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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Commissioner
June 2019 — Vol. 4, No. 6

Message From the Commissioner

June is Pride Month and OCFS is celebrating with events designed to promote understanding and inclusion. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, where LGBTQ New Yorkers fought back against the harassment and persecution they suffered for simply being who they are.

Discrimination against the LGBTQ community is harmful in many ways. LGBTQ youth have higher rates of depression, anxiety, homelessness and suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Parents, guardians and other influential adults working with LGBTQ youth can help them feel supported. As youth-serving individuals, we can be allies of LGBTQ youth. Allies support and celebrate the LGBTQ community and celebrates LGBTQ pride.

In the 50 years since the Stonewall riots, New York has celebrated several momentous steps in achieving equality for LGBTQ citizens. 1970 marked the first “Gay Liberation Day” march in New York City. In 1987, the group Act Up was founded to bring attention to AIDS-related issues. Eight years ago, New York became the most populous state to enact a marriage equality law – four years before the federal government required states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. New York passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in 2002 and the Gender Non-Discrimination Act this year.

I hope you will celebrate Pride Month by being an ally to a youth. It is important that all youth, regardless of how they identify, feel safe and supported. I encourage you to participate in the OCFS Pride Month activities to learn more.


OCFS Issues Advantage After School Program Request for Proposals

On May 3, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) invited not-for-profit, community-based organizations to submit proposals for the development of quality after-school programs based on the Advantage After School Program (AASP). These programs, in partnership with local schools, offer a broad range of educational, recreational, cultural, and age-appropriate activities in a safe environment; they integrate what happens in the school day with less formal learning experiences, and encourage the active participation of children, youth and families in the design and delivery of program activities.

Children who participate in quality after-school programs have higher school attendance and academic achievement, and are less likely to be involved in risky behaviors during after-school hours. Youth who do not participate in after-school activities are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, use drugs, and participate in premature sexual activity. Research shows that most of the crime committed by or against youth occurs between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Studies have found that children who attend quality after school programs have better relationships with other students involved in the programs, less behavioral and emotional problems, better grades and fewer absences from school than their peers who are unsupervised after school. AASP was created to help provide New York State’s children with educational, interesting and fun activities to fill the vital three-hour gap directly after school.

In safe and supervised after-school environments offered through AASPs, school-age children and youth are given the opportunity to have positive experiences that encourage good choices for their futures. These programs create enhanced settings where children can grow as individuals. One of the key components for AASPs is having both youth and family involvement in the program planning process and implementation. Youth and family participation, aligned with the partnerships that are formed through school and community, form the foundation upon which the AASPs are built.
A key to any working family structure is having good after-school programs in place. OCFS currently funds 137 contracts that include 177 program sites through AASP. The programs currently serve approximately 17,000 children.

Foster Care Awareness Month Highlights Need for Caring Families

During Foster Care Awareness Month in May, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and OCFS again celebrated foster families by inviting them to explore the outdoors and visit state parks. Five-hundred foster families received free Empire Passes to enjoy state parks all summer long. The pass provides for day-use vehicle entry to the state parks and many other state recreation facilities for the calendar year.

OCFS also used social media to spread the word about the need for caring families and the extent to which a loving, stable home can change a child’s life. Videos posted on Facebook and Twitter can also be viewed on the agency’s YouTube channel, including one presented by the OCFS Youth Advisory Board. There are approximately 15,000 children in foster care throughout New York State. These families undergo foster parent training and willingly open their homes to children to provide a safe, nurturing environment.


Infant Safe Sleep Month Raises Awareness, Aims To Save Lives

OCFS and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) joined in promoting safe sleep practices and helping New Yorkers prevent infant deaths from unsafe sleep environments. As announced in the State of the State address this year, the two agencies will provide 10,000 safe sleep kits to hospitals, local departments of social services and community-based organizations statewide to promote safe sleep education.

Each year in the United States, nearly 3,500 infants die in unsafe sleep environments. The governor directed DOH and OCFS to launch a statewide public awareness campaign to spread the word about preventing such tragedies. The safe sleep kits contain information on the ABC’s of safe sleep: babies are safest Alone on their Backs in a Crib, with a book for parents and a window cling to remind caregivers of safe sleep practices. It also contains an infant sleep sack, a safe alternative to a blanket.  

Above: OCFS’s social media sites shared safe sleep practices.

“Every parent should know the ABC’s of safe sleep: infants sleep safest when they are Alone on their Backs in a Crib without blankets, pillows, bumpers, or stuffed animals,” said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “Sleep-related deaths are preventable, and this campaign will give parents and other caregivers the tools and information they need to keep their babies safe.”The state was running public service announcements at New York State Thruway rest stops, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, Women, Infant, and Children centers and other public places. OCFS will also distribute cribs and Pack ‘n Play playards to family child care programs and day care centers throughout the state.







 Above: One of 10,000 safe sleep kits

Right: An Albany television station visits the OCFS Human Services Training Center for a story on safe sleep.


NYSCB App Serves Blind Vendors

The New York State Commission for the Blind’s (NYSCB) Business Enterprise Program (BEP) is testing a mobile inspection application designed to allow blind vendors to immediately hear the results of monthly, on-site health and safety inspections – an advance in service from the days when vendors signed handwritten documents to acknowledge what inspectors had noted in their report.

The application – in limited use at the moment – helps to streamline inspections that were previously recorded on paper. Using this new tool, some agency administrators have been managing assignments, inspectors can access previous inspections, and they can enter new inspections using electronic devices. After an inspection is completed, vendors can hear a playback of the report. The tool also allows for reports to be emailed to the vendor, to be read independently with the use of adaptive devices, and to district offices for filing.

The BEP was created via the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936 and paved the way for government statutes that provide a "priority" for blind vendors to operate food service facilities in federal and state buildings. Any New York State resident who is legally blind or deaf-blind and is a United States citizen may be eligible for this program.

New York State Commission for the Blind Signs Updated Agreement With NYS Preferred Source Program for New Yorkers who are Blind

The NYSCB and the New York State Preferred Source Program for New Yorkers who are Blind (NYSPSP) are again joining forces to create employment opportunities for New Yorkers who are blind.

The signing of an updated and expanded Letter of Designation helps to create employment opportunities for the blind. The NYSPSP works to create these jobs as part of a collaborative effort between several parties that includes input from 10 affiliated, nonprofit agencies across New York that employ people who are blind. The agreement enables NYSPSP and NYSCB to continue partnering with private companies to combine and maximize resources, and enhance competitiveness for contracts and other professional biddings.

“These agencies provided more than 450 employees who are blind with nearly 180,000 hours of direct labor employment, said NYSCB Associate Commissioner Brian S. Daniels. “Last year, these employees earned more than two million dollars, helping to bring independence for themselves and a boost for New York’s economy and tax base.”

“We are committed to not only providing new jobs for New Yorkers who are blind, but also increasing the possibilities for advancement to management positions and greater income potential,” said NYSPSP Executive Director Carrie Laney.

State and local agencies are required to purchase certain products and services produced by the affiliated nonprofit agencies in New York that employ people who are blind or visually impaired. The program offers more than 1,500 products and services to state and local government customers. The initial letter of designation was signed in 2012. Since then, the NYSPSP program has seen 30 percent increase in labor hours generated by the program, and an almost a two-fold increase in total wages paid to blind New Yorkers. Two out of three working-age blind New Yorkers are unemployed.

Industry, Boys and Girls Club Work Together on Common Goal

Industry Residential Center is committed to offering its residents programs and opportunities that benefit the youth in numerous ways. One way is by hosting the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester five days a week. The club is a great organization that shares many of OCFS's goals.

The recreation department and a representative of the club host a facility-wide program where the main emphasis is to mentor youth and teach them positive social life skills. It's treated as a transitional program that can connect youth with their local Boys and Girls Club after release, with guidance from youth counselors and Community Multi-Services Offices.










Youth engage through games, sports, music and other recreational offerings. There is also a literacy initiative that is separate from the youths' regular studies, and is expected to be extremely beneficial. The initiative offers youth a wide variety of books to choose from and will meet many interests. 

"Industry is proud to have its recreation department collaborating with the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester to bring the youth a wide array of activities that contribute to positive behavior and character building in its youth," said Facility Director Cory Jackson. "This program prides itself on its ability to mentor youth positively and act as a multiservice transitional program to give youth positive opportunities upon leaving the facility."

Energy Warriors Return to Home Office for Second Impressive Year

The second Energy Warriors competition for youth in our care was held May 23 at the home office in Rensselaer. These youth have been making a determined effort toward a stable future. In some cases that means college; for others, employment in the building trade. Fueled by a drive to build the fastest solar-powered car and encouraged by a dedicated team of teachers who include members of Cornell Cooperative Extension, OCFS youth who are part of the "EW" team are showing promise and building pride year after year.

Weatherization training supplements the Energy Warriors program, which teaches green technology skills while helping the agency comply with Executive Order 88 to improve energy efficiency. The program has allowed youth to assemble solar panels, construct platforms for them and install them, which involves digging trenches, sawing the blacktop, and running and installing wires into meters. The EW program has been featured as being among the Best of OCFS and was the recipient of a prestigious BuildSmart NY Facility Star Award at the New York Power Authority Innovators summit in 2015.  


OCFS Youth Offer Crafts at Home Office Kiosk Sale

OCFS youth who visited the home office were a huge hit with their amazing variety of crafts and baked goods on offer during the 2019 Spring Kiosk Sale. Cookies, cakes, and several other types of sweet treats disappeared quickly as staff lined up to make their purchases. Flower pots, cutting boards, and Adirondack chairs were among the creations the youth produced and presented so well.

Residential Center's Pheasant Program Enhances Education for Youth

Industry Residential Center accepted 250 pheasant chicks from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) this spring, in preparation for Industry’s fifth year raising birds until they are mature enough to be released. The chicks are near the end of the brooding stage, when staff and residents move them to the outdoor rearing pen to continue growing and developing their brilliant adult plumage.

In early fall, Industry staff will coordinate with DEC to plan the birds’ release on New York State properties. Over the last few years, Industry has released nearly 750 birds into the wild. Youth who have experienced this program in the past were very interested in the behavior of the birds. Industry staff and residents alike are looking forward to another successful year.

Fourth Annual Anti-Trafficking Summit Scheduled for This Month

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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