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For immediate release: May 7, 2024
Contact: press@ocfs.ny.gov
Email: press@ocfs.ny.gov
Phone: 5184023130

New York State Office of Children and Family Services Celebrates National Foster Care Month at Thacher Park

Social Media Influencer and Advocate Charell Star Shares Personal Account About the Power of Foster Families

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) today held 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 was held in partnership with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) at the Thacher State Park Visitor Center to spotlight the vast opportunities offered to families around New York State.

“Foster and kinship parents are at the core of OCFS’ efforts to provide safe and nurturing homes for children when healing and stability are paramount. While OCFS prioritizes supporting and preserving families, we also recognize circumstances when foster care is the best option for a child and the family. We genuinely appreciate the loving families that open their hearts and their homes, truly embodying community cohesiveness. We encourage others to explore the process of becoming a foster parent,” said OCFS Acting Commissioner Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden.

State landmarks were lit in blue at the start of the month in honor of National Foster Care Month.

State Parks Commissioner Pro Tempore Randy Simons said, “We are pleased to celebrate foster families and invite them to explore the outdoors and visit our State’s parks, beaches, nature trails and historic sites during our Centennial summer. We are proud to partner with OCFS and to show our appreciation, we will provide eligible foster families the opportunity to bond and be active together.”

Gail Geohagen-Pratt, OCFS Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services, added, “State Parks offer a great way for families to enjoy some sun and fun this summer. Day trips with swimming, biking, hiking and other outdoor adventures can help foster and kinship families build positive shared memories that allow children and adults to manage stress and encourage personal growth through exposure to new environments.”

Charell Star, a social media influencer, lifestyle blogger and advocate was the keynote speaker at the Foster Care Month event and shared personal accounts of her life as a child in foster care. Star’s experiences are featured in an award-winning documentary, Feeling Wanted, which has been used as a training tool for child welfare organizations. Star recounted positive experiences with several different foster mothers and expressed appreciation for “the moments of love, joy and normalcy” they brought to her life.

In New York State, the number of children and youth in foster care continues to decline, due to the efforts of the State and local child welfare services and community partners. However, there are currently nearly 15,000 children and youth, many from historically oppressed communities, in foster care placements.

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 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.

There is an ongoing need for more adults, particularly those with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, to volunteer to serve as foster parents.

For more information about foster care, including how to apply to become a foster parent, please visit ocfs.ny.gov/programs/fostercare or call 1-800-345-KIDS (5437).

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.

About the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which saw a record 84 million visits in 2023. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer app or call 518.474.0456. Join us in celebrating our Centennial throughout 2024, and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and the OPRHP Blog.