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Secretary's Message

November 19, 2018

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

Thanksgiving is a time of appreciation and thanks for all the blessings and good fortune bestowed upon us. It allows us to take a moment and reflect on the people we hold most dear and to appreciate the impact they have on our lives. The Department is fortunate to have such a dedicated and hardworking team who gives so much of themselves to excel at our mission. We are so very thankful for all that you do to serve our children, families, and communities.

To all our DJJ staff, providers, community partners, and friends: we hope you have a very happy, restful and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving!


Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Sue Frieberg from the Central Region Office of Detention Services who was honored as the September Employee of the Month. Ms. Frieberg has done a wonderful job keeping vacancies filled and processing paperwork for all the new staff, assisting current staff, and helping administration.

Congratulations to Sergeant Luis Rodriguez from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) who was named the August Juvenile Detention Officer Supervisor of the Month. Sergeant Rodriguez stands as an exceptional supervisor and goes above and beyond when helping to transition each shift at the detention center. 

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently honored General Services Liaison Bill Sargent from the Central Region Detention Office for his contributions to the facility. Bill has been an amazing resource to Orange RJDC and has helped with numerous projects. Orange RJDC appreciates the help and assistance from Bill and we want to thank him for all of his efforts.  

Congratulations to Circuit 10 Administrative Assistant Van Grant who was recognized as the Central Region Probation Employee of the Quarter for the third quarter of 2018. Mr. Grant is described as someone that is always professional, calm and helpful. His daily tasks are challenging in that he coordinates youth transport in and out of Polk County to detention centers. Mr. Grant also handles other placements and support in court. We appreciate Mr. Grant and recognize his exceptional abilities.

Congratulations to Circuit 10 Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Alison Fulford who was recognized as the Employee of the Year for the Central Region Probation Office. CPO Fulford is known for her sincere dedication towards making a difference every day in the lives of the youth and families we serve. Chief Fulford has done an exceptional job in the circuit and gives special attention to our crossover youth. While she gives personal attention to our clients, she also values and supports the staff in Circuit 10. Thank you Chief Fulford for your dedication and exceptional leadership.

Pictured above: Alison Fulford (right) and Central Region Director Cathy Lake

Congratulations to Circuit 18 Senior Juvenile Probation Officer (SJPO) Stephanie Norton who was honored as the Central Region Employee of the Year. While SJPO Norton carries a caseload, she is also involved as a life skills trainer and has been known to go out of her way to work with all youth to make sure they can complete training. She has also dedicated time to becoming an adjunct trainer. JPO Norton was also recognized several years ago as a recipient of the Criminal Justice Award from the Child Abuse Prevention Task Force in Brevard County. We recognize and appreciate JPO Norton’s dedication to the youth and families she serves as well as being an asset to the circuit.

Pictured above: Stephanie Norton (right) and Central Region Director Cathy Lake

Best wishes to Operation Management Consultant II Larry O’Steen from the Office of Detention Services’ Headquarters staff who retired from the agency after 27 years of dedicated service. On behalf of everyone at DJJ, thank you for your service to our state and we wish you all the best in your retirement. 

General Counsel Staff Host Supervisor Training in Tampa

Attorneys with the Office of the General Counsel, Natalia Kirchner and Matthew Gripp, conducted a training for supervisors for the Central Region in Tampa. The attorneys hold these trainings for the Central and South regions and the participants are given credit in SkillPro. The trainings cover topics like standards of conduct, discipline, and leadership. The trainings assist the supervisors of the Department in guiding the employees they supervise to achieve a high standard of excellence in carrying out the mission of the Department.

DJJ Probation Youth Participant in Scuba Diving Course

Last month, the director of education for AMIkids Orlando and two students from the facility attended the DJJ Restoring Hope Training Summit in Orlando. The group from AMI were a part of a workshop entitled, “Classroom Environment, Student Engagement and Commitment to Learning.” The students from AMI discussed project-based learning activities such as a free library, giving students a sense of belonging, and retention and scholastic success.

Recently five youth from AMIkids Orlando participated in a two-day marine education program at the AMIkids Boatyard in St. Petersburg. The experience included an introduction to scuba diving and a modified small boat version of the AMIkids signature floating classroom. While not a scuba certification course, Discover Scuba Diving is a quick and easy introduction to what it takes to explore the underwater world and to participant in a unique experience they might not have the opportunity to experience otherwise. 

The AMIkids Panama City Marine Institute (PCMI) recently re-opened their program to the at-risk youth in the community after the destruction left behind by Hurricane Michael. So many staff members from PCMI were displaced during the storm, but the volunteer board staff, as well as the AMIkids home office, weathered through the clean-up and reconstruction process. Nearly all of the youth served by PCMI have now returned to engage in the facility’s educational activities. 

Circuit 2 Reform Specialist Michael Byrd and DJJ Probation Interns Kaitlyn Keough and Alexandra Schmidt attended the 2018 Fall Internship Fair for the Florida State University’s Criminology Department. The DJJ team shared their experiences working with the youth and families while outlining DJJ’s mission and goals to assist families in their time of need. Both Kaitlyn and Alexandra will graduate next month with a bachelor’s degree in Criminology. Several students also showed interest in interning with DJJ for the spring semester. 

Pictured above: Interns Kaitlyn Keough (left) and Alexandra Schmidt

Residential Youth Graduate and Give Back to the Community

Brooksville Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, celebrated its 14th and 15th GED graduates this year. Eckerd Connects’ educational department has done a tremendous job of working with Vocational Case Manager Rachel Woods to ensure that eligible youth can earn their GED prior to discharge. Congratulations to these two graduates on a job well done!

Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, enjoyed their first Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration. The youth learned the meaning of Hispanic Heritage Month and why it is celebrated. The second phase was to decorate the recreational area with artwork created by the youth, which included Guatemalan kites, Day of the Dead masks, and Mexican paper flowers. The youth spoke about several key Hispanic Americans who influenced our country, including the first Hispanic American to be elected to the United States Senate, Senator Dennis Chavez, and the first Hispanic Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. The youth also performed a dance depicting the Hispanic heritage of cutting down sugar cane called “Los Machetes”. Marion Youth Academy ended the program by providing the youth and visitors traditional Hispanic food and pastries.

Six youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, along with members of the program’s advisory board went to the Trinity Rescue Mission in Jacksonville. The youth assisted with passing out toiletries to the homeless men at the site. The goal was to teach the youth to be more empathetic towards others. They had an enjoyable time giving back to the community.

Ten young men from Daytona Juvenile Residential Facility, a secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, participated in a three-day weekend orientation journey that they hope will change their lives forever. Volunteer mentors from Volusia County and surrounding counties led the Kairos orientation; giving the youth historical information about Kairos, what they can expect, and helping them map out their future. The volunteer mentors will work with the youth on a weekly basis over the next six months.

Facility Administrator Ryan Montgomery appreciates the volunteers for taking the time to commit to the youth, helping them become productive citizens in their communities once they are released. “It is my sincere hope that the youth will walk away from Kairos with a different perspective on life”.

Several of the youth were thankful for the opportunity to participate in the orientation; there was an abundance of food on the menu and this time of learning will be a weekend to remember. 

Students from Orange Youth Academy and Orlando Intensive Academy, both of which are non-secure programs for boys and operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, highlighted the beauty of Hispanic Heritage by engaging the audience with facts about Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama and Puerto Rico! Salsa was cooked up in addition to a dance performance from Cuba and historic information was shared about the Dominican Republic. Mexico celebrated Dia de Los Muertos through art and Panama focused on folk tales. Lastly, Puerto Rico displayed bachata and information about famous Puerto Ricans.

Recently, Case Manager Tonia Turner and Recreational Therapist Josh Glaton took eight youth from Columbus Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, on an outing to Tijuana Flats. This outing was a little different because Columbus Youth Academy wanted to express the importance of restaurant etiquette and appropriate behavior in a public environment. When they entered the restaurant, the youth were very respectful towards the staff and others. The staff and youth talked about the importance of being respectful to all people that you encounter because you never know who’s watching. As a result of the youth’s manners and behavior, the restaurant manager offered free refills on beverages and free appetizers. After dinner, the youth worked together as a team to clean up and assisted the server – who was extremely grateful and commented, “All of you are such gentlemen.” They thanked the server and headed back to the program. Tonia and Josh thanked the youth for another successful outing and a great time!

Master Gardeners Toby Davidow and Steve Rawlins from Miami Dade Master Gardeners Club worked with seven youth from Miami Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, in planting crops of bush beans, tomatoes and fertilizing banana plants. The master gardeners have continued to support the youth by teaching Miami Youth Academy how to grow herbs, vegetables, fruits, and teaching gardening techniques. These rookie titans were all in by the end of the two-hour session.

Prevention Staff Spearhead Anti-Bullying Fashion Show

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Pat McGhee spearheaded the Stay Woke: Anti-Bullying Talent and Fashion Production at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg. The third annual event was put on in partnership with the Foundation for a Healthy Saint Petersburg, the Pinellas County Urban League and Pinellas County Public Schools.

The production “Stay Woke!” was created to increase awareness relating to the dangers of bullying. Topics addressed during the event included verbal bullying, physical bullying, social aggression, cyber bullying, the need for acceptance, community influences and the effects of social media. All youth participating displayed an array of talents through song, dance, acting and fashion. Their runway skills were quite impressive, and their performances truly expressed their passion and support for those who have been bullied and how they felt about bullying in general.

We would like to thank Delinquency Prevention Specialists Dionne Anderson and Sandra Ferguson who drove from their home circuits to support the efforts of Specialist McGhee. 

The Kindervision Foundation recently honored Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in Dade County for being named the Miami area high school winner of the Greatest Save Teen PSA program. The school was honored during the pregame festivities at a recent Miami Marlins game. Their powerful personal safety message on school violence was shown on the big screen at the ballpark and can be seen at www.TeenPSA.org. Mays Conservatory of the Arts was named The Greatest Save Teen PSA Middle School Winner for the Miami Area and was also recognized by the Marlins during the pregame. The program is a peer-to-peer crime prevention program funded by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Detention Staff Host Early Thanksgiving Celebration

The Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently hosted an early Thanksgiving celebration meal for youth, their family members, and the detention staff. The Thanksgiving meal, which hosted a total of 56 parents, was held a bit earlier than normal because unfortunately, a parent of one of the youth at the detention center is terminally ill. Everyone who attended the Thanksgiving meal had a wonderful time.

The Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center welcomed volunteers from the Las Vegas based Toe Tag Monologues to the facility to speak with the youth. The visit was organized by the Orange County Public Schools. Toe Tag Monologues uses intervention methods through theater arts to help youth overcome the challenges of everyday life. The young volunteers re-enacted real life situations such as bullying, peer pressure, physical and mental abuse, neglect, drug use, feelings of hopelessness, and stressful situations that are so overwhelming that it will make a person want to give up. The youth truly enjoyed the monologues. We would like to thank the cast for a wonderful performance and for taking the time to speak with the youth at the detention center after the performance.

In addition, the Orange RJDC is pleased to display the new appearance of its B2 mod. The mod recently received a facelift with newly renovated doors and freshly painted walls.