Child Welfare News And Notes

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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
February 2019 — Vol. 3, No. 1

Child Welfare News and Notes

Safe Sleep Focus of Governor's Media Campaign

Stressing the need to raise awareness of safe sleep practices for infants, May will be designated Infant Safe Sleep Month as part of an effort under New York State's Justice Agenda that includes plans to launch a statewide media campaign to promote the ABCs of safe sleep - practices that have been shown to reduce the risk of child fatalities. Through its website, social media and YouTube channel, OCFS has been spreading three simple words that can save lives: alone, back, and crib.

Below, left: Getting the safe sleep message out 
at DMV offices across the state




First Mobile Child Advocacy Centers Coming In Spring

The first mobile child advocacy center is expected to be rolled out in a few months, part of a $4.45 million expansion of child advocacy centers in 10 counties. Six rural counties will receive $250,000 for the purchase of new, customized mobile units, and $50,000 a year for three years to cover the units’ operation and maintenance. The funding will aim to help large geographical counties and rural communities that often have limited access to resources and services. Mobile units are planned for St. Lawrence, Delaware, Cattaraugus, Hamilton, Steuben, and Franklin counties.

Each unit is currently being custom-built to be fully equipped with a waiting area, a child-friendly interview room, an observation room, bathroom facilities, and audio-visual equipment. The units will be staffed with a victim advocate and will enable team members to choose a centrally located safe place to meet the child and family in their own community. The goal is to reduce trauma for the families by increasing their accessibility to services in these rural communities.

The funding announced in December will expand services for children and families in Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, and Wayne counties, and will bring mobile services to St. Lawrence, Delaware, Cattaraugus, Hamilton, Steuben and Franklin Counties. The New York State Office of Victim Services is partnering with OCFS to provide the $4.45 million in federal, Victim-of-Crime-Act funding.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Dating violence is more common than many people think. Studies show one in three high school students experience either physical or sexual violence, or both, that is perpetrated by someone they are dating or going out with. During this February’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, The National Domestic Violence Hotline and its project for young people, loveisrespect, are partnering with local domestic violence and sexual assault organizations to “Huddle Up for Healthy Relationships” and prevent dating abuse.

Throughout the month, participants are encouraged to write blogs about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, respond to Twitter polls found on, shoot videos about what healthy relationships look like, download educational materials, and recognize Wear Orange for Love Day during Respect Week.

Download the “Huddle Up for Healthy Relationships” toolkit on for more engagement ideas and plug-and-play materials. Follow #HuddleUp, #TeenDVMonth, and #HealthyRelationships on social media to join the conversation.

YAB Point of View: Offering Tips for Caseworkers

The OCFS Youth Advisory Board has created caseworker guidance documents; one to assist caseworkers in properly interacting with youth, and another explaining what a quality face-to-face interaction looks like. These documents will be distributed at the KEYS Webinar for Caseworkers and future trainings. They have also been shared with voluntary agencies throughout the state. You can receive copies of the documents by emailing a request to
Below are some useful tips that can be found on the guidance documents. 
Support: When meeting with foster parent and child together, be consistent in language. To prevent the appearance of being aligned with one or the other, avoid communicating with the parent differently from the child. Make sure your actions and behaviors convey that you are supportive of the youth.
Cultural Competence: Be culturally competent in honoring each youth’s “affiliation”; don't assume pronouns.
Inform: Provide youth with the contact information for the attorney for the child.
Self-Care: Try to remember that you have one of the most important—and difficult—jobs out there. You work with children who rely on you with their entire lives. Still, the best way to help youth, is to take care of YOU first. Nobody can be perfect 100 percent of the time, but everyone can learn and grow in their field of work. If you're struggling, and you know that it will affect your work, let your supervisor know. It's okay to not be okay. Being able to recognize that self-care is important and that no one is perfect is crucial to your mental health, and overall happiness, in and out of the workplace.

Flex Funds Restored to Family Assessment Response Programs!

On December 14th, 2018, the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services issued NCCAN Funding for Family Assessment Response, a Local Commissioners Memorandum that advises local departments of social services of the availability of $100,000 in National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) funds for the improvement of active Family Assessment Response programs across the state. This money will initially be divided equally among implementing LDSSs, allowing for claims of roughly $5,000 per FAR district.
The funding is welcome news to long-standing FAR administrators in Tompkins County who remember the first round of FAR “flex funding,” and how important it was to serving their families. “The families in our district have previously benefitted through the purchases of cell phones or plan minutes to allow reliable communication with schools, physicians and employers,” said Madi Alridge, a FAR supervisor in Tompkins County. Alridge points out the funding also helped provide garbage removal; bus passes; school supplies; appliances; and furniture. “These items and services have helped families meet a minimum degree of care for their children and have provided them with the tools needed to prevent out of home care or unneeded separation.” 
Cindy Austin, a senior caseworker in the county’s FAR program, was able to purchase a bed for a family whose daughter had only a mattress. “Whenever I see this family they continue to tell me how grateful they are,” Austin said. “Their daughter did not have to sleep on the bare floor and had a bedroom that she could be proud of.”
If you are a FAR administrator and have questions about how use these funds, please email

OCFS at the NYPWA Winter Conference

The Single Audit – How Changes in Regulations Impact the State & Local Districts

This session informed districts of what to expect in 2019 as OCFS addresses findings from the Single State Audit and how recent changes in the regulatory environment impact the state and local districts. The Single State Audit provides the federal government assurance that the money that non-federal agencies receive through federal grants comply with the terms and conditions of the award and that they are reaching performance goals. Presenters were Brendan Schaefer, the director of the Office of Audit and Quality Control, and Bonnie Hahn, OCFS’s external audit liaison and internal control coordinator.
Tapping into the Power of Data in Planning for Family First Prevention Services Act
OCFS is developing county-level data packets to help counties better understand current congregate care utilization patterns and how FFPSA may affect them. Using statewide longitudinal data as an example, presenters walked attendees through the pathways children take while moving in and out of congregate care. They also showed how counties can use available data sources to evaluate placement practices, estimate assessment/bed needs, and identify opportunities for reducing congregate care usage. Presenters were OCFS research scientists Rebecca Colman, Yufan Huang, and Jessica Brown.
Flexible Fund for Family Services Web Application Demonstration – From Two Systems to One
This workshop demonstrated the new web application that has been developed to replace and combine the FFFS SharePoint and TANF Reporting and Control (TRACS 2) systems currently used for financial and programmatic planning of FFFS allocations. The new, user-friendly system is expected to go live in the SFY 2019-20 plan year.
Collaborating to Support Substance-Exposed Infants and Their Families; CARA and Plans of Safe Care
Local departments of social services took this opportunity to understand how to meet new federal requirements as part of the 2016 CARA/CAPTA legislation, which requires the Plan of Safe Care. Participants left with a better understanding of plans of safe care, and knowing how to locate appropriate prevention, treatment, and recovery services for families affected by Substance Use Disorder.
Diving into the Executive Budget
Brian Bagstad, the director of the Bureau of Budget Management, was among the presenters discussing the governor’s latest budget proposal for social services, and what it means to local districts.
A Call for Action: Addressing Racial Disparities and Promoting Race Equity in Child Welfare
This session focused on OCFS’s approach to promoting racial equity as the outcome to address disparities in out-of-home placement for children of color. Attendees discussed creating partnerships that help in engaging in their work, and the importance of including the mind science of bias. Child welfare professionals may be able to influence and collaborate with the media to change the current child welfare narrative, educate the public and enhance the image of the child welfare profession. Presenter Gregory Owens, LMSW, is the former director of strategic partnerships and collaborations at OCFS and is now a deputy commissioner at the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Non-Reimbursable Expenditures
OCFS’s chief budget analyst in the Bureau of Budget Management, Shonna Clinton, discussed strategies for counties to ensure reimbursement, and to effectively manage expenses labeled “non-reimbursable” to determine if other funding streams apply.
Raise the Age Aftercare Services: What’s Next?
Mandated aftercare services that the designated RTA voluntary agencies provide are critical to the successful Raise the Age implementation, and local districts are key partners in the effort. Acting Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey-Ogundimu and Associate Commissioner Nina Aledort were presenters during a workshop that featured agencies that have opened their programs and are developing their aftercare models and services.
Hot Topics for State & Local Fiscal Administrators
Deborah Davis, assistant director in the Bureau of Financial Operations was among the local fiscal administrators and state staff from OCFS, OTDA, and DOH who discussed fiscal issues that directly affect social services districts.
Strategies to Influence the Public Narrative in Child Welfare
Monica Mahaffey, assistant commissioner for communications, and Empire State Fellow Jennifer Maurici, LMSW, joined this panel where participants learned strategies to make known their areas of practice, policy, and research to raise awareness among the public and enhance the image of the child welfare profession.
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