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New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Celebrates National Foster Care Month and Issues Call for More Foster Parents

Governor Kathy Hochul Directed State Landmarks to be Illuminated in Blue in Recognition of the Vital Role Foster Families Play in Protecting Children
Governor Kathy Hochul directed 14 State landmarks to be illuminated in blue the evening of May 25, in recognition of Foster Care Month. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) hosted a National Foster Care Month celebration to raise awareness about the need for more foster parents and ways to enhance the lives of youth in foster care.
The event, held at the Albany Capital Center in Albany, New York, highlighted the critical role families, volunteers and child welfare professionals play in providing youth with meaningful connections and support. OCFS also extended a call-to-action for attendees to educate others about the importance of foster care and help recruit new foster families.
“Foster parents can play such a powerful role in the life of a precious, vulnerable child by providing a safe, nurturing home when their parents are unable to care for them,” said OCFS Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave. “Our primary goal is to strengthen families and give them all the resources they need to stay together. However, there are times when placing a child in foster care is in their best interest. Loving, compassionate foster families can help children heal from the traumas that led to their foster placement and help protect their overall physical, mental and emotional well-being.”
At the end of last year over 13,000 children were in foster care. Of those children, about 36 percent were placed in the care of a relative foster parent and 50 percent with a non-relative foster parent. The remaining 14 percent of children were placed in congregate care or other types of placements. The number of children and youth in foster care continues to decline due to the State’s emphasis on promoting family reunification through greater access to resource and support networks.
“Plain and simple, we need foster parents from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to answer the call. Black and brown children are disproportionately removed from their families when interacting with child welfare services. Foster parents need to be ready to offer love and support with an open mind and open heart. That can mean caring for a child and also their family, knowing placements are designed to be temporary. Embracing them for who they are and promoting their growth from that perspective can make such a tremendously positive impact on their lives,” said Miles-Gustave.
Secretary to Governor Kathy Hochul, Karen Persichilli Keogh, discussed the important role that foster parents can play in the lives of children and families needing support. Keogh and her husband, Mike, were foster parents to their daughter before adopting her.
“When you open your home and invest in a child in foster care, you’re not just offering them a place to stay. You’re offering them hope and possibility. You’re providing them with stability, safety and much-needed consistency. I encourage all New Yorkers to consider being a foster or adoptive parent,” said Persichilli Keogh.
Jamerika Haynes-Lewis, a journalist, advocate and founder of a consulting firm, Clever Jam Communications, spoke about her experiences as a foster child growing up in Washington state. Haynes-Lewis, who is also the former U.S.A. Ambassador Ms. 2021, has devoted her life to speaking out about ways to improve the lives of children in foster care and empowering them to succeed.
“I share my story because I want people to know they are not their circumstances. That it’s possible to heal and live a happy, fulfilling life,” Haynes-Lewis said.
OCFS oversees locally administered foster care programs and offers resources and information on how to become a foster or adoptive parent. Children are placed in foster care either by court order in an involuntary placement or by their parents voluntarily seeking placement when they are temporarily unable to care for their children.
Foster parents are part of a team – including the birth parents, the child, the caseworker and the law guardian – working together for the sake of the child and the family. Foster parents receive support and training on meeting the needs of children in care as well as financial assistance for the cost of caring for the foster child. Foster homes are subject to standards set by state laws and regulations, and prospective foster parents must be able to meet the child’s health and safety needs. Foster parents must also be in compliance with criteria concerning physical condition, character, motivation and willingness to cooperate with the social services agency or district in providing services and carrying out the permanency plan for the child.
For more information about foster care, including how to apply to become a foster parent, please visit or call 1-800-345-KIDS (5437).
The state landmarks illuminated in blue included:
Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge
Kosciuszko Bridge
The H. Carl McCall SUNY Building
State Education Building
Alfred E. Smith State Office Building
Empire State Plaza
State Fairgrounds – Main Gate & Expo Center
Niagara Falls
Grand Central Terminal - Pershing Square Viaduct
Albany International Airport Gateway
MTA LIRR - East End Gateway at Penn Station
Fairport Lift Bridge over the Erie Canal  
Moynihan Train Hall
About the New York State Office of Children and Family Services:
The Office of Children and Family Services serves New York's public by promoting the safety, permanency and well-being of children, families and communities. The agency provides a system of family support, juvenile justice, youth development, child care and child welfare services and is responsible for programs and services involving foster care, adoption and adoption assistance, child protective services, preventive services for children and families, and protective programs for vulnerable adults.