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For immediate release: June 21, 2024
Phone: 5184023130


Sneak Peek of Documentary Will Be Shown During June 21 Annual Elder Abuse Conference in East Syracuse
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) today announced that adult protective services (APS) employees will be among those celebrated in a new documentary focusing on how community members can work together to help victims of elder abuse.
The documentary, which has a working title of HOAP: Heroes of Adult Protection, will be previewed at the 27th Annual Elder Abuse Conference, sponsored by Vera House Inc. and hosted by the Syracuse Area Domestic and Sexual Violence Elder Justice Coalition on June 21 at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel in East Syracuse.
The documentary is currently being filmed in multiple sites across the country with an estimated release date of 2025. The project, which includes a docuseries as well as a feature-length documentary, is being produced and directed by Joseph Applebaum and Stu Maddox, co-founders of The Clowder Group. Both directors will be present at the 27th Annual Elder Abuse Conference to discuss the project and show a sneak peek of the film at 9 a.m. on June 21.
Applebaum, who describes his company as a social impact documentary production company, is featuring APS success stories from across the country with different episodes focusing on different aspects of adult abuse. The Clowder Group is working in collaboration with the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) and APS organizations across the United States.
“We are excited and grateful that the Clowder Group is revealing the issue of elder abuse and recognizing the dedication of professionals who work in this vital field,” said OCFS Commissioner Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden. “Adult protective service (APS) employees go to great lengths to support those who have been exploited, ensuring that resources and interventions are available. Sadly, too many cases of elder abuse go undetected or unreported, leading to abysmal outcomes for this vulnerable population. The docuseries not only raises awareness about the signs of abuse but also highlights the critical roles families, service providers, neighbors, and communities play in safeguarding our vulnerable adults. We appreciate the opportunity to have been a part of this important project.”
“We are so excited to have a New York story included in this docuseries and to have the work and collaboration of APS highlighted to show the compassion, empathy and drive to succeed that these APS professionals have to protect vulnerable people,” added Julie Kelleher, director of the OCFS Bureau of Adult Services. OCFS, through the Bureau of Adult Services, is responsible for the oversight of adult protective services statewide.
New York’s story centers on a situation in the Syracuse area in which Onondaga County Adult Protective Services was able to step in and stop the financial exploitation of a man with disabilities. A family friend had been appointed as trustee to manage finances for the man after his parents had passed away. However, the trustee wrote numerous checks to himself and ultimately took more than $100,000 from the man’s trust fund.
The Onondaga County APS unit became involved and brought in a forensic accountant to review bank records. An APS attorney petitioned the court to require the trustee to account for his financial activities. The trustee ultimately accepted a court agreement to resign as trustee and pay back a portion of the funds over a 10-year period.
APS also discovered that the man’s home had numerous safety issues, including extensive mold and asbestos, that had been neglected by the trustee. They were able to find the man a senior apartment in his own neighborhood. APS is now the representative payee for the man and helps him with assorted personal errands. An elder advocate for Catholic Charities assists him with weekly grocery shopping.
The filmmakers will be in Syracuse June 22-24 to film additional footage for the documentary. When the film is completed, special screenings will be held in each community featured in the film. The documentary will also be available for screenings at conferences, universities and community organizations. Applebaum also hopes to release it on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and streaming services.
In its description of the Heroes project on its website, The Clowder Group says, “This groundbreaking social impact strives to create national policy change and community awareness through stories of victim resiliency, APS employees, and the army of people working together to protect victims who cannot always protect themselves.”
The awarding-winning Clowder Group’s previous films include Gen Silent, a documentary about older adults in the LGBTQ+ community, and All the Lonely People, a documentary on the growing epidemic of loneliness. The company’s international credits include PBS, Showtime and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The film announcement and conference come on the heels of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, which highlighted the issue of abuse of vulnerable adults.
The Fiscal Year 2025 State Budget increases investments for elder-abuse prevention, mitigation, and education. This includes a $1 million increase to New York's pioneering Elder Abuse Enhanced Multidisciplinary Team (E-MDT) initiative through the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA). E-MDTs, now in every region of the state, convene local agencies in individual counties working together across disciplines to help address cases of elder abuse. The enacted budget also includes an additional $1.2 million for guardianship programs, an additional $700,000 for programs and services by the Center for Elder Law and Justice and Lifespan of Greater Rochester, as well as critical investments in community-based supports for older adults through NYSOFA. The budget also builds on past-year commitments to expand bill-payer programs as well as innovative technological solutions to identify financial fraud perpetrated against older adults.
Elder abuse tends to be under-recognized and under-reported. The abuse may be physical, social, financial, psychological, or sexual and can include mistreatment and neglect.  As many as one in 10 older adults experience abuse or neglect, but only one in 24 abuse cases end up reported to adult protective services or law enforcement. It is frequently carried out by someone the adult knows and trusts, such as a family member or friend.
If you believe abuse is happening, call the New York State Adult Services Helpline at 1-844-697-3505, or your local county adult protective services office or law enforcement. Visit the Adult Protective Services page on the OCFS website for more information on ways to identify and stop elder abuse.
For information about the Elder Abuse Conference, visit the website for Vera House, an organization dedicated to prevent, respond to and partner to end domestic and sexual violence and other forms of abuse.
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.