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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
February 2019 — Vol. 4, No. 2

Message from the Commissioner

While February is the shortest month, it is packed full of activity. This month, we recognize African-American History Month, paying tribute to historic contributions by African-Americans, and celebrating African-American culture. A highlight of the celebration will include youth from our facilities sharing their talents at our home office event.

As the governor points out in the 2020 budget announcement, New York has made great progress in serving vulnerable populations. One example is the dramatic decrease in the number of children in foster care, down from 37,000 youth in 2003 to just 16,000 last year. The proposed budget also includes $200 million for implementation of the second phase of the Raise the Age law, including funds for diversion, probation and programming services. As part of the Women’s Agenda, the Executive Budget proposal is focused on developing innovative solutions that will improve access to quality, affordable child care and promoting safe sleep for babies to stop preventable child deaths from unsafe sleep environments. Many of our policy and budget staff are busy examining the many initiatives contained in the Executive Budget proposal that involve our agency. I have also had the opportunity to meet with a number of legislators and it has been wonderful to hear their acknowledgement of the great work we do here at OCFS.

I look forward to our work on these initiatives in the coming year and am confident in our ability to executive them to the benefit of all the New Yorkers we serve. I know you will keep up the positive energy and drive that will make it all possible.


Executive Budget Proposal Funds OCFS Programs, Promotes Safe Sleep

The 2019-2020 Executive Budget proposal laid out the New York State Justice Agenda that includes plans to launch a statewide media campaign to promote safe sleep practices to prevent infant deaths. Part of the campaign is the proclamation of the month of May as Infant Safe Sleep Month to raise awareness of the danger of parents co-sleeping with babies and the ABCs of safe sleep – practices that have been shown to reduce the risk of child fatalities. The budget also includes expansion of the Empire State After-School Program and the following: 
  • Investment in the state's child care infrastructure to help all New Yorkers gain access to high quality, affordable child care  
  • Funding to continue the successful implementation of the landmark Raise the Age law to include 17-year-olds starting in October. Under this law, 16- and 17‐year‐olds are no longer automatically charged as adults when they are accused of a crime. 
  • Support for a redesign of the state’s human services training program and the centralized, state-of-the-art training center in Rensselaer that opened January 28, allowing OCFS to be better positioned to meet the increased and changing demand for human services trainings
  • Advancement of legislation that prohibits the detention and placement of most youth who are alleged to be persons in need of services, thereby reducing negative outcomes for youth and reducing costs

The final budget is due April 1.

Mentoring Month Shines Light On Need for Inspiring Volunteers

Throughout the month of January, OCFS recognized and celebrated our mentors for their dedication and commitment. It was an inspiring way to raising awareness of the value of mentoring and the significant impact it has on youth and the adults they become.

One mentor who’s been meeting with a student for an hour each week for the last three years said, “her growth and development has been a joy to watch unfold. One of the most surprising and rewarding aspects of being a mentor is how much the children look forward to their time with their mentors.”

Mentoring offers youth an effective avenue to develop strong, positive relationships with a responsible adult in their lives. By providing encouragement, motivation and perspective, these mentors shape the futures of New York’s next generation.

“She is an amazing girl who is always upbeat,” said one mentor of her mentee. “I look forward to seeing her every week just as much as she looks forward to seeing me. We have celebrated holidays and birthdays during our sessions, talked about school, goals, family, boys, friends, hobbies, likes and dislikes.” Another mentor points out, “the kids love being part of the program and receiving one-on-one attention. One of my favorite memories is my first mentee telling me, ‘I wish we could have mentoring every day!’ I definitely recommend the program. It’s a small commitment of 45 minutes a week, but it has a big impact on everyone involved.”

The program, as shown in this two-minute video, began in 1984 through the vision of New York’s then-first lady, Mrs. Matilda Cuomo. The program ran for 11 years, then was put on a 20-year hiatus until it was reinstated in 2015.

Mentor and student times together are typically spent talking, with students telling stories and mentors offering support and guidance. During group activities, mentorship times are a way to remind students to practice good sportsmanship. If you are interested in becoming a mentor with the New York State Mentoring Program, please visit the New York State Mentoring Program’s website

Lisa Ghartey-Ogundimu Named Acting Deputy Commissioner; David Bach To Acting Associate Commissioner

Following the retirement of Laura Velez from the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services (CWCS) last month, OCFS has a new acting deputy commissioner in Lisa Ghartey-Ogundimu, who had been an assistant commissioner overseeing the Office of Regional Operations and Practice Improvement in CWCS since joining OCFS in 2011. Lisa is a graduate of Georgetown University and Pace University School of Law.


David Bach is the new acting associate commissioner for regional operations and quality improvement in CWCS. David joined OCFS in 2012 and had been the director of the Quality Assurance and Improvement Unit in the Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth. David is a graduate of the University at Albany and holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Nelson Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.

Lean Team Adds Seven New Empire Belts

The Office of Agency Performance Improvement (OAPI) has seven new Empire Belts who have joined the OCFS Lean team and are ready to assist on projects. Welcome to: Tamara Rivers (CWCS BRO), Andrea Weichmann-Duggan (DCCS BRO), Tanya Miles (DCCS BRO), Roshelle Walker (CWCS RRO), Renee Reed (CWCS RRO), Suzanne Colligan (CWCS SRO) and Jennifer Dunn (OAPI).

Lean is a management philosophy and a model for process re-engineering used by leading companies to make operations more efficient and effective. A key component of Lean involves training and empowering employees by engaging them in process improvement and problem-solving activities. Data collection is another central feature of a Lean project that allows us to set meaningful goals and measure our progress toward meeting them.

Recognizing the value Lean holds for transforming government, the New York State Lean Program was launched in 2013 as a method for improving the delivery of services to New Yorkers. OCFS joined the initiative soon after. Today, 46 agencies are engaged in Lean. OAPI has a growing list of more than 50 completed projects that benefit OCFS staff and the citizens we serve.

Longevity Awards Luncheon Recognizes Long-Term Dedication

Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole and her management team recognized dozens of staff who have been working to serve children and families for as long as 50 years during a luncheon at the home office on January 17, 2019. Most of the staff being recognized have 25 years of state service. The full list of honorees is shown below.

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