Office of Children and Family Services

The Office of Youth and Young Adult Services

How to start a Runaway and Homeless Youth Residential Program

NYS and OCFS Incorporation Information

OCFS is statutorily responsible for the regulation, supervision and approval of Runaway and Homeless Youth programs in New York State. OCFS looks forward to working with your agency to provide quality services to runaway and homeless youth in New York State. In New York, Runaway and Homeless youth residential programs are required to possess a valid operating certificate issued by OCFS. Agencies operating Runaway and Homeless youth residential programs must first become authorized to operate by being approved by OCFS through the incorporation process. Approval is for a limited period, as specified by OCFS, and extensions require prior approval by OCFS.

A certificate of incorporation defines the nature and existence of a corporation by setting forth its purposes, powers, status, and type. In the past, some corporations were created by special act of the Legislature; in such cases, the law creating the corporation constituted the certificate of the incorporation. Presently, child caring corporations (not-for-profit corporations) are most commonly created by filing a certificate of incorporation or an amendment of a certificate of incorporation with the Secretary of State.

A certificate of incorporation (or amendment) being filed with the Secretary of State must be accompanied by a formal notice of approval of the incorporation issued by OCFS where the certificate includes any of the corporate purposes referenced in this manual.

The term “certificate of incorporation” technically includes all the various certificates that might alter or affect the nature of a corporation.

These include certificates of:

  • Amendment (that revise an existing certificate).
  • Correction (that correct a technical error).
  • Merger (where one corporation is absorbed into another).
  • Consolidation (where two or more corporations join to create a new corporation).
  • Restatement (where multiple certificates are rewritten into a single certificate).

OCFS is statutorily vested with the power to approve proposed certificates of incorporation for:

  • Agencies caring for destitute, delinquent, abandoned, neglected, or dependent children.
  • Agencies that place out or board out children.
  • Agencies that operate shelters for unwed mothers.
  • Agencies that operate runaway and homeless youth shelters.
  • Providers of residential programs for domestic violence.
  • Corporations that propose to solicit contributions for any of the above purposes.

The requirement to obtain OCFS approval is found in section 460-a of the SSL and in section 404(b) of the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law. The format and contents of the various certificates are set forth in the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law.

For a new incorporation of an agency providing residential care for children, a five-year limit is placed on the initial duration of corporate authority.

  • At the completion of the initial five years, a corporation must submit a proposed amendment to extend the duration of its corporate authority. The duration of corporate authority would then be extended for an additional 10 years unless there is a reason to restrict it to a shorter duration.
  • At the completion of the subsequent 10 years, a corporation must submit a proposed amendment to extend the duration of its corporate authority. The duration of corporate authority would then normally be extended to perpetuity.

For a new incorporation of an agency authorized to board out or place out children, a two-year limit is placed upon the initial duration of corporate authority.

  • At the completion of the initial two years, a corporation must submit a proposed amendment to extend the duration of its corporate authority. The duration of corporate authority would then be extended for an additional five years and thereafter, upon submission of proposed amendments, for periods of successive five years.
  • Where appropriate, approvals for shorter duration may be required.

OCFS has the authority to limit the duration of any extension of corporate authority, if so desired or required.

Once Incorporation approval is given by OCFS, The Approval document is mailed to the applicant agency (or counsel) with a cover letter instructing the agency to file the incorporation document together with the accompanying OCFS approval document with the Secretary of State of New York State. The OCFS certificate of incorporation or the certificate of amendment is not effective until filing with the Secretary of State and it is requested that the agency forward a copy of the filing receipt issued by the Secretary of State to the appropriate OCFS Regional Office.

Certification Process for Runaway and Homeless Youth Residential Programs

  1. It is important to review NYS statutes, regulations and policies which provide the legal and policy standards you will be obligated to follow in regards to the operation of Runaway and Homeless Youth programs. Determine which type of program(s) you will develop such as Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Shelter, Interim Family Program, and/or a Transitional Independent Living Support Program- Group or Supported Residence.
  2. An agency seeking to operate a RHY Emergency Shelter and/or Interim Family Program must be an authorized agency. An agency seeking to operate a Transitional Independent Living Support Program – Group or Supported Residence, must be an approved agency. Beginning January 1st, 2018 all RHY residential programs must be authorized agencies. [1] Authorized agencies must have the appropriate care for language as part of their corporate purpose within their Certificate of Incorporation. Sometimes an agency’s Certificate of Incorporation contains the appropriate care for language. If this is the case, an agency can skip steps 3,4 and 5, and proceed with Steps to become an OCFS Certified RHY Residential Program and thus apply for an operating certificate. If an agency’s Certificate of Incorporation does not contain the appropriate care for language the agency must obtain Certificate of Amendment to Certificate of Incorporation approval from OCFS.
  3. The agency will need to draft a Certificate of Amendment to Certificate of Incorporation. Consulting with private legal counsel is recommended if not essential during this process.
  4. It is important to familiarize yourself on the incorporation process in NYS. Refer to the NYS Department of State (DOS) website or contact DOS by phone at (518) 473-2492.
  5. To become authorized, an agency must obtain the Request for a Runaway and Homeless Youth Program or Transitional Independent Living Program (OCFS-4836) form from their county RHYA Coordinator. Please refer to the RHY program directory for a list of county RHYA Coordinators . If your county does not have an RHYA Coordinator, please contact your local Youth Bureau and/or the appropriate OCFS RHY Regional Office Coordinator. Upon receipt of the OCFS-4836 the agency must complete this form, attach all required documentation, including their Certificate of Amendment to Certificate of Incorporation, and submit to their county RHYA Coordinator or Youth Bureau Director for review and approval. Upon their approval, RHY Coordinator or Youth Bureau Director will submit the application packet to the appropriate OCFS RHY Regional Office Coordinator. Upon their review and approval, the application packet will be submitted to OCFS’ Bureau of Vulnerable Populations unit at Home Office for review and approval. This stage of the process includes fiscal viability and legal reviews. Upon approval of Certificate of Amendment to Certificate of Incorporation, OCFS’ legal department will contact your agency’s Executive Director and/or agency’s legal counsel to notify them of the approval and provide instructions on filing with NYS Department of State (DOS). The OCFS certificate of incorporation or the certificate of amendment will not be effective until it has been filed with the Secretary of State.

Steps to become an OCFS Certified RHY Residential Program (obtain an operating certificate)

  1. Based on the location of your proposed office, contact your county’s RHYA Coordinator or Youth Bureau Director to obtain the OCFS-4836 and other information related to certification.
  2. Complete the OCFS-4836 and gather all required information (this is referred to as your application packet). The application packet should demonstrate how the agency will comply with applicable health and safety requirements involved in the operation of Runaway and Homeless Youth residential programs.
  3. Submit the complete application, and all required information to your county RHYA Coordinator or Youth Bureau Director for review and approval.
  4. Upon review and approval, the county RHYA Coordinator or Youth Bureau Director will submit the application packet to tto the appropriate OCFS Regional Office Runaway and Homeless Youth Coordinator.
  5. A site visit will be scheduled by the OCFS RO RHY Coordinator. The site visit will include a full review of the agency’s proposed program including, but not limited to; physical plant and fire safety inspection, review of policies and procedures, record storage, security, etc.
  6. Upon review and approval by OCFS Regional Office RHY Coordinator, your application packet will be submitted to OCFS’ Bureau of Vulnerable Populations (BVP) unit for review and approval.
  7. Upon BVP’s approval, your agency’s Executive Director and County RHYA Coordinator and/or Youth Bureau Director will be notified via electronic email of the approval. Your approval letter and operating certificate will be mailed.

Program Description

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) welcomes your interest in becoming approved as a New York State authorized or approved Agency to provide Runaway and Homeless residential services to youth in New York State.

Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Definitions

Interim family program
Interim family program shall mean an authorized agency which operates a residential program to provide support services to runaway and homeless youth and to arrange for the temporary shelter of such youth through the sponsorship, inspection and supervision of interim family homes.
Interim family home
Interim family home shall mean a private dwelling providing temporary shelter to a maximum of two runaway and homeless youth, under the age of 21 years, as part of an interim family program.
Nonresidential program
Nonresidential program shall mean a program operated to provide support services, exclusive of shelter, to homeless youth which is approved by the Division for Youth after submission by the county youth bureau as part of its comprehensive plan.
Residential facility
Residential facility shall mean a group residence or a supported residence.
Residential program
Residential program shall mean a residential facility operated by an authorized agency to provide both shelter and support services to runaway and homeless youth which is approved by the Division for Youth after submission by the county youth bureau as part of its comprehensive plan.
Runaway and homeless youth shelter
Runaway and homeless youth shelter shall mean a residential facility operated for a maximum of 20 youth, all of whom are either under the age of 18 years or between the ages of 16 and 21 years. [1]
Approved transitional independent living support program
Approved transitional independent living support program shall mean any nonresidential program approved by the Division for Youth after submission by the county youth bureau, as part of its comprehensive plan, or any residential facility approved by the Division for Youth after submission by the county youth bureau as part of its comprehensive plan, operated to provide support services, for a period of up to 12 months in accordance with the regulations of the Division for Youth, to enable homeless youth from 16 up to 21 years of age to progress from crisis care and transitional care to independent living.
Group residence
Group residence shall mean a residential facility, operated for a maximum of 20 youth, which provides an environment that encourages the development and practice of independent living skills.
Supported residence
Supported residence shall mean a residential facility operated for a maximum of five youth of the same gender which provides an environment that approximates actual independent living.

  1. Beginning January 1st, 2018, Legislative changes enacted in 2017 will go into effect. Some of the changes in legislation include the following: RHY agencies/programs may expand services to youth up to age 24. Please note: already existing RHY residential programs that choose to serve youth up to age 24 must obtain a new operating certificate reflecting the age of youth to be served, prior to providing services to this population. RHY agencies/programs may also expand the length of stay at their programs. For more detailed information regarding legislative change beginning Jan. 1st, 2018 please refer to the 2017 Enacted RHY Legislation presentation.

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