Newsletter Banner


Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor
Sheila J. Poole, Acting Commissioner

November 2017

Banner

Volume 1, Number 4
 

Youth Conference in NYC Inspires

Submitted by Shaneik Edmundson, OCFS intern

   OCFS’s New York City office held its second annual Youth Conference on July 27, 2018. The conference created an opportunity for youth in foster care to connect with former foster care youth and alumni and provided workshops on parenting, education, and work readiness. Discussions and presentations were facilitated by local professionals and former youth in care. The exchange between the youth and the alumni allowed for productive conversation and the establishment of genuine connections. The alumni had a dramatic impact on current youth in the foster care system. The workshop called “If I Knew Then What I Know Now” was truly a spark in conversation.
   Other workshops included: Renting my First Crib, College Life 101, Money Management, Motherhood/Fatherhood, Juvenile Justice, and Real Life Experiences. The alumni provided youth with a new perspective and gave them valuable knowledge to be successful overall in life.
   With more than 240 people in attendance at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, the day kicked off with live entertainment from the Brooklyn United Marching Band to get the audience energized before breaking out into workshops led by professionals and alumni. After the workshops, there was a discussion involving a panel of alumni and another panel comprised of youth. The panels were moderated by former youth in care who posed questions to the panelists from youth. Overall, it was a powerful and successful event. The next conference is scheduled for July 26th, 2018.


OCFS Hosts Homefinders Summit

   As a demonstration of its continued commitment to improving foster and adoptive parent recruitment, licensing, and oversight, OCFS convened a two-day conference of local district and voluntary agency staff who perform the integral function of homefinding. These staff members in our child welfare community recruit, certify, approve, retain, and support foster/adoptive homes.
   More than 200 gathered to hear OCFS Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez provide an overview of the recent child welfare enhancements aimed at improving the quality of foster boarding homes and keeping children in care safe.
She invited the audience to join OCFS “as we plan to change together.”
   During the summit, participants focused on recruitment and retention strategies to help find, develop, and support foster/adoptive families. Presentations and workshops included supervisory strategies and cultivating critical thinking; overviews of new CONNECTIONS requirements; and the new draft foster care certification templates.
   Embracing the expertise that already exists in the field, OCFS created an opportunity for participants to influence guidance and shape best practice. Participants were encouraged to partner with OCFS when workgroup opportunities arise. Through a collaborative effort known as table talks, participants provided feedback and suggestions on the specific agenda items introduced during the summit. OCFS collected feedback and made a commitment to send participants a summary of suggestions and next steps.


OCFS and Washington County: Building Strong County Planning Partnerships

   All local departments of social services (LDSS) are required to submit a single, comprehensive five-year county plan for review and approval. The county planning process is designed to support and acknowledge a local collaborative planning process that includes broad stakeholder involvement and support a process that focuses on outcomes for children, youth, families, adults, and communities. OCFS has been working with LDSSs to have county plans better aligned with improving the federal child welfare outcomes of safety, permanency and well-being. To assist LDSSs, OCFS provided an overview of a Continuous Quality Improvement model that includes specific steps to identify a problem, understand the contributing factors, develop and implement solutions, and evaluate the effectiveness of the solutions. The Washington County Department of Social Services (the county) has been working with OCFS for about a year to further analyze its data regarding recurrence of abuse and maltreatment.
As a result of this diagnostic process, the county embraced the collaborative process and hosted a community stakeholders meeting to present that county’s child welfare data and gather ideas for strategies to prevent further abuse. In attendance were representatives from local school districts and early intervention programs; medical and mental health service providers; LDSS caseworkers and attorneys; and staff from voluntary agencies, preventions programs, the Washington County Youth Bureau and OCFS’s regional office in Albany.
   County Commissioner Tammy DeLorme welcomed participants before presentations were provided by Director of Services Karen Baker; Supervisors Jeannine Bickford, Stacey LaChapelle, and Tracy Hudson, and Carol Fallon of the Domestic Violence Project of Warren and Washington County.
Stakeholders brainstormed over how families can be encouraged to reach out to their own support systems and be better engaged, how services can be improved to address risk, and how communities and families can be better engaged in providing informal support for families. The results of these sessions were collected for the county to review and incorporate into its strategies for addressing recurrence.
   Throughout the process, LDSS staff learned that participants did not always have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the providers in the room and in their communities. In response to this, the county was invited to a superintendents’ meeting and to individual schools, to provide outreach regarding Family Assessment Response, New York State’s alternative child protective response to some reports of child maltreatment. The county is expected to provide an opportunity for various community members to present on their respective roles and responsibilities at the next annual mandated reporter conference.
 


OCFS Anti-Trafficking Summit

  At a two-day event focused on child trafficking, OCFS staff joined others from around the state and in federal government in exploring ways to increase efforts to support survivors as they heal. The summit was called “Beyond Freedom – Resilience and Recovery.”
   One of the highlights of the summit was the recognition of the New York State Police Special Victims Unit under the leadership of Senior Investigator Joshua Kean. Kean accepted a citation from OCFS presented by Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez. The citation points out that Kean’s unit has worked with OCFS in developing a coordinated system for responding to notifications of child trafficking victims so investigations may be launched. The Special Victims Unit has fielded 69,000 of those notifications to date.

The summit gave attendees the chance to discuss a variety of areas related to this crime, including risk tolerance and safety planning; residential models for youth who have been commercially and sexually exploited; practices to reduce children’s vulnerability to trafficking; how to make human trafficking referrals to law enforcement; the availability of resources that can be used in locating missing youth; and the development of local anti-trafficking systems.
The keynote speakers were Dr. Ricky Greenwald, executive director at the Trauma Institute & Child Trauma Institute, who presented on the impact of trauma and loss, and the treatments for trauma that lead to healing; and from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Katherine Chon, director of the Office on Trafficking in Persons. Chon showed attendees a video called I Am Little Red that shows youth how traffickers use lies and deception to take advantage of vulnerable individuals. The video was produced by the team that made the documentary I Am Jane Doe. It was animated by artists who worked on the Pixar film Toy Story, and is expected to be rolled out nationwide soon. The video also makes an appeal to adults to alert someone if they see a child who appears to be in trouble.