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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Acting Commissioner
June 2019 — Vol. 11, No. 1

The Adult Services Newsletter

A Message From the Executive Office
Certificates of Recognition to be Awarded for Excellence in Adult Services
By OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole

I have just notified local commissioners that the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) will award a new round of Certificates of Recognition for Excellence in Providing Adult Services. These certificates honor and celebrate outstanding work done by caseworkers and supervisors in Adult Protective Services (APS) and Family-Type Homes for Adults (FTHA). I invite local commissioners to consider nominating members of their staff for this award.

These certificates provide well-deserved recognition and spread good news about the APS and FTHA programs. We at OCFS want to shine a spotlight on the exemplary work of being done in this field.

Commissioners are invited to share a detailed and specific explanation of why nominees merit such recognition. Nominations should include examples of successes in dealing with difficult situations, going the extra mile, innovative programs and collaboration with other providers or systems. The deadline for submissions is July 29, 2019.

Honorees will be recognized in a variety of forums, including the annual Adult Abuse Training Institute, at local presentations as requested by local districts, on the OCFS website and in the Adult Services Newsletter. Let’s celebrate Adult Protective Services workers!

From the Director
“Best of OCFS” Honors Bureau of Adult Services and Local APS
By OCFS Bureau of Adult Services Director Alan Lawitz

On December 10, 2018, the Bureau of Adult Services was recognized by Commissioner Poole for its work in advancing the field of APS intervention in financial exploitation cases. Bureau staff presented the work done in this area and illustrated how the bureau’s work is applied in the field by local APS. We invited APS caseworker Heather Jett and APS Supervisor Jodie Smith, both of Washington County (pictured below with Paula Vielkind), to discuss a case in which APS protected an elderly disabled woman form financial exploitation by a family member. Heather and Jodie had done a terrific job on this case, and we were fortunate to be able to show a video about it that included the elderly victim, who highly praised the work of APS. We thank the commissioner for this recognition. I am honored to work with the “Best of OCFS” on a daily basis. Thanks to the Bureau of Adult Services, and to local APS, for all they do!
And to highlight good works even further, on a snowy day in February 2019, two intrepid members of the Bureau of Adult Services, Deb Greenfield and Anthony Lareau (seen below), volunteered to shovel the driveway of one of our Rensselaer neighbors, a senior. Here is photographic evidence of this good deed. Way to go!  -Alan 

 Good neighbor policy: Anthony Lareau and Deb Greenfield clear the driveway. 

St. Lawrence APS Protects Elder Financial Exploitation Victim
By Lisl Maloney, Adult Services Specialist, Bureau of Adult Services, NYS OCFS  

“It's not that I’m so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer.”

This quote from Albert Einstein aptly describes the dedicated perseverance that St. Lawrence County APS used to serve a woman in her nineties who lived in that county. She was 97 when she passed, and had lived alone in her own home in a rural setting. She had no living family and was financially secure. Over a three-year period, St. Lawrence County APS intervened five times to ensure her safety and well-being.

As is the custom in many rural communities, this woman allowed a neighboring couple to informally help her with outdoor chores and some meal preparation. While she was briefly hospitalized, these neighbors tried to steal $125,000 from her by cashing blank checks they found in her home. They didn’t know the checking account had been closed, and when the account owner’s financial planner noticed their attempts, he called the New York State police. Still, the woman allowed the couple to once again be involved in her care.

Over time, when she began to have memory issues and other age-related health problems, she allowed one of those neighbors to oversee her around-the-clock, in-home care. Eventually, her financial advisor told APS that the neighbors had persuaded his client to name one of them as her agent with power of attorney, and the other one the executor of her will. They persuaded her to change her will to name themselves as the primary beneficiaries instead of the charities she has chosen. They wrote checks out to themselves for thousands of dollars above and beyond the cost of the victim’s in-home care each month. They even go her sign the deed to her house over to them. She would later say she had no memory of these transactions.

Some people will go to great lengths to control and manipulate victims. APS discovered from home health aides that the couple arranged to forward the victim’s incoming phone calls to their phone to control her interaction with others. They told the home aides to give the woman only junk mail and to leave the rest for them to open.

When the APS caseworker shared all of this with the victim, she was shocked and dismayed, and said she did not authorize any of what her exploiters did in their efforts to socially isolate her. She agreed to cease interaction with the couple and gave permission for the APS caseworker to confront the neighbor over the phone on her behalf. A safety plan was immediately put into place where all her caregivers agreed to not allow the couple into her home again nor have any other contact with her. Her door locks were changed and the home aides prevented the neighbors from having any communication with her. She revoked the POA, and reauthorized her attorney to be her agent. Her will was changed again to reflect her true wishes. The couple agreed to return the deed to the house back to her. Authorities took the view that the damage had been reversed, and they did not pursue prosecution because they thought the victim would not be a compelling witness because of her poor memory.

This story is an excellent example of how unscrupulous people prey on vulnerable older adults by deceiving them and keeping them socially isolated. It illustrates how APS can fulfill its mission to protect victims by building trusting relationships, and by intervening with the appropriate use of community partners. APS was always respectful of the woman’s decisions and her desire to live independently. APS persistently acted in her best interest until the end when she passed peacefully in her own home in the care of hospice services.

New Recorded Trainings With State Partners Now Available on HSLC
DFS/OCFS/APS Partnership







L-R: Alan Lawitz, director of NYS OCFS Bureau of Adult Services, Bruce Wells, associate counsel at NYS Department of Financial Services, Mollie Blanchard Cearley, attorney and Excelsior fellow at NYS DFS, following a presentation of “A Partnership To Prevent & Address Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults: NYS DFS, NYS OCFS and Local APS.” This webinar was recorded on 12/6/18.









 Justice Center/Family-Type Homes for Adults Partnership To Prevent and Address Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults NYSDFS, NYSOCFS and Local APS
L-R: Davin Robinson, deputy director of outreach, prevention and support at the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (Justice Center); David Fribourg, supervising investigator at the Justice Center; and Deb Greenfield, family-type home for adults coordinator at the OCFS Bureau of Adult Services, during the presentation of Justice Center training recorded on 12/10/18.  

Staten Island APS Meets Special Needs of Immigrant Community
By Deborah Holt-Knight, Deputy Commissioner, NYC HRA APS, and
Elsie Jean-Baptiste, Director, Staten Island Field Office, NYC HRA APS

The second week of April was Immigrant Heritage Week, an event that DSS/HRA/DHS celebrates every year. This year, the decision has been made to celebrate by recognizing some of the big contributions that our staff are making to the work that we all do to support New Yorkers. At this year’s event, HRA recognized the Staten Island Adult Protective Services team for its commitment to working with immigrant communities and its dedication to the agency. The Immigrant Heritage Week celebration was held on Monday, April 15th from 11:30 - 2:30 p.m. on the 43rd floor of 4WTC/150 Greenwich Street. Commissioner Steven Banks and Grace Bonilla, the HRA administrator thanked the team members for their service. Elsie Jean-Baptiste submitted the following nomination:
The Staten Island APS office is comprised of immigrant individuals. We work as a team to provide all New-Yorkers with the best possible service in keeping with the agency’s mission. As New-Yorkers of immigrant backgrounds, we are sensitive to the special needs of the immigrant community. I am nominating the Staten Island APS staff for the enormous contributions they make to the APS program which includes language services to the immigrant population. For example, supervisor Vanessa Pagan-Torres uses her knowledge of the Spanish language and the Hispanic culture to inform clients about resources, such as senior centers, senior housing, legal services, Housing Court, doctors and mental health services. Michael Montalvo, Community Associates, helped to explain the heavy-duty cleaning process, and by speaking in the client’s native language (Spanish) helps to lower the client’s anxiety about accepting the heavy-duty cleaning which helps the agency to implement much needed home care services.

Caseworkers Marina Potashnik, Helen Khutoretsky, and supervisors Olesya Shats and Yekaterina Zozulya perform field duties to translate for immigrant clients who came from Russia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. These individuals make a great difference in the lives of all New-Yorkers but they use their knowledge of language, culture, and the country’s norms to engage the immigrant client, inform them of available resources, and help the client to accept needed services, something that caseworker Marina Potashnik has done on many occasions.

Caseworkers Karyn Pampinella, Joseph Maniscalco, Sabrina Goodman, and Clerical Associate Donna Longo are not immigrants but they make enormous contributions serving immigrant clients referred to the Staten Island APS office. Ms. Pampinella ensures that the immigrant client receives information in their native language, cash assistance, legal services to address eviction matters. Caseworker Joseph Maniscalco is the liaison to the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for the Staten Island office. He recently became involved with an immigrant client in need of NYPD services. Mr. Maniscalco obtained language assistance for the client and NYPD also provided the immigrant client with a Spanish-speaking officer to address issues related to abuse. It was important to let the client know that a crime had been committed and must be reported to law enforcement regardless of immigration status. Caseworker Sabrina Goodman came into contact with a client who did not speak English. Ms. Goodman ensured that a language interpreter visited the client to translate during the APS assessment, followed by a staff member to provide the client with the needed resources in their language. Caseworkers Adebayo Womiloju, Nnadozie Dikeocha, and Joseph Obisanya have all come into contact with immigrants from Nigeria, and between the three of them, can speak Yoruba and Ibo. The Nigerian clients have all benefited from the individual attention and services provided by the caseworkers in their native language.

Caseworker Mervat Fahmy is fluent in Arabic and has provided Arabic-speaking clients with information about resources, cash benefits, food stamps, and immigration attorneys provided by Councilwoman Debi Rose’s office. Elsie Jean-Baptiste, director, and Hylarion Pierre, a caseworker, worked with many immigrants whose native language is Haitian Creole or French. We have assisted the immigrant clients by translating from English to Haitian Creole and French, providing resources and information in the areas of housing, NYPD, legal services, ACS, Board of Education, mental health services, senior centers and social services.

As New Yorkers of immigrant backgrounds, we are proud and grateful to work for a city and program that highlight the special needs of the immigrant population. We remember when we came to New-York City and were not able to understand English. We felt invisible, isolated, scared, and unable to fully participate in our community. Thanks to the dedicated staff at APS and to a program such as the Office of Refugee & Immigrant Affairs, this is no longer the case.