11th, Palm Beach Youth Academy, a secure program for boys operated by Sequel, had a legislative site visit from Florida Senator Bobby Powell Jr. While on site, Senator Powell had a chance to see firsthand many of the innovative methods the program is working with the youth on via their "Youth Concept Gallery.” Additionally, Senator Powell had a chance to visit and see the new barber shop the program has opened. This is where youth get regular haircuts and learn the trade of running their own barber shop. Senator Powell is very familiar to the program as he has been a strong supporter of the program’s community-based programming. Senator Powell is also an active member of the community advisory board and ensures that either he or someone from his office is present at all of the quarterly meetings.

Last week, the Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center and the Okeechobee Intensive Halfway House, both of which are non-secure programs for boys operated by TrueCore Behavior Solutions, took nine youth off campus to the historic battlefield park in Okeechobee. The programs partnered with the Kiwanis and the Rodeo Clubs of Okeechobee in a community service activity. The effort was to assist in a beautification project led by the mayor and other city council officials to preserve the history of the park. The kids had a fun day assisting the elderly, carrying plants, and pulling weeds. The day went well, and although this was a first for many of the kids that attended, they were very excited to assist the community in this event. They all had a chance to meet and speak with city officials, biologists and park rangers.

All attendees received a free pass to any Florida state park. The tickets will be used for another outing for the kids that participated in the event. This activity is one of many community service events that the programs are planning to have the kids out in the community.

Special thanks to Mr. Candidate, Mr. Jones, Ms. Wagner, Mr. Browning, Ms. Dunkan, Mr. Curry and Mr. Edwards for giving half of their day to assist with this event.