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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
May 2019 — Vol. 4, No. 5

Message from the Commissioner

OCFS never stops working to promote positive outcomes for youth in the foster care system. For their diligent efforts to improve the lives of vulnerable children, adults, and families, I commend OCFS staff during this National Foster Care Month. OCFS also salutes relatives caring for youth through Kinship Care placement and foster families caring for children statewide.
Our goal is to provide safe, nurturing homes where caring foster parents can enrich children’s lives. Our support and partnerships with local departments of social services, the court system, community non-profits, congregate foster care programs and advocates are critical in accomplishing this challenge. This year’s theme for National Foster Care Month, “Foster Care as Support for Families, not a Substitute for Parents” reminds us of the importance of our efforts to keep families together whenever it is safely possible.

I would like to recognize the value of the Youth Advisory Board, a panel whose members are ages 18-24 and make a difference for youth in care by giving them the voice to help create positive changes in the foster care system. Their invaluable experience and knowledge enable them to provide feedback that helps to shape state policies and initiatives, and they advise and collaborate with OCFS on foster care.

Youth who have aged out of foster care require support and can prepare for independence as an adult by going to college with funding and support from the Education and Training Voucher program. They may also find inspiration in New York State’s Youth in Care Corner, which supports foster children who want to go to college.

Programs and services are only the beginning. Our mission also requires providers whose expertise and caring attention can support New York’s vulnerable children and adults, and it takes loving family members to bring it all together. I truly thank all of you who play a role in improving the lives of New Yorkers.



Grand Opening of Human Services Training Center Highlights Enhanced Services

OCFS celebrated the grand opening of its Human Services Training Center in East Greenbush on April 18, opening the doors to a facility that sets the standard for the integration of technology with training. It provides centralized, standardized, state-of-the-art training for human services professionals statewide, including state and county caseworkers and child welfare supervisors, voluntary agency staff, juvenile justice professionals, child care licensors and child abuse specialists. More than 20,000 professionals will be trained here in 2019, and many more in the years ahead. The HSTC's 97,000 square-foot area (on a site where K-Mart used to stand) includes more than the traditional classrooms and computer laboratories. Cutting-edge simulation rooms allow for hands-on training in lifelike environments designed to mimic such places as an apartment, a day care center, a group family child care program and a juvenile justice facility.

“This is a way to lift up the challenging work of the human services workforce and recognize that they are so deserving of this investment in their training and development as professionals,” said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole. “The work done here will make a real difference in the lives of children and families throughout New York State.”

The HSTC will help counties and not-for-profit agencies statewide by better preparing employees for work in the field, training them with industry best practices, and hopefully positively impacting employee retention.

Joining the commissioner were East Greenbush Supervisor Jack Conway, Michael McMahon, commissioner of the Montgomery County Department of Social Services, Theresa Beaudoin, commissioner of the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services, Gail Geohagen-Pratt, commissioner of the Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families, and Beth McCarthy, OCFS’s director of training. The event attracted the attention of several media outlets including television stations WTEN and Spectrum News, and the Times Union.
An audience in an auditorium listens to the commissioner speak. A tour group visits a simulation room that looks like an apartment


Ceremonies at Capitol, Huyck Memorial Park Shine Light on Child Abuse Prevention

As pinwheels spun in the sunshine at Rensselaer’s Huyck Memorial Park on April 17, symbols of a joyful, carefree life all children deserve, OCFS staff gathered with colleagues and some of those they serve to celebrate Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. Most were wearing something blue in honor of “Wear Blue day” to raise awareness. Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole spoke of the need to remember the importance of preventive practices that can protect children and families.

Below, members of the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health
Center, with the commissioner










The agency's traditional pinwheel planting in the park included Theresa Beaudoin, the director of Rensselaer County’s Department of Social Services and a delegation from the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center. The Troy Record ran OCFS’s photo (above) in the paper’s “Snapshot” section. The staff from the health center joined OCFS staff inside the home office for a “baby shower” where the health center was presented with donated baby items collected by OCFS employees.

On April 2, OCFS staff joined friends from Prevent Child Abuse New York in Albany, along with Assembly Member Patricia Fahy. Commissioner Poole presented PCANY Executive Director Tim Hathaway with a proclamation from the Governor.

"It really is about partnerships," said the commissioner, "with all of you advocates, our foster care programs, our local departments of social services, our kinship families and Kinship Navigator, and the thousands of individuals." WRGB-TV covered this event, bringing awareness of the need for prevention efforts with viewers in the capital region.
During April, consumers who called the OCFS Human Services Call Center may have heard a recording suggesting things anyone can do to help prevent abuse:

• You can offer your time to babysit when a parent you know needs a little break.
• You can lend a hand to a parent who seems frustrated with their child’s behavior.
• Tell parents they are doing a great job when they do things for their children.
•  If you know someone who could use some parenting resources, call 1-800-CHILDREN.

Accredited HFNY Program Continues to Strengthen Families

OCFS’s home visiting program, Healthy Families New York, has been fully accredited by Healthy Families America, having demonstrated adherence to best practices in the program’s policies, training, quality assurance/technical assistance, evaluation, and administrative guidance. It shows that all of the programs that visit homes provide high quality service.

In a letter from the president of Prevent Child Abuse America and the director of Healthy Families America said, OCFS staff was told the accrediting agencies are “honored to be associated with you and your colleagues. We wish you the very best in your continuing service to families in your community.” The accreditation process began in November 2017 and remains for five years.

“Healthy Families New York’s 43 programs served nearly 6,000 families with more than 71,000 home visits last year, said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole. “We are proud to support these programs that are proven to contribute to positive and lasting outcomes for families throughout New York State.” “We congratulate all the Healthy Families New York programs on their re-accreditation and impactful work with families across the state.”

Healthy Families New York (HFNY) offers home-based services to expectant families and new parents, beginning prenatally or shortly after the birth of the child. Participants are screened to identify risk factors and stressors that the family may face. Families who participate in the program are offered long-term in-home services until the child is in school or Head Start.

OCFS Teams Up With State Parks for Foster Care Month

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and OCFS are once again celebrating foster families by presenting Empire Passes that will help families explore the outdoors and visit state parks throughout the summer. During Foster Care Awareness month in May, foster families statewide are participating in a first-come, first-served basis to apply for the passes, which provide for day-use vehicle entry to the state parks and many other state recreation facilities for the calendar year.

Family activities such as vacations and camping trips can provide opportunities to strengthen the bond between family members; build positive shared memories than can help children and adults to cope in times of stress; and allow personal growth through exposure to new environments and learning about different places.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help reduce the stress that can sometimes come with being in foster care, and increase the positive feelings that outdoor recreation produces,” said OCFS acting Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “This kind of support can enrich lives and create beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.”

Bring Your Child to Work Day

When OCFS staff were invited to bring their children to work for this special event dozens responded enthusiastically and seized the opportunity to let the kids learn more about their parents’ workplace and add a little variety to their school vacations. The event was a success at the home office and regional offices. After checking in upon arrival at the home office, children had a chance to see where the work is done and meet some of their parents’ coworkers. A gathering in Room 102 included arts and crafts, games, snacks, safety presentations by OCFS Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Taylor and the state police, and demonstrations of how OCFS serves vulnerable New Yorkers.

2019 AmeriCorps Service Summit in Buffalo

On May 7th and 8th, the New York State Commission on National and Community Service will welcome more than 300 AmeriCorps members and staff from programs across the state to its AmeriCorps Service Summit in Buffalo. The summit will celebrate the service and commitment of AmeriCorps members, and marks the 25th anniversary of the AmeriCorps program.
The service project at Niagara Falls State Park is the highlight of the event. The entire AmeriCorps member cohort will travel to Niagara Falls State Park where they will take part in a service activity to clean up and beautify the park. Members will take part in clean-up activities such as weeding, mulching, planting, and trash pickup. The commission is excited to have AmeriCorps members preserving one of our greatest natural treasures.


Child Care Services Encourages "Thank You" Notes on Provider Appreciation Day May 10

Friday, May 10 is Provider Appreciation Day, a way to thank child care providers, teachers, school-age program staff, child care center directors and staff, and all of those who work with children and are responsible for their education and care. OCFS recognizes and values the work of child care providers every day. Please join OCFS in thanking the dedicated child care providers and educators in New York for their hard work and commitment to New York State's most precious investment–our children.

Mary Carli Returns to OCFS as Associate Commissioner for Human Resources


Mary Carli was appointed as the associate commissioner overseeing the Office of Human Resources, effective April 18, 2019. She is responsible for the direction, coordination and integration of all OCFS human resource programs, including personnel, labor relations, the Bureau of Training and Development, special investigations, and emergency preparedness. Carli most recently served as a director at the New York State Department of Civil Service. Her 19 years of experience with New York State include seven at OCFS, where she was assistant director of personnel and then as the associate director of human resources.

Fourth Annual Anti-Trafficking Summit Scheduled for June

The Fourth Annual OCFS Anti-Trafficking Summit will be held June 11-12, 2019, at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center, starting at 9:30 a.m. on the 11th.
Registration is open. Scheduled keynote presentations include Rachel Lloyd’s talk on developing leadership with the youth we serve; and Alia Whitney-Johnson of Freedom Forward and Ifasina Clear of the Young Women’s Freedom Center discussing the voice of youth in preventing trafficking.


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