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New York State Office of Children and Family Services Marks April as Child Abuse Prevention Month

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) kicked off Child Abuse Prevention Month today with a “pinwheel planting” event in Rensselaer to raise awareness of the state’s prevention efforts to protect children and keep families united whenever possible. 
“While pinwheel planting may seem whimsical, the topic of today’s event is serious and one that we are committed to continuing to address in New York State with bold, new initiatives to prevent child abuse and maltreatment and provide families with valuable resources to foster healthy environments for children,” said OCFS Deputy Commissioner for Child Welfare and Community Services Gail Geohagen-Pratt. 
The blue and silver pinwheels planted today are a national symbol for child abuse prevention and connote playfulness, joy, and a childhood free from fear and trauma. OCFS staff joined to plant the pinwheels with Geohagen-Pratt, and leaders from Prevent Child Abuse New York, and Youth Research Inc. 
This year’s theme for Child Abuse Prevention Month is “Supporting Child and Family Well-Being” to highlight key prevention tools that can help assist and strengthen families, ultimately preventing child abuse and neglect. Multiple state government buildings and landmarks across the state will be lit in blue tonight to call attention to child abuse prevention. 
Geohagen-Pratt noted that New York State has multiple, new efforts to prevent child abuse and maltreatment by offering supports to families while also ensuring that child abuse cases are addressed promptly and effectively. 
These statewide initiatives include: 
·         An updated mandated reporter training program that seeks to undo bias in the child welfare system that has disproportionately impacted the Black and Latinx community for decades, reduce calls to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment based solely on race and poverty, and create better understanding of adverse childhood experiences to prevent inflicting more trauma. This updated mandated reporter also strengthens skills to recognize signs of abuse and maltreatment in virtual settings and helps reporters identify when to report potential abuse and maltreatment versus when to provide a family referral for additional support.
·         The OCFS HEARS line (Help, Empower, Advocate, Reassure and Support), designed to connect families to community resources offering help with housing, food, health care and more. Anyone can call 1-888-55HEARS (1-888-554-3277) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. 
·         The Direct Cash Transfer Research Pilot, which is serving 150 families at risk of poverty-related neglect in three New York counties.
·         An expansion of Healthy Families NY, an intensive, voluntary in-home visiting program offering family services in partnership with non-profit community-based organizations.
·         An expansion of Family Opportunity Centers, which aim to improve family well-being by enhancing social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, parental resilience, and providing concrete supports such as food assistance, housing support and connections to quality physical and mental health care.
Prevent Child Abuse New York Director of Resilience Leadership and Learning Institute Tamaé Memole said "Over the past decade much progress has been made to raise community level awareness of the?importance of intentionally supporting children and families in ways that build their natural capacities and strengths. Recent?data from around the nation gives us hope that we are making progress; child abuse is indeed on the decline. In New York State there has been an enormous?investment in creating an environment?of prevention?with a focus on supporting families before they encounter deeper struggles. Community efforts to build protective factors and reduce?the pressures?placed on families help nurture resilience and improve the odds that all children will have a happy and healthy future.”? 
Youth Research Inc. Executive Director Cassie Pustilnik said “YRI's close partnership with OCFS represents our collective commitment to reimagining child and family services across New York State. Through its workforce development and special project implementation, YRI provides technical assistance, training, continuous quality improvement, and project planning?and evaluation to expand and enhance child welfare related efforts intended to provide more equitable access to resources and better support families.” 
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.