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Fl Juvenile Justice Employees Report, 2005

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September 2005

Report No. 05-46

Qualifications, Screening, Salaries, and Training Affect
Quality and Turnover of Juvenile Justice Employees
at a glance
Florida’s minimum educational requirements for
juvenile justice staff parallel those of similar states,
and the department is making the process of
checking staff’s criminal history more timely and
thorough.
Salaries paid to direct care staff by most private
providers are lower than those paid by the state
(although salaries of private provider program
directors are higher). Providers assert that this is
due to limited increases in per diem rates over time.
Salary is one of several factors that contribute to
staff turnover, which increases overtime, hiring, and
training costs. However, programs can reduce
turnover by selecting employees who relate to youth
in positive ways; involving direct care staff in
treatment; and fostering good relationships among
staff.
Training requirements for state employees, who
must become certified, are higher than those of
private provider staff. A new workgroup will study
the feasibility of certification for private provider
staff. More staff training is needed on de-escalating
potentially dangerous situations and modeling and
helping youth learn pro-social skills and attitudes.

Scope _________________
As directed by the Legislature, OPPAGA
reviewed the qualifications, screening, salaries,
and training of employees that provide care
and custody of youth in Florida’s juvenile
justice system. 1 As Florida’s juvenile justice
system is highly privatized, we examined both
state and private provider practices in these
areas.

Background ____________

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is
charged with protecting the public by reducing
juvenile crime and delinquency. To do so, the
department provides a continuum of programs
including prevention, detention, probation,
and residential commitment.
To achieve its mission, the department must
hire and retain competent direct care
employees that work directly with youth. This
staff is responsible for ensuring that juveniles
in the state’s custody are free from harm and
have the opportunity to develop the skills
necessary to avoid recidivating when released
back into their home communities.

1

This review is limited to direct care staff only. We did not
examine the qualifications of other personnel such as medical,
mental health, food service, and custodial employees.

Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability
an office of the Florida Legislature

OPPAGA Report

Report No. 05-46

In recent years, the department has faced
numerous
incidents
of
staff
abuse,
mistreatment, and inadequate care of youth in
detention
and
residential
commitment
programs; these incidents have resulted in
injury and even negligent death. This has
raised
legislative
concerns
with
the
qualifications and training of program staff.

in probation. The department requires higher
standards for these employees because they
work out in the community away from direct
supervision much of the time and require the
skills to represent the department in court and
write numerous reports and the analytical
ability to make independent judgment calls.
Private providers, who operate most of the
department’s delinquency programs, generally
have adopted the minimum state educational
requirements.

To examine the minimum qualifications,
screening, salaries, and training of direct care
staff, we examined department policies and
procedures and visited prevention, detention,
probation,
and
residential
programs
throughout the state. (See Appendix A.) We
also conducted case studies of staffing issues at
seven residential programs with staff turnover
ranging from 0 (none) to 105%. Turnover is a
critical factor linked to screening, salaries, and
training.

Florida’s minimum educational requirements
parallel those of other states that are similar in
size or are located in the southeast. New York,
California, Texas, and Georgia, Alabama,
Mississippi, and South Carolina also require
high school diplomas or their equivalent.
Louisiana, however, requires all direct care
staff to have bachelor’s degrees.

Qualifications and
Screening _____________

National accreditation standards do not
address minimum educational requirements
for juvenile justice staff, requiring instead that
staff be adequate to provide program services.

Minimum qualifications for persons who work
in residential delinquency programs are
established in law. Florida statutes require that
all employees who work in a correctional
capacity be at least 19-years-old, have a high
school diploma or its equivalent, and not have
been convicted of specified misdemeanors or
felonies. 2

The background screening process is
being enhanced
The
department
requires
background
screening for all state and private direct care
employees to ensure that they have not been
convicted of specified misdemeanors or
felonies. 3 The department takes several steps
to ensure that staff meets these requirements
and is implementing new procedures to reduce
the time required for criminal history checks,
quickly identify personnel who commit crimes
while employed, and stop the churning of
undesirable staff from one provider to the next.

Florida’s staff educational requirements are
similar to those of other states
As a correctional agency, the department
requires staff to have a high school diploma (or
equivalent).
Direct care employees in
prevention, detention, or residential programs
are not required to meet additional educational
requirements. However, the department does
require staff of certain programs to hold
bachelor’s degrees, such as employees working
2

The statutes, ss. 943.13(4) and 985.406(3), F.S., also require that
individuals not have received a dishonorable discharge from
any of the Armed Forces of the United States and that they
abide by all of the provisions of s. 985.01(2), F.S., regarding
fingerprinting and background investigations.

3

2

Disqualifying crimes include murder, domestic battery, sexual
battery, aggravated assault/battery, felony drug charges, lewd
and lascivious behavior, felony theft and robbery, and
vehicular homicide.

Report No. 05-46

OPPAGA Report

Current screening process is time-consuming.

and
training
employees
that
must
subsequently be terminated after their criminal
history is known is expensive and timeconsuming.

The department’s current background screening
process, which is used for both its own
employees and those hired by private providers,
consists of three phases. First is a preliminary
screening that involves a driver's license check,
a juvenile criminal history check, a state
criminal history check, and for state employees,
a national criminal history check. 4 Applicants
who pass this step are permitted to begin
working while they undergo a second
screening, which must be initiated by the
employer within five days of employment.
This second step consists of a fingerprint
matching check by the Florida Department of
Law Enforcement (FDLE) against state and
national criminal databases.
This check
currently can take several months to complete.
If the check discloses criminal offenses that
statutorily disqualify the employee from
working with juvenile justice youth, he or she
must be immediately terminated from the
position. 5 Third, as a condition of continued
employment, all employees undergo a rescreening background check every five years
and are required to inform their employers if
they are arrested for any disqualifying offenses
while employed.

To expedite the process, the department is
implementing live scan. To shorten the time

required for the second criminal background
screening, the department plans to fully
implement live scan technology in fall 2005.
Live scan transmits fingerprint information to
FDLE electronically, which expedites the entire
process. State and national criminal record
search results will be made available within
three working days, instead of the current
three to six-month turnaround. This new
technology will provide the department
criminal history obtained through both phases
of screening within the time that it currently
takes to finalize the first step, thereby
eliminating the possibility of employees
coming into direct contact with youth before
they are fully approved to do so. Once the
new process is implemented, the department
will no longer permit an employee to begin
working in a program before his or her
criminal history has been determined.
2005 Legislature required continuous record
checks. The Legislature passed Ch. 2005-263,

The lengthy wait for the criminal background
check to be completed is problematic. It creates
a safety issue when a statutorily disqualified
offender is on site with youth and staff until his
or her criminal history is discovered during the
second background check. During the past
year, the department reports that 498
applicants have been dismissed due to
information uncovered by the second
screening. The wait for FDLE results is also
costly because the program must begin training
the new employee during this time to comply
with department safety requirements. Hiring
4

As a criminal justice agency, DJJ has the authority to conduct
national criminal checks on all persons applying to work at its
facilities during the preliminary screening.

5

The department has an exemption process for persons who
wish to present a case that they should be hired despite a
criminal background. Of the 48 persons who applied for
exemption from May 2004 to May 2005, 12 were granted.

Laws of Florida, to enhance the process for re-

screening current employees. The law requires
FDLE to run an ongoing check of arrest data as
it comes in against a list of department and
provider employees. The department, and
subsequently the provider, will be immediately
notified of any employee arrest.
FDLE
anticipates that the new system will be in
operation in December 2005.
Employee verification system.

The department
and providers also are implementing an
employee verification system to address concerns
about undesirable employees moving from
program to program. This has been a problem
in the past, when persons who were fired or
forced to leave one program sometimes were
hired at another program after they failed to
list previous jobs on their employment
application or misrepresented the circumstances

3

OPPAGA Report

Report No. 05-46

under which they left. To help ensure that
programs have knowledge of prior employment,
employers will be required to input into a
database the name and partial social security
number of all employees and their dates of
employment and separation.
When an
employee leaves a program, the provider must
complete a one-page form summarizing why
the employee left and place it in the
employee’s personnel file. According to the
department, this new system will help
potential employers within the juvenile justice
system obtain the data needed to make an
informed decision about whether or not to hire
an applicant. Employers using this system will
be less likely to unwittingly hire employees
who were fired or resigned in lieu of
termination from other juvenile justice
providers. The department expects the system
to be operational in fall 2005.

high school diploma. State detention officers
earn higher salaries than state residential staff
because the Legislature appropriated a raise for
detention staff only in 2000 when detention
turnover became critical.

Salaries and Turnover

Prevention programs are completely privatized
while detention and probation programs are
primarily state-operated.
Therefore, our
analysis of salaries and turnover focused on
residential programs because they provide the
best basis for comparing state and private
provider salaries. Approximately half of all
direct care staff work in residential programs.

Exhibit 1
Probation Employees Earn Higher Salaries Than
Staff of Other Types of Programs
State
Starting
Median

Probation
Detention
Residential
Prevention

$28,205
23,265
22,571
NA

$28,205 1
25,510
22,762
NA

Private
Starting
Median
$25,629
NA
17,160
18,843

$27,168
NA
18,663
19,315

1

Starting and median salaries are the same for state probation staff
due to turnover and salary compression.
Source: OPPAGA analysis of workforce survey of private providers
conducted by the Florida Juvenile Justice Association in January 2005
and state data provided by Department of Juvenile Justice.

___

We compared the starting and median salaries
among types of programs, between state and
private providers, and with eligibility levels for
public assistance programs. 6 We also reviewed
salary increases over time and examined the
effect of salary and the work environment on
staff turnover.

State residential direct care employees in
Florida start at higher salaries than those
offered by private providers, as shown in
Exhibit 1. While there is a substantial range in
starting salaries paid by private providers, all
programs we examined had lower starting
salaries than the state’s starting salary of
$22,571. The starting annual salaries for private
residential direct care employees ranged from
$14,539 to $21,008, with a median of $17,160.

Department staff salaries are generally
higher than those paid by private providers
State direct care workers generally earn more
than private direct care workers. Salaries vary
among program types, as shown in Exhibit 1.
Probation and detention employees are the
highest paid and are state-employed, with the
exception of a small number of employees
providing specialized probation services.
Juvenile probation officers have the highest
starting and median salaries because they are
required to have a bachelor’s degree, whereas
other employees are required only to have a

6

Program

The state’s starting salaries appear to be on par
with those of most other southeastern states, as
shown in Exhibit 2.

The median represents the midpoint of all salaries; half were
higher, and half were lower.

4

Report No. 05-46

OPPAGA Report

Some private direct care employees may
qualify for government assistance

Exhibit 2
Department Residential Direct Care
Starting Salaries Are Comparable to
Those of Other Southeastern States
State
Georgia
North Carolina
South Carolina
Florida
Alabama
Texas
Louisiana
Mississippi

As directed by the Legislature, we analyzed
whether direct care employees qualify for
public assistance programs including food
stamps; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC);
and KidCare. Based on starting and median
salary levels, some direct care employees may
qualify for these programs. As previously
noted, the median salary for private residential
direct care workers is $18,663. As data on the
size of employees’ families is not available, we
researched eligibility for a single income
household with two dependents.
The
eligibility requirements for public assistance
programs vary, as shown in Exhibit 4. Based
on the 2005 income requirements of these
programs, a single income household at the
starting or median salary of a private direct
care employee with two dependents would
qualify for food stamps, WIC, and KidCare.

Starting Salary
$23,614
23,037
21,468
20,850
20,626
20,592
19,344
16,123

Source: OPPAGA research on other states.

The median salary for state residential program
direct care staff is also considerably higher than
that offered by private providers—$22,762 per
year compared to $18,663 per year.
In
addition, there is a difference between median
salaries paid by non-profit and for-profit
private providers. As shown in Exhibit 3, the
median salary paid by non-profit providers
was almost $2,000 higher than the median
salary paid by for-profit residential providers.

Exhibit 4
Private Direct Care Employees with Dependents
Could Qualify for Public Assistance Programs

Exhibit 3
Non-Profit Programs Paid Direct Care Staff
Higher Salaries Than for-Profit Programs
Provider
For Profit Programs
Not-for-Profit Programs

Program
Food Stamps

Median Salary
$17,906
19,881

WIC

Source: OPPAGA analysis of workforce survey of private
providers conducted by the Florida Juvenile Justice Association
in January 2005.

KidCare

Our case studies of seven residential programs
showed that while state direct care employees
tend to earn more than private provider staff,
this trend reversed itself when comparing the
salaries of program directors. State directors
(called superintendents) had a median salary
of $45,137, while their private provider
counterparts had a median salary of $58,984. 7

7

Eligibility
Low income individuals
and families
Pregnant or nursing
mothers, and children
under five-years-old
Children living in homes
where total income is
200% or less of federal
poverty level

Single Income
Household with
Two Dependents1
$20,376

29,772

32,184

1

The figure represents the maximum family income. The
median salary for private residential direct care staff is $18,663.
Source: Department of Children and Families, Department of
Health, and Florida KidCare.

This analysis compared data from all state residential programs,
as provided by the department, with data from the private
providers in our case study sample.

5

OPPAGA Report

Report No. 05-46

Per diem rates for private providers have
not increased as fast as state salaries

Exhibit 5
Turnover Rates Vary Among Programs

Private providers assert that their salaries are
relatively low due to the residential per diem
rate the state pays for juvenile programs.
Salaries constitute the biggest expense in most
programs’ operating budgets, which are tied to
the per diem rate paid by the state.

Program
Pensacola Boys Base
Bowling Green
Mandala
Riverside
South Pines
Bristol Academy
Hastings

Most per diem rates were established when the
department was created in 1994. Since that
time, the Legislature has funded four increases
in per diem rates. In 2002 and 2003, a limited
number of providers with the lowest rates
received rate increases in order to address
inequities in the rate structure. In 2004, the
Legislature approved an overall per diem rate
increase of $3.5 million.
In 2005, the
Legislature
appropriated
an
additional
$3.8 million to be distributed across private
residential programs. The two across-theboard rate increases would have raised private
direct care salaries by approximately 12% if
used for that purpose; in comparison, since
1994 the Legislature has increased state salaries
an average of approximately 2% per year, for a
total increase of 27%.

Turnover
Rate
0
9%
15%
30%
70%
96%
105%

Starting / Median
Salary
$22,571 /
18,720 /
18,720 /
16,120 /
17,992 /
17,680 /
16,640 /

$28,019
18,720
20,051
18,720
18,720
18,408
16,641

Source: Workforce survey, DJJ, and individual providers.

As shown above, turnover rates varied
inversely with starting and median salaries,
with the programs offering the lowest salaries
generally experiencing the highest turnover.
Most providers reported losing staff to better
paying positions both inside and outside the
field. For example, administrators in rural
areas reported difficulty hiring and retaining
good direct care staff, and noted that retail
warehouses were paying higher entry salaries,
as were nearby adult correctional facilities. A
commonly reported pattern was that private
provider employees left for better paying
positions in department programs, while
department staff left for better paying positions
in adult correctional facilities. The starting
salary for correctional officers at adult prisons
is $28,808 and their median salary is $33,238,
compared to the $22,571 and $22,762 starting
and median salaries of state juvenile justice
residential program staff. Correctional officers
also earn special risk retirement. 8

The per diem increases were not specifically
earmarked for salaries, and in our field visits
we found that some providers had used the
2004 money to increase salaries while other
providers had not.

Salary is one of several factors that
contributes to staff turnover
According to managers and staff, salary is the
biggest contributing factor to staff turnover,
although the work environment is also crucial.
Juvenile justice officials estimate annual
residential direct care staff turnover to be about
55% statewide.

Turnover increases costs and can result in staff
shortages, which can put youth and staff at risk
and reduce program effectiveness. The largest
costs of turnover are due to overtime and
increased training. When vacancies occur,
frequently with no notice, programs often must
pay overtime to other staff in order to maintain
required staffing ratios until replacements are
hired and trained. Overtime can cause stress

To examine how salary affects turnover, we
reviewed seven residential programs located
throughout the state. During the most recent
contract year, these programs’ turnover ranged
from zero (no turnover) at Pensacola Boys Base
to 105% at Hastings, as shown in Exhibit 5.

8

6

Special risk retirement may occur after 25 years and the retirement
rate is calculated at 3% of the officer’s salary; regular retirement
may occur after 30 years and is calculated at 1.6% of salary.

Report No. 05-46

OPPAGA Report
While many factors influence whether a
delinquent youth re-offends, extensive national
research shows that selecting employees based
in part on their skills in relating to youth and
training staff to model and reinforce positive
relationship skills are significant factors in
reducing recidivism. Careful selection of staff
also can increase employee retention, as
employees who are a better fit are more
effective and derive more satisfaction from the
job.
Adding this dimension to employee
selection can thus improve program quality
and reduce turnover without increasing costs.

for employees remaining at the program and
thus contribute to additional staff turnover.
High turnover also drives up training costs, as
new employees must be paid during 120 hours
or more of training. Turnover also increases
costs for recruitment, interviewing, and
screening; for example, some programs employ
a full-time recruiter because their turnover is so
high.
Finally, turnover can discourage
providers from investing in additional training
beyond the minimum required.

Managers can take steps to reduce
turnover by improving work environment

Training staff to understand and reinforce
treatment also improves retention and
Two programs with the
program results.

Among the seven residential programs in our
case study, those with the lowest turnover
offered relatively high salaries and supportive
working conditions. Key aspects of good
working environments include selecting
employees who relate to youth in positive
ways; involving direct care staff in treatment;
and fostering good relationships among staff.

lowest turnover, Bowling Green Youth
Academy and Pensacola Boys Base, provided
meaningful responsibilities for direct care staff
and structured their programs to conduct
ongoing training that exceeds the department’s
requirements at minimal cost. In addition to
making staff feel valued, this approach can
contribute to the treatment of the youth in
custody. At Pensacola Boys Base, all staff
members conduct treatment groups and can
receive training credit for attending each
others’ groups, and a library of training videos
is available for staff to watch as their schedules
permit. In addition to conducting treatment
groups, each direct care employee is a project
officer for a community service project. Direct
care employees describe their responsibilities
and sense of contribution to youth and the
community as reasons for the positive work
environment at the program. Bowling Green
schedules four shift crews so that a rotating
shift can cover the program during weekly
staff training.
The program is currently
engaged in the “What Works” program to
provide additional training in evidence-based
cognitive behavioral treatment so that all direct
care staff can contribute to the program’s
treatment objectives.

Hiring employees who relate to youth in
positive
ways
can
improve
the
work
environment
and
increase
program
effectiveness. Some program managers report

using only the minimum education and
criminal history requirements when hiring staff
because they have so few qualified applicants
or such high turnover; other program
managers are more selective and attempt to
hire applicants that have indicated an ability to
relate to youth in positive ways. Managers of
these programs believe hiring such staff
improves program effectiveness and staff
retention. These programs take steps such as
asking applicants to describe how they have
reacted to situations similar to typical
occurrences in the programs or using videos
that portray common situations and giving the
applicants response options to allow the
manager to assess whether applicants choose
appropriate responses.

7

OPPAGA Report

Report No. 05-46

Training requirements differ for state and
private provider direct care staff

These steps to create a positive environment
appear to aid in retention. Pensacola Boys Base
is able to recruit employees from the detention
center, where pay is higher, and Bowling
Green had only 9% turnover for the most
recent contract year, despite competition for
staff from nearby prisons, mental hospitals,
and other delinquency programs.

Section 985.406, Florida Statutes, requires the
department to develop training to “foster
better staff morale and reduce mistreatment
and aggressive and abusive behavior in
delinquency programs; to positively impact the
recidivism of children in the juvenile justice
system; and to afford greater protection of the
public through an improved level of services
delivered by a professionally trained juvenile
justice staff to children who are alleged to be or
who have been found to be delinquent.” The
statute also requires the department to
establish a certifiable program of training that
meets the accreditation standards of the
American Correctional Association, and
includes a competency-based examination for
all direct care staff employed by the state and
contracted providers.

Fostering good working relationships among
staff and resolving conflict can help improve
staff retention.
Direct care staff that we

interviewed cited overtime, unreliable coworkers, interpersonal conflict among staff,
and difficult youth as the greatest sources of
frustration on the job. The three programs in
our case studies with the lowest turnover took
steps to address these problems through teambuilding and resolving conflicts among staff.
Employees at Bowling Green and Mandala
indicated that their managers were effective in
counseling and quickly addressing and
resolving conflicts among staff, while
employees at Pensacola Boys Base reported
that they use the skills taught to youth to
resolve
conflicts
among
themselves.
Employees at Bowling Green also mentioned
the program’s team spirit and encouragement
given by other staff members as reasons for the
program’s low turnover.
Fostering these
positive working relationships can thus
improve employee retention at relatively little
cost.

The department provides certified training for
state detention, probation, and residential staff.
However, these requirements have not been
incorporated into its contracts with private
providers, who must meet lower training
standards. The department’s rationale for not
requiring private provider staff to become
certified is that no additional funding was
approved for certifiable training and providers
would see this requirement as an unfunded
mandate.
The 2005 Legislature passed
Ch. 2005-263, Laws of Florida, which creates a
task force to study certification for professional
employees of private juvenile justice providers.

Training _______________

Since qualifications and salaries for direct care
staff generally are minimal, training is
important to ensure that direct care workers
have the skills necessary for the job. Training
should provide the skills needed to maintain a
safe and secure environment for youth who
may be hostile and aggressive, as well as give
staff the skills to model, recognize, and
reinforce the positive behaviors the programs
are designed to teach youth.

Currently, training requirements for state
employees are substantially higher than those
required of private program staff, for both
residential and non-residential programs, as
shown in Exhibit 6.

8

Report No. 05-46

OPPAGA Report

Staff needs more training on program
treatment models

Exhibit 6
Required Training Hours for State Direct Care Staff
Are Double Those Required for Private Providers
Residential
Non-Residential

State

Private Provider

240 hours
295 hours

120 hours
120 hours

According to research by the National Institute
of Corrections and the Crime and Justice
Institute, to help reduce recidivism, direct care
employees need to recognize anti-social and
pro-social attitudes and behavior in themselves
and in youth and to model and reinforce prosocial attitudes, thinking and behavior. To do
so, employees need training in effective
treatment approaches and communication
skills. Managers should monitor and reinforce
direct care staff use of these skills to ensure
program effectiveness.

Source: Department of Juvenile Justice.

Before being in the presence of youth, state
and private direct care staff must complete 57
hours of initial training, including 40 hours of
Protective Action Response (PAR) training.
The balance of this required initial training
focuses on CPR/First Aid, suicide prevention
and emergency procedures, and “Red Flag”
training, which deals with professional
conduct and sexual boundary issues between
staff and juveniles in the care and custody of
the department. 9

Currently, neither state nor private direct care
staff training requirements are in alignment
with national recommendations from program
effectiveness research.
The only training
requirement for private providers directly
relating to changing youth behavior is four
hours of training in behavior management.
Staff of state programs receive 28 hours of
required training in communication skills,
behavior management, and restorative justice,
but they are not trained to recognize anti-social
behavior and attitudes, or how to reinforce
effective delinquency treatment approaches.

Beyond the initial 57 hours, training standards
for state and private direct care staff differ, as
shown in Exhibit 7. State employees receive
considerably more on-the-job and treatmentrelated training.

Exhibit 7
State Staff Requirements Include More Hours for
On-the-job Training and Appropriate Behavior
Training Area
Initial safety and security training
On the job training - safety, security,
admissions, releases, supervision of youth,
transportation
Study, testing and graduation
Treatment-oriented training
Orientation
Professional and appropriate behavior
Admission and release of youth,
supervision, report writing, transportation
Information about youth and services
Electives
Total Requirements

Private
Hours

State
Hours

57

57

20
0
4
4
9

40
37
28
22
20

4
12
10
120

18
18
0
240

The department should consider revisiting the
allocation of hours among training topics.
When direct care employees, who spend much
more time with youth than therapists, are
considered part of the treatment team and are
trained to reinforce the pro-social thinking and
skills that are taught to youth, the program can
have a more intensive effect in reducing
recidivism.
Further, as discussed earlier,
involving direct care staff in treatment can help
decrease employee turnover.

Source: OPPAGA analysis of department policies.

9

State probation officers in training and under the supervision of
a certified probation officer may be in the presence of youth
prior to completing these requirements.

9

OPPAGA Report

Report No. 05-46

Managers express concern about PAR
training

Most residential commitment programs in
Florida use cognitive behavioral approaches,
which are evidence-based approaches to
systematically teach youth pro-social ways to
think about and respond to challenging
interpersonal situations. In our field work, we
found that few programs conducted initial or
ongoing staff training on communication skills
or treatment approaches, which was reflected
in the negative behavior exhibited by
untrained staff. Youth in many programs
perceive that direct care workers do not
practice the skills the program is attempting to
teach the youth. A number of program staff
and managers we interviewed expressed a
need for more skill-oriented demonstrations,
practice, and on-the-job training in how to deal
with youth, and less lecture, theory, and
computer training.

Most state and private program managers and
direct care staff we interviewed felt that the
training mandated by the department covers
essential material and is appropriate.
However, they expressed concern about the
PAR portion of the training. PAR is intended to
teach staff how to de-escalate potentially
dangerous situations through verbal techniques
and physical restraint if necessary. Staff and
managers asserted that the way PAR is
currently taught places too much emphasis on
physical intervention and does not include
enough practice on verbal and non-verbal skills
to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations.
As one probation officer said, “the most
important part of PAR is the verbal deescalation training, and it is the least effective
part of the training.” Employees that lack deescalation skills may be quick to physically
restrain or “take-down” youth, which can
increase the risk of injury for staff and youth as
well as liability for the provider and the state.

Employees that are not given adequate
training to deal with hostile and aggressive
youth may respond with inappropriate
language and behavior, thus reinforcing
youths’ negative self-concepts and negative
ways of dealing with other people. In our site
visits, youth at a number of facilities indicated
that they were routinely verbally abused,
cursed, and humiliated by staff. For example,
staff reportedly responded to poor behavior by
saying, “that’s why your parents don’t come to
visit,” and “that’s why you don’t have a
family.”

Some programs give additional training that
emphasizes verbal de-escalation skills, and
have reduced the use of force in their
programs. Department managers and training
developers agreed that the verbal intervention
portion of PAR needs strengthening, and
indicate that this issue will be addressed by the
certification task force. Training in effective
verbal intervention skills for PAR is consistent
with some of the skills needed to reinforce the
program’s treatment effects, and training for
each should complement and reinforce the
other. Implementing more effective verbal
training for PAR could be accomplished
without increasing training hours by
prioritizing and reallocating training hours.

The department has established a “What
Works” pilot project to assist 10 residential
programs in training their staff to implement
evidence-based cognitive-behavioral treatment
to reduce juvenile recidivism. This is a step in
the right direction.
However, the “What
Works” trainer and program managers have
expressed a need for more intensive training to
provide staff skill development and practice in
communication, de-escalation, and effective
treatment approaches.

10

Report No. 05-46

OPPAGA Report

Recommendations _____

Agency Response _______

To help the Legislature assess funding needs,

In accordance with the provisions of
s. 11.51(6), Florida Statutes, a draft of our report
was submitted to the Secretary of the
Department of Juvenile Justice for review and
response.

ƒ

we recommend that the department survey
providers to determine whether they used
the $3.8 million increase in per diem rates
appropriated by the 2005 Legislature for
staff salaries or other purposes. The
department survey should also determine
if salary increases affected turnover.
Employee turnover and staff shortages
reduce program effectiveness and put
youth and the state at risk.

The Secretary’s written response is reproduced
in its entirety in Appendix B.

To increase employee retention,
ƒ

we recommend that state and private
program managers seek to hire staff who
relate to youth in positive ways; provide
employees with training in their programs’
treatment model and include direct care
staff as members of the treatment team;
and foster good relationships among staff
by helping mediate disputes.

To address training needs,
ƒ

we recommend that the department revise
staff training requirements and curriculum
to ensure that direct care staff is included in
the training and implementation of their
programs’ treatment model and is regularly
assessed on their use of these skills,
consistent with evidence-based practice
shown to reduce recidivism, and

ƒ

we also recommend that that the department
strengthen the verbal de-escalation portion of
PAR training. The department should assess
the impact of this revised training on use of
“take-downs” by provider staff.

11

OPPAGA Report

Report No. 05-46

Appendix A

OPPAGA Site Visits
To collect information for this review, OPPAGA staff visited a range of programs
throughout the juvenile justice continuum and across the state. At these programs we
interviewed program managers and staff, held focus groups with youth, and obtained
program documents. For our residential program case studies, we selected programs
with varying amounts of staff turnover.

OPPAGA Visited 14 Juvenile Justice Programs
Name of Program
Prevention
PACE Broward
PACE Leon
Detention
Leon Detention Center
Miami-Dade Detention Center
Okaloosa Detention Center
Probation / Day Treatment
Circuit 18 Probation
Crosswinds Youth Services
Tallahassee Marine Institute (AMI)
Residential
Bowling Green and New Beginnings
Bristol Youth Academy1
Hastings
Mandala
Pensacola Boys Base
Riverside Academy
South Pines Academy
1

County
Broward
Leon
Leon
Dade
Okaloosa
Brevard, Seminole
Brevard
Leon
Hardee
Liberty
St. Johns
Pasco
Escambia
Hillsborough
Broward

We conducted telephone interviews to gather information.

12

Report No. 05-46

OPPAGA Report

Appendix B

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF JUVENILE JUSTICE
Jeb Bush, Governor

Anthony J. Schembri, Secretary

September 2, 2005
Gary VanLandingham
OPPAGA Director
314 Claude Pepper Building
111 West Madison Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1475
Dear Mr. VanLandingham:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your office's report of August 2005, Qualifications,
Screening, Salaries, and Training Affect Quality and Turnover of Juvenile Justice Employees.
Generally we concur with your recommendations and offer these responses.
Recommendation: To help the Legislature assess funding needs, we recommend that the
department survey providers to determine whether they used the $3.8 million increase in per
diem rates appropriated by the 2005 Legislature for staff salaries or other purposes. The
department survey should also determine if the salary increases affect turnover. Employee
turnover and staff shortages reduce program effectiveness and put youth and the state at risk.
Response:
We agree that a study needs to be conducted to determine whether providers used the $3.8
million increase in per diem rates appropriated by the 2005 Legislature for staff salaries or other
purposes. We think that it may be more appropriate to have an independent entity such as
OPPAGA, conduct such a survey of providers to get an unbiased response. To conduct such a
study would require extensive staff time and resources, in which department staff that are skilled
to conduct such a survey, is already overextended and committed to other projects. However,
we are willing to partner with OPPAGA staff to conduct the study and provide whatever
information is necessary to accurately account for how the funds were distributed.
In addition, as a part of the per diem increase amendment, the department is requiring a revised
budget that reflects the use of the 2005 Legislative Appropriation. This information could prove
useful in determining how the $3.8 million increase in per diem was used. We are requesting
that OPPAGA staff partner with staff in the offices of Research and Planning and Residential
Services to obtain all relevant information of all residential providers who may have been affected
by this legislation.
Recommendation: To increase employee retention, we recommend that state and private
program managers seek to hire staff who relate to youth in positive ways; provide employees
with training in their programs' treatment model and include direct care staff as members of the
treatment team; and foster good relationships among staff by helping mediate disputes.
2737 Centerview Drive ● Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3100 ● (850) 488-1850
The mission of the Department of Juvenile Justice is to protect the public by reducing juvenile crime and delinquency in Florida.

13

OPPAGA Report

Report No. 05-46

Gary VanLandingham
September 2, 2005
Page 2

Response:
The department is currently developing a new training curriculum to include an aptitude test for
prospective direct care applicants. A component of the test will be a "personality index"
questionnaire that is widely recognized as a best practice and will assist in identifying behavioral
traits that are conducive to and critical in our work environment. The department will continue its
"What Works" pilot project in residential programs and will modify contract language to ensure
direct care staff is trained in their programs' treatment model.
Recommendation: To address training needs, we recommend that the department revise staff
training requirements and curriculum to ensure that direct care staff is included in the training and
implementation of their programs' treatment model and is regularly assessed on their use of
these skills consistent with evidence-based practice shown to reduce recidivism.
Response:
Residential Services currently list in its contracts several specific training requirements in
conjunction with the department's training requirements. We will add a clause to the contract
requiring providers to train all direct care and other applicable staff in the program's treatment
model. Residential Monitors will monitor whether the training has occurred and assess staffs
utilization of these skills.
Recommendation: We recommend that the department strengthen the verbal de-escalation
portion of PAR training. The department should assess the impact of this revised training on use
of "take-downs" by provider staff.
Response:
Under the department's current Protective Action Response (PAR) plan, the 20 hours of verbal
intervention training make up 50 percent of the 40 hours of PAR training all newly hired recruits
undergo at the hiring facility. As part of the Basic Academy training, that same new hire receives
an additional 5 hours of PAR Refresher training with a heavy re-emphasis on verbal deescalation skills.
Beginning January 1, 2006, the department plans to augment its existing PAR plan by expanding
the 45-hour training base to include an additional 20 hours of intensive training that will be
provided in the Basic Recruit Academy setting. In the more formal and controlled environment,
the department takes proactive steps toward ensuring that verbal de-escalation skills and
scenario-based training are mandatory and key components of the newly expanded PAR training
program.

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OPPAGA Report

Gary VanLandingham
September 2, 2005
Page 3

If additional information is needed, please contact Steve Meredith at 921-6331.
Respectfully,

/s/
Anthony J. Schembri
Secretary
cc:

Deputy Secretary Steve Casey
Assistant Secretary Charles Chervanik
Acting Inspector General Steve Meredith
Acting Assistant Secretary Daryl Olson
Director Eber Brown
Director Jane McElroy
Director Ted Tollett
Chief Louise Mondragon

15

The Florida Legislature

Office of Program Policy Analysis
and Government Accountability
Visit the Florida Monitor, OPPAGA’s online service. See www.oppaga.state.fl.us. This site
monitors the performance and accountability of Florida government by making OPPAGA's four
primary products available online.
ƒ

OPPAGA publications and contracted reviews, such as policy analyses and performance
reviews, assess the efficiency and effectiveness of state policies and programs and
recommend improvements for Florida government.

ƒ

Performance-based program budgeting (PB²) reports and information offer a variety of tools.
Program evaluation and justification reviews assess state programs operating under
performance-based program budgeting. Also offered are performance measures information
and our assessments of measures.

ƒ

Florida Government Accountability Report (FGAR) is an Internet encyclopedia of Florida
state government. FGAR offers concise information about state programs, policy issues, and
performance.

ƒ

Best Financial Management Practices Reviews of Florida school districts. In accordance with
the Sharpening the Pencil Act, OPPAGA and the Auditor General jointly conduct reviews to
determine if a school district is using best financial management practices to help school
districts meet the challenge of educating their students in a cost-efficient manner.

Subscribe to OPPAGA’s electronic newsletter, Florida Monitor Weekly, a free source for brief
e-mail announcements of research reports, conferences, and other resources of interest for
Florida's policy research and program evaluation community.

OPPAGA supports the Florida Legislature by providing evaluative research and objective analyses to promote government
accountability and the efficient and effective use of public resources. This project was conducted in accordance with applicable
evaluation standards. Copies of this report in print or alternate accessible format may be obtained by telephone (850/488-0021 or
800/531-2477), by FAX (850/487-3804), in person, or by mail (OPPAGA Report Production, Claude Pepper Building, Room 312,
111 W. Madison St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1475). Cover photo by Mark Foley.
Florida Monitor: www.oppaga.state.fl.us
Project supervised by Kathy McGuire (850/487-9224)
Project conducted by Jason Gaitanis (850/410-4792), Rashada Houston (850/487-4971),
and LucyAnn Walker-Fraser (850/487-9168)
Gary R. VanLandingham, OPPAGA Director

 

 

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