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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
August 2019 — Vol. 4, No. 8

Message From the Commissioner

OCFS Commissioner PooleAs the 2019 edition of the Great New York State Fair approaches, I would like to offer a special thank you to the OCFS staff who volunteer to work behind the OCFS table greeting our fellow New Yorkers and sharing information about our agency’s services.

While hundreds of thousands of fair visitors come for the fair’s food, recreation, and entertainment, a huge number of them talk with us about state services and job opportunities; and OCFS is always excited to promote our work. From our booth in the Science and Industry Building, we welcome the opportunity to share information about child abuse prevention, foster care, adoption, child care, adult protective services and contributing to the safety, permanency and well-being of New York’s families. Visitors will see our agency’s safe sleep videos that have been presented on social media and throughout the state—the same video that has been supporting New York State's infant safe sleep initiative. As they learn about our services, those who stop at our booth will also have a chance to see testimonials from inspiring New Yorkers who have experience in foster care and share stories with prospective foster parents about how a foster family can mean the world to a child who needs one.

OCFS makes a profound difference in New Yorkers’ lives when we find adoptive and foster parents; assist with new child care programs, point youth toward a productive and stable life; protect vulnerable and older adults; and assist blind New Yorkers in achieving independence and finding employment.

I hope you have an opportunity to get to the fair and enjoy some rest and relaxation during the last month of summer before school starts—you deserve it! I am truly grateful for all you do to fulfill our mission of promoting the safety and well-being of children and families. Thank you!


Youth Advisory Board Publications Share the Vision and Voices of Youth in Foster Care

A poster with inspiring messagesThe OCFS Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is putting their collective experience to work with several resources to assist foster parents in building successful, trusting relationships that lead to positive outcomes. The materials the youth produced include What Foster Parents Should Know, a list of tips and insights into good communications, Caseworker Guidance, created to help caseworkers be better equipped for face-to-face meetings between them, the youth in their care and foster parents, contact cards for youth in care, I Promise, a message that might be displayed in residential settings, group homes, and foster homes to provide a sense of support from adult caregivers to the youth in care, and What Does a Quality Caseworker Look Like? a list of seven ideas caseworkers can keep in mind.
The YAB makes a difference for youth in care by giving them the voice to help create positive changes in the foster care system. The board is comprised of up to 15 members who help shape state policies and initiatives by sharing their experiences in foster care. These young adults from all around New York State advise and collaborate with OCFS on policy topics related to foster care as they transition to independence. YAB members have spoken at venues such as this year’s OCFS Anti-Trafficking Conference in Syracuse and various speak-out events around the state.


New York State Office of Children and Family Services to Donate 22,000 Portable Cribs to Child Care Providers to Promote Safe Sleep for Babies

OCFS is using money from the federal Child Care and Development Fund to provide more than 22,000 Pack ‘n Play cribs to home-based day care providers statewide. Legally-exempt, family child care, and group family child care programs across New York State are each eligible for one crib. The safe sleep Pack ‘n Plays are being given free of charge.

Each year in the United States, nearly 3,500 infants die in unsafe sleep environments. OCFS is providing the Pack ‘n Play cribs to promote safe sleep practices for our youngest New Yorkers. All child care providers should follow the ABCs of safe sleep.

“Every person who cares for an infant under one year of age should know the ABCs of safe sleep. Babies must be: Alone on their Backs in a Crib with no blankets, bumpers, or stuffed animals,” said OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “Caregivers should never place unnecessary items around infants in their care and should never have multiple infants in a single crib.”

A baby in a crib“When parents entrust their infant’s care to a provider, they deserve peace of mind,” said Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Child Care Services Janice Molnar. “New York works closely with child care providers to keep children safe, and through this initiative, every home-based child care program can have a crib for children under one year of age.”

“The tragic and heartbreaking death of an infant due to unsafe sleep practices is avoidable with proper education and resources,” said Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services Lisa Ghartey-Ogundimu. “It is our hope that, through these initiatives, child care providers will learn about Safe Sleep and implement the practices in their homes to keep children safe.”

The Pack ‘n Play giveaway complements other state efforts to educate parents, grandparents, and caregivers about sleep safety, including broadcasting safe sleep public service announcements at New York State Thruway rest stops; Department of Motor Vehicles offices; Woman, Infants, and Children centers; and other public settings. OCFS is also giving away 10,000 Safe Sleep Kits that contain an infant safe sleep sack, book, window cling, and door hanger.

New York State has seen a 26% decrease in infant mortality over the past 15 years. Educational campaigns, such as this initiative, help the state build upon the success of promoting safe sleep. Information on how to request a crib and more on safe sleep is available on the OCFS website.

OCFS Youth Earn Diplomas, Celebrate Successes

Plans are underway at Brookwood Secure Center for a graduation ceremony later this summer where OCFS youth who have been focusing on positive development will be recognized and celebrated for their academic accomplishments. Students in other residential centers saw their good works honored earlier this season:

A staff member congratulates a youth


Red Hook Residential Center
Red Hook celebrated its successes with an end-of-the-school-year Hawaiian-style luau where students built volcanoes, presented writings on diversity and on the meaning of the Juneteenth holiday, and designed protective packages that would keep an egg from breaking in a10-foot fall. One of the youth division aides fired up the grill and served what one staff member called the best BBQ in the Hudson Valley to show the staff’s appreciation. The day included activities to promote diversity while identifying residents’ similarities.


A staff member presents a diploma to a youth and shakes his hand

Goshen Secure Center
Goshen had two young men who worked hard to further their education; one received his high school diploma and is now enrolled in Goshen’s college program. He takes advantage of all enhancement programs, is a certified barber, and passed the Cleaning Management Institute exams. The second student came to Goshen with a 5th grade education four years ago and is part of the Summer Youth Employment Program. He, too, is interested in barbering and is working toward certification. Goshen also recognized a student who received the President’s Award from Columbia-Greene Community College. The award is for excellent scholastic achievement. He is continuing his college education through the Brookwood college program. The families of the three students attended the ceremony and luncheon that followed.


A speaker addresses four seated graduates who wear red gowns and mortar boards

MacCormick Secure Center
MacCormick’s graduation ceremony included four youth, two of whom earned a high school diploma and two who earned their Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC). The center also celebrated the overall achievement of its education and vocational programs. In the 2018-2019 school year, MacCormick youth earned five Home Builders Institute (HBI) certificates, four Cleaning Management Institute certificates, four ServeSafe certificates, six Red Cross CPR-FA-AED certificates, six OSHA 10 certificates, six Highway Safety and Flagging certificates, and sixteen NWRC certificates.


A graduate in a purple gown and mortar board accepts her diplomaHarriet Tubman Residential Center
On June 21, 2019, most of the facility staff, nine youth and 17 of their family members, and 21 agency staff attended the Graduation/Grand Re-Opening of Harriet Tubman Residential Center. Guests and visitors entered into gardens designed and planted by youth and facility staff, and were entertained by the youth step/dance team. A ceremony to recognize youth and program achievements followed.


All youth were recognized for academic and vocational achievements during the academic year, including grade level advancement, Regents achievements and completion of credentialed workshops. Three youth were recognized for completing a 10-week cosmetology certificate program at Cayuga/Onondaga BOCES. The facility staff and guests celebrated the graduation of one youth who earned her TASC diploma and was accepted and enrolled into Jefferson Community College. The facility kitchen and culinary staff provided an exceptional lunch. The day wrapped up with an afternoon of Field Day events and competitions.

OCFS Regional Manager Inducted Into Hall of Heroes

Frances Franco Montero has been inducted into the Child Care Council of Westchester's Hall of Heroes, "in recognition of outstanding talent and exceptional dedication to the early education field." Montero began her career at OCFS nearly 30 years ago. She is the regional manager of OCFS's Division of Child Care Services office in in Valhalla, which was formerly in Spring Valley. In presenting its citation, the council said, "The constant throughout Frances' impressive and influential career is how deeply she cares for children and her unswerving focus on their well-being."


A certificate and a star-shaped trophy

CFRTs Gather for 2019 Conference

A room of people listening to Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey-Ogundimu
This year’s Child Fatality Review Team Conference highlighted the efforts OCFS is making to reduce the number of needless child fatalities attributed to unsafe sleeping practices, including its role in fulfilling New York State's “Infant Safe Sleep Month” initiative in May.

On July 23, Michael Miller, a child and family services specialist in the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services, encouraged the audience to share and retweet posts from the OCFS Facebook and Twitter pages related to safe sleep, and spoke of the visibility of his team’s work through videos seen playing at rest stops along the New York State Thruway and in DMV offices across the state. The conference included presentations from Noel Hengelbrook, a key developer of a review process in Tennessee that was the first of its kind to take into account human factors in the review of critical incidents by child welfare agencies. He has worked with several state agencies in the U.S. to improve their review processes.











Above and right: OCFS Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey-Ogundimu welcomes the CFRTs.
Left: Michelle Maye of the NYC Administration for Children's Services and OCFS’s Michael Miller highlight efforts to promote safe sleep practices.

Paula O’Brien, the director of the state’s Division of Consumer Protection also presented on the safety of children, and Anthony DeVincenzo, a training specialist at the Northeaster Regional Children’s Advocacy Center shared his experiences investigating crimes against children during a long career in law enforcement, which included a stint as supervisor of a sex crimes/child endangerment unit.

NYS Salutes 150 Years of the NYPWA

OCFS Commissioner Poole speaks at a lectern with two people seated nearby

The New York Public Welfare Association’s summer conference in Saratoga Springs included a celebration of the association’s 150th anniversary and its “voice of leadership and expertise in forming a strong foundation of socials services for generations of New Yorkers who have looked to –and found –assistance through its statewide affiliates.” OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole was among those commending NYPWA for its work over the years, and was joined by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner Mike Hein in presenting the governor’s citation that lauds NYPWA’s dedication to improving social welfare policies’ quality and effectiveness.
The conference ran from July 15-17, and included OCFS participation in several workshops and discussions:
The uploads functionality in CONNECTIONS is an example of how OCFS is working to improve the CONNECTIONS user experience. The discussion of this new functionality included program and policy implications and an overview of the transition to a Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System. 
OCFS Presenters: Sandra Carrk, CCWIS project director, Kathryn Shelton, associate commissioner. Julie Moessner, business analyst, Jason DeSantis, program manager
·         Next Steps in Implementing the Requirements of the Child Care and Development Block Grant
This interactive workshop provided an overview of the recent changes to New York State’s statutes and how they will affect the health and safety of children served by the child care subsidy program; it provided an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss progress in implementing the federal Child Care and Development Fund regulations and the potential impact that this next round of changes will have on families, child care providers, and local districts. 
OCFS Presenters: Robert Korycinski, director of administrative operations, Merideth Bastiani, child care subsidy program manager
·         What’s New in Adult Services Data
This workshop provided updates regarding data and data systems for adult protective services and the family-type home for adults (FTHA) programs. For APS, this included caseloads and types of referrals, representative payee, guardianship, “15 Day Letters” and Special Proceedings relating to suspected abuse in power of attorney cases; proposed new reportable data elements relating to costs of financial exploitation and case outcomes, the National Adult Maltreatment Reporting System and more. For FTHA, this included an update on the development of a new database to address certification and enforcement. 
OCFS Presenters: Alan Lawitz, director, Bureau of Adult Services, Deborah Greenfield, FTHA coordinator and adult services specialist, Michael Cahill, adult services specialist
·         A Walk-Through of the Local Planning Guide for Raise the Age Funding
A review of the OCFS components of the Raise the Age Local Planning Guide 
OCFS Presenters: Shonna Clinton, chief budgeting analyst, David Haase, principal accountant 
·         Hot Topics for State and Local Fiscal Administrators
A discussion of fiscal issues directly affecting social services districts, including CFCO financing, Title IV-E Enhanced Monitoring and Claims Review, local district trainee travel reimbursement, Fiscal Reference Manual updates, and temporary housing. 
OCFS Presenters: Deborah K. Davis, assistant director, Bureau of Financial Operations, Nicole Newcomb, principal accountant, Title IV-E Unit, Bureau of Financial Operations, Holly Garcia, supervising accountant, Local Claiming Unit, Bureau of Financial Operations, Bryan Bagstad, director, Bureau of Budget Management 
·         Using Family Assessment Response with Families Experiencing Domestic Violence
A training focused on the benefits of using a differential response in domestic violence cases, shifting CPS intervention from a focus on an incident to a focus on service delivery to support parents in providing safety and well-being for their children. 
OCFS Presenter: Candace Calabrese, CPS/DV program manager, Bureau of Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Support
·         The Future of PINS: Understanding and Planning for Changes to Article 7 for 2020
This presentation reviewed changes and opportunities for youth and families. 
OCFS Presenters: Nina Aledort, deputy commissioner, Cassandra Kelleher-Donnaruma, Esq., associate attorney, Jillian Faison, legislative coordinator, Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu, Esq., deputy commissioner, Derek Holtzclaw, deputy commissioner, Bryan Bagstad, director, Bureau of Budget Management, Sonia Meyer, Esq., associate counsel
Moving in the Right Direction - The New Consolidated 1915(c) Children's Waiver 
This session gave an overview of the new design of the children’s waiver and how it supports the Medicaid Redesign Team goals; discussed the process to refer a child to the waiver and how a level of care determination is made; and looked at the next steps in the transition to Medicaid managed care. 
OCFS Presenter: Mimi Weber, director, Bureau of Waiver Management
·         Continuity of Operations Planning
A roundtable that covered all areas of continuity of operations and allowed presenters to provide updates on recent activities and changes as well as the evolution of COPs. 
OCFS Presenter: Steve Taylor, agency emergency manager
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