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New York State Office of Children and Family Services Celebrates Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week

 Highlights the Critical Work of Child Welfare Workers in Strengthening and Supporting Children and Families

Calls Attention to the Critical Need for Additional Child Welfare Caseworkers and the Training and Commitment Required

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) today held a Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week celebration at its Human Services Training Center in Rensselaer to recognize child welfare workers for the critical services they provide to protect children and strengthen families statewide.

“Our child welfare workers are truly unsung heroes, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude,” said OCFS Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave. “Too often we only hear about the child welfare system and our workforce when tragedy occurs. This does not paint an accurate picture of the actual work we know is happening every day. Despite enormous pressure, long hours and heavy caseloads, our child welfare professionals bring care and compassion to countless delicate situations, driven by their passion to protect children and strengthen families.”

Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week celebrates the successes that children and families have achieved with the support of these special workers and acknowledges the key role they play in helping reimagine how the state and local departments of social services (LDSS) administer their programs.

“We are ushering in a new era of narrowing the door to the child welfare system, instead focusing on empowering families with the upstream resources they need to remain intact,” Miles-Gustave said. “Our child welfare workers are carrying out this mission in our communities and they deserve to be celebrated for driving this transformational approach.”

Today’s event also included a tour of OCFS’ Human Services Training Center (HSTC), a 97,000-square-foot facility for human services professionals statewide where county caseworkers, child welfare supervisors, voluntary agency staff, juvenile justice  professionals, child care licensors and other staff receive comprehensive training. The HSTC is only the second of its kind in the nation and sets the standard for the integration of technology with training. The center has classrooms, computer laboratories and five state-of-the-art simulation rooms that provide hands-on training for a variety of real-life scenarios.

“Along with our LDSS and voluntary foster care agencies, OCFS is fortunate to employ so many conscientious, dedicated staff who serve New York’s children and families, uplifting all of our communities,” said OCFS Division of Child Welfare and Community Services Acting Deputy Commissioner Gail Geohagen-Pratt. “We know that child welfare work can be challenging, but it is also so rewarding – knowing we can help give a voice to those who should be heard and help mitigate adversities they may face.”

The Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week celebration also calls attention to the critical workforce shortage in the field and spreads the word about career opportunities, the training and commitment needed to do this work and the significant impact on those served. With some counties reporting child welfare vacancies as high as 50%, OCFS is committed to assisting in recruitment and retention efforts for local departments of social services across the state.

“Research shows that high turnover within child welfare agencies negatively impacts services to children and families,” Geohagen-Pratt said. “It increases workloads for remaining workers, impedes conducting timely investigations and can lengthen the time children are in foster care.”

OCFS is working closely with the New York State Department of Civil Service and local civil service and social services departments on short- and long-term strategies to address the workforce shortage, including expanding application opportunities, encouraging traditionally marginalized communities to apply and changing the qualifications for certain positions.

 Job seekers are encouraged to check out the new state civil service webpage to peruse available jobs and apply online. OCFS has also created an interactive job map on its website for prospective employees to easily access employment information for particular counties. The job map can be found on the Employment Opportunities page at the OCFS website.

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.