Executive Team

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Sheila J. Poole
Commissioner

Sheila J. Poole is commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. She joined the agency in 2007 as associate commissioner in the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services before being promoted to executive deputy commissioner of the agency in 2013. She served as acting commissioner prior to her appointment as commissioner by the New York State Legislature in 2019.

Ms. Poole has more than 35 years of senior leadership experience working in non-profit, local and state government sectors. She began her career in the not-for-profit mental health field and then served as commissioner of Albany County’s Department for Children, Youth and Families before continuing her public service with New York State. Commissioner Poole also spent five years working in Tennessee’s child welfare system.

Commissioner Poole was appointed by the Governor to serve as co-chair of the Child Care Availability Task Force and the Blue Ribbon Commission on forensic custody evaluations. She serves on the board of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA), State University at Albany Center for Women in Government and New York’s Youth Justice Institute and chairs the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators (NAPCWA). Ms. Poole is the founding board chair of Youth Research, Inc., a closely affiliated non-profit of OCFS.

Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq.
Executive Deputy Commissioner

Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., is the executive deputy commissioner of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Ms. Miles-Gustave joined OCFS in 2014 as general counsel/deputy commissioner, where she has led the agency’s Division of Legal Affairs and served as lead advisor to the commissioner and counsel in the New York State Governor’s office on statutory and regulatory, compliance and risk issues.

As the agency’s current executive deputy commissioner, Ms. Miles-Gustave plays a pivotal role in shaping the agency's policy to achieve its mission of promoting the safety, permanency and well-being of our children, families and communities, and leads cross-agency initiatives to support the overall mission. Ms. Miles-Gustave also serves as co-chair of the Executive Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Steering Committee.

Ms. Miles-Gustave is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo and obtained her Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law. Early in her career, she practiced in law firms in New York City, clerked on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, served as assistant district attorney/director of external affairs for the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and was senior director of strategic initiatives for the New York City Department of Education.

Nina Aledort, Ph.D.
Deputy Commissioner, Division of Youth Development and Partnerships for Success

Dr. Nina Aledort is the deputy commissioner of the Division of Youth Development and Partnerships for Success with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. She has been a practitioner and policy maker for more than 25 years with a focus on improving outcomes for youth with significant vulnerabilities, using positive youth development and gender-responsive frameworks and harm reduction. Areas of expertise include LGBTQ, runaway and homeless, trafficked, incarcerated/court-involved youth.

Dr. Aledort focuses on key policy challenges at the intersection of child welfare, juvenile justice, child sex trafficking and runaway and homeless youth, and on disparate impacts. She is a founding co-chair of the NYS Partnership for Youth Justice, has authored several peer-reviewed articles and has presented nationally and internationally. She has an M.S.W. from Hunter College School of Social Work, City University of New York, and a Ph.D. in social welfare from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Willow Baer
Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel

As the general counsel and deputy commissioner for the Division of Legal Affairs, Ms. Baer oversees an office of 90 attorneys, administrative law judges and legal administrative staff, who support the agency statewide. The Division of Legal Affairs works closely with agency leadership to create and implement progressive regulatory, legislative and policy initiatives, consistent with state and federal law, in all areas of the agency’s work. Ms. Baer is responsible for the agency’s legal and intergovernmental affairs, administrative hearings and litigation, freedom of information law requests and ethics compliance.

Ms. Baer assumed leadership of the OCFS Legal Division in December 2021. Immediately prior to joining the agency, Ms. Baer served as an interim assistant counsel to Governor Kathy Hochul, overseeing the Human Services and Mental Hygiene portfolios for the Executive Chamber. Before that, Ms. Baer served as general counsel for the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities and worked in the Office of General Counsel for the New York State Justice Center, served as a county attorney focused on child protection and permanency work, and as a legal aid attorney specializing in the representation of domestic violence survivors.

Tonya Boniface
Associate Commissioner for Human Resources

Tonya Boniface has been serving as associate commissioner for Human Resources with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services since October 2021. She directs, manages and supervises six comprehensive human resource programs, including the Bureau of Personnel, Bureau of Labor Relations, Bureau of Training and Development, Special Investigations Unit, Agency Emergency Preparedness and Health and Safety, with approximately 150 staff providing services to approximately 3,000 employees.

Ms. Boniface has a bachelor’s degree in education from the College of Saint Rose. She began her career with New York State in 2003 at the Department of Labor, and in November 2006, she began working for OCFS’ personnel office. Ms. Boniface has remained within the Office of Human Resources at OCFS ever since.

Working in the public service for more than 30 years, she was previously in the nonprofit sector, and for the last 15 years, she has shown a dedication to OCFS, as well as the Human Resources team.

Thomas Brooks
Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Development

Thomas Brooks was appointed deputy commissioner for Strategic Planning and Policy Development in November 2014. He oversees the agency's policy and research, evaluation and performance analytics bureaus. Mr. Brooks manages policy implementation of federal and state laws, including Family First, issues administrative directives to local agencies, guides development of policy and data tools, and serves as liaison to federal agencies.

Mr. Brooks previously served as assistant counsel in the Office of the New York State Governor, where he managed a nine-agency legal portfolio in human services and conducted legislative negotiations. He helped develop, draft and negotiate cyberbullying in schools legislation that became law.

In Washington, D.C., he was a staff member of the U.S. House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families and a senior policy analyst at the Child Welfare League of America. He began his career as a juvenile court investigator in Connecticut and was director of policy for the Connecticut Commission on Children and legislative director for a New York State Assembly member. He has authored several national articles on children’s policy.

Mr. Brooks received a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in divinity from Yale University and a law degree from Cornell University. He is a member of the New York State Bar.

Linda J. Cohen
Executive Director of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service

Go to Linda Cohen's bio.

Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu, Esq.
Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services

Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu, Esq., serves as deputy commissioner for the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Using a race equity and social justice lens, Mrs. Ghartey Ogundimu cultivates a culture of collaboration and shared accountability.

Mrs. Ghartey Ogundimu provides executive level leadership and oversight of the division’s diverse portfolio, which focuses on the development and expansion of a robust array of services designed to support families by creating alternate pathways of intervention beyond the traditional child welfare response. Priorities include an anti-poverty agenda, providing supportive help lines for parents and youth, expanding evidence-based services to provide upstream supports to families, providing innovative strategies to recruit and retain the child welfare workforce, using continuous quality improvement (CQI) to improve practice and child welfare outcomes across the state, and cultivating partnerships across systems to improve education, health and well-being outcomes for children, families and communities.

Her vision and passion for a just and equitable child and family well-being system is her leadership “North Star.” Mrs. Ghartey Ogundimu leads by example, challenging herself and her team to be creative, innovative and courageous, working with local departments of social services (LDSS), voluntary agencies and preventive service providers to identify programs and services that will create the system transformation needed to achieve the best safety, permanency and well-being outcomes for the children, families and vulnerable adults of New York State.

Mrs. Ghartey Ogundimu is a champion for system innovation and equity. She was integral in implementing the Blind Removal Process designed to reduce racial disparities in child welfare and creating an integrated and inclusive system of care for caregivers and youth that includes an expansive network of community-based preventive services committed to preventing family violence and providing trauma-informed, culturally responsive care.

Mrs. Ghartey Ogundimu is an appointed member of the New York State Judicial Screening Committee for the Third Judicial Department and serves as a trustee for Dutchess County Community College. She received a bachelor’s of science in foreign service from Georgetown University and her J.D. from Pace University School of Law.

Julie Hovey
Associate Commissioner, Commission for the Blind

Ms. Hovey has worked at the New York Office of Children Family Services – Commission for the Blind since 2000. As an associate commissioner, she is responsible for overseeing the Commission’s vocational rehabilitation, older blind, Business Enterprise Program, Children’s Services and independent living programs.

Beginning as a vocational rehabilitation trainee and most recently as an associate vocational rehabilitation counselor, Ms. Hovey’s duties over the past 20 years have included managing the Commission’s quality assurance and providing support to the Business Enterprise Program. With a bachelor’s degree in public justice and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, she is also a certified rehabilitation counselor.

Ms. Hovey represents OCFS at the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC), which works to ensure that New Yorkers of all ages with physical, intellectual, developmental and mental disabilities receive care and services in the most integrated settings appropriate to their individual needs.

She enjoys spending time with her son, Jason, who attends Fordham University.

Felicia A.B. Reid
Deputy Commissioner, Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth

Felicia A. B. Reid, Esq., was appointed deputy commissioner of the Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth (DJJOY) in 2020. She oversees the State's juvenile justice system, which serves youth up to age 21, who have either been adjudicated in Family Court or sentenced in Criminal Court and placed in state custody. She is deeply committed to engaging with youth, their families and communities to address historical, institutional and individual impacts of incarceration.

Ms. Reid joined OCFS in 2018 as assistant commissioner/director of the Office of the Ombudsman, the youth advocacy office for juvenile-justice involved youth.

Her prior experience includes serving as majority associate counsel for the New York State Assembly, senior counsel for the New York State Legislative Ethics Commission and an appellate court attorney for the New York State Supreme Court, Third Judicial Department. She graduated from Fordham University with a bachelor’s in comparative literature in 2007 and obtained her law degree from New York Law School in 2012.

In her spare time, Felicia is an avid micro-farmer, gardener and part-time baker, and a film history and podcast aficionado. She also loves a good dance party. Always invited to that party are a dog named Artie, a cranky cat named Squee and her husband.

Brendan Schaefer
Director of Audit and Quality Control

Brendan Schaefer was appointed director of the Office of Audit and Quality Control in 2016, and he oversees internal audits of agency functions, as well as external audits of contractors and local departments of social services.

Mr. Schaefer started his career as an associate performing assurance and business advisory services for PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Albany office. He then spent nearly 11 years working for the Office of the University Auditor at the State University of New York System Administration conducting audits and performing fraud investigations. Following his tenure at SUNY, he worked for the security services team at GreyCastle Security.

Mr. Schaefer earned a bachelor’s degree from Union College in 1998 and a master’s of business administration in Accounting in 2002. He is a certified public accountant, a certified information systems auditor and certified information security manager.

Vanessa Threatte
Executive Director, Council on Children and Families

Go to Vanessa Threatte's bio.

Nora Yates
Deputy Commissioner, Division of Child Care Services

Nora Yates is the deputy commissioner in the Division of Child Care Services and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of New York’s early care and education system supported by the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), which currently includes more than $2 billion in federal funding. The division also oversees all federal training requirements for early childhood providers supported by CCDF, provider health and safety and quality compliance, state licensing and regulations and the child care assistance program to support families accessing care, and regularly collaborates with a wide variety stakeholders on key priorities related to children and families.

Previously, Ms. Yates served as the director of the Center for Community Health at the New York State Department of Health where she oversaw more than $2 billion in state and local funding that supported key public health programs, including chronic disease prevention, communicable disease control, family health and nutrition.

During the COVID-19 pandemic response, she led the creation and stand up of the state Contact Tracing Initiative, the largest contact tracing program in the country, and also directed the COVID-19 testing sites and testing initiatives. Before joining the Department of Health, Ms. Yates served as the Governor’s assistant secretary for human services and the director of the Community, Opportunity, Reinvestment (CORe) Initiative, where she worked to align state and local agencies on a common framework to examine key issues in distressed communities. Ms. Yates joined the State as part of the inaugural class of Empire Fellows, one of nine individuals selected to serve in policy-level positions throughout Executive agencies.

Before joining the state, Ms. Yates served as the executive director of the Pride Center of the Capital Region and worked at the Empire State Pride Agenda as field director leading New York’s marriage equality effort. She earned bachelor’s and master’s of arts degrees at the State University of New York at Albany, a master’s in public administration from the Sage Graduate School and a master’s in women’s studies and public policy from the University at Albany.

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