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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
October 2019 — Vol. 4, No. 10

Message From the Commissioner

Commissioner Sheila Poole HeadshotThis month, OCFS celebrates another major milestone in our work. I am proud that we and our state agency partners and local stakeholders are implementing the second phase of the landmark Raise the Age law that took effect October 1, 2018 and raised the age of criminal responsibility. This law changes lives for the better by increasing opportunities for diversion and community-based programs. It has stopped 16-year-olds from being sent to adult jails, and now it is doing the same for 17-year-olds. I thank all OCFS staff who have worked tirelessly to prepare for this change and who continue to ensure that youth receive the services they need.
Raise the Age is making our communities and our state safer and will lead to more productive citizens and less incarceration--there is no question that addressing the underlying problems that bring young people into contact with the justice system in the first place is the right thing to do.
Under the Raise the Age law, young people will receive much-needed intervention and evidence-based treatment.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There is a critical need to recognize the long-lasting effects domestic violence can have on children and families, and to prevent their exposure to it. I hope you will join me in wearing purple on October 24 and celebrate our agency’s generosity in collecting backpacks of care for both male and female survivors of domestic violence. Let’s raise awareness and support all who have been affected by domestic violence.


Youth Advisory Board Tours The New York State Capitol

The OCFS Youth Advisory Board (YAB) spent some time in the halls of the state capitol on September 21, taking a tour of the building and learning more about the workings of New York State government. The board makes a difference for youth in foster care by being their voice in creating positive changes in the child welfare system. The board is comprised of up to 15 members who provide feedback on their experiences in foster care and help shape state policies and initiatives. They are young adults from all around New York State who advise and collaborate with OCFS on policy topics related to foster care as they shape their transition to independence. YAB members have presented at venues such as the OCFS Homefinders Summit, the New York Public Welfare Association’s annual conferences, and various speak-out events around the state. The board is pictured with OCFS staff members Heather Babcock and Kenneth Kirton.

Youth Advisory Board poses in front of NY state capitol

More Mobile Child Advocacy Centers Roll Out In New York State

Social services team stands in front of mobile CAC
The social services team stands in front of a new, mobile child advocacy center
Social services workers inside the CAC
Left to right: Adam Berry and Melanie Szklenka, of the OCFS Child and Family Safety Unit; OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole; Nancy Rad, board president of at the Mental Health Association in Fulton & Montgomery Counties; and Janine Dykeman, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Fulton & Montgomery Counties

A new, mobile child advocacy center (CAC) rolled out in Johnstown in late August, to serve Fulton, Montgomery and Hamilton counties. CACs are child-focused centers that coordinate the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse while helping abused children heal.

The first one rolled out in Delaware county in June and there are more to come. These units bring professionals and agencies together as a multidisciplinary team to serve thousands of children who were victims of abuse.

OCFS Encourages Father Involvement on "Dads Take Your Child To School Day"

OCFS Commissioner Poole With Schoolchildren



OCFS celebrated father engagement on September 17, Dads Take Your Child to School Day. OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole was among those greeting students and fathers at the Philip Schuyler Achievement Academy in Albany, where fathers and father figures enjoyed breakfast with their children. Similar events were held at schools throughout the state. Children whose fathers are involved in their lives are more likely to have better academic, behavioral, and social successes; more likely to earn A-grades in core subjects; have stronger verbal skills and an increased capacity to solve problems; and less likely to exhibit problem behavior in school.

Domestic Violence Awareness Activities in New York State

Image of purple ribbon

There are many events and activities scheduled for Domestic Violence Awareness Month across the country.

October 24, 2019 is National Purple Thursday,when you can wear purple to show support for survivors and for ending domestic violence.

A Backpack of Care
OCFS staff is stepping up this month to fill backpacks for DV survivors. The goal is to help them feel cared for and meet their immediate needs when escaping a violent environment. The filled backpacks will be donated to local domestic violence programs for women and men who need them. They will all contain a towel and washcloth, t-shirt, sweatpants, pen/pencil and notebook. Other suggested items: deodorant, facewash, lip balm, makeup wipes, shaving items, journal/day planner, twin sheet sets, small umbrellas, diapers (size 4,5,6), baby wipes, socks, slipper socks, slippers, flip flops, refillable water bottle, soaps/shampoo/dry shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair brush, hair ties, hair products. At 1 p.m. on October 17, filled backpacks will be collected from collection sites in the home office’s South Building lobby, the Human Services Call Center in Schenectady, outside the control room at the SCR and in the staff cafeteria at the Human Services Training Center.

Domestic violence is when a person does things to control someone else in an intimate relationship. A shift in power can happen so slowly over time that the other person may not even remember when it happened; it can also happen quickly after some sort of commitment or a change in the relationship. Physical abuse is only one of many ways a partner might try to gain power and control in a relationship.

The New York State Domestic Violence Prevention Act was enacted in 1987 to support services for victims of domestic violence and their children. This law requires counties to provide shelter and services to victims of domestic violence and establishes mainstream funding mechanisms for these programs.

OCFS created regulations to promote standards for the establishment and maintenance of residential and non-residential domestic violence programs, and establish local department of social services responsibility for financial and contractual arrangements with providers of domestic violence residential services. The agency lists domestic violence services providers on its website.
The New York State Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-942-6906. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233. For more information on domestic violence, visit opdv.ny.gov.

Kinship Care Month Finds OCFS at the 2019 Kinship Navigator Awards Luncheon

Gerard Wallace standing next to Commissioner Poole




Commissioner Poole joined those who gathered for the NYS Kinship navigator’s annual awards luncheon, held this year in Colonie on September 17. The Kinship Navigator team is one of OCFS’s valued partners and is a bridge between kinship programs and regional permanency resource centers, whose services support families who have a newly-adopted child or have become guardians of a relative’s child. The commissioner is seen here presenting the Kinship Care Month proclamation to Gerard Wallace, director of the NYS Kinship Navigator.

Goshen Secure Center Displays Youth Art

OCFS youth at Goshen Secure Center showed some of their talents this month, displaying artwork that included paints and a papier-mâché "buffet."

A quilt of art produced by youth

A papier mache buffet that looks like real food


Coming Next Month: RHY Conference

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