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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Acting Commissioner
December 2019 — Vol. 3, No. 4

Supporting Children and Families: An International Theme

This fall, South Korean delegates visiting the United States made sure to include a visit to OCFS on their itinerary. Members of the OCFS Healthy Families New York team and the New York State Council on Children and Families (Council) hosted the five delegates who were interested in learning how New York State supports children with special needs.

The HFNY team members explained that when children are identified as needing developmental support services, Healthy Families provides in-home visiting services and links families to appropriate services, including Department of Health early intervention programs. Council staff outlined the different statewide support systems and explained the State Education Department’s role and the transition of children qualifying for intervention services from the DOH to SED at age three.

Voluntary Agency Summit Focuses on Family First

Participating in a listening forum about Family First at the Voluntary Agency Summit from left to right are OCFS staff: Deputy Commissioner of Administration Derek Holtzclaw, Division of Child Welfare and Community Services Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu; Commissioner Sheila J. Poole; and Kerri Neifeld, Assistant Secretary for Human Services and Mental Hygiene.

“I want everyone to write down five things that mean the most to you,” instructed Vincent Madera at the start of his presentation on family engagement at the third annual New York State Voluntary Agency Summit.

Participants thought for a minute and scribbled down five words.

“Everyone have five?” asked Madera, program director for permanency supports at The Children’s Village.

“OK, good. Now, I want you to cross out one of those things.”

There were some furrowed eyebrows as attendees contemplated which one to remove.

“OK, now one more,” he continued. “That’s it. One more.”

There was a collective sigh in the room. This was becoming harder.

“Sorry, two more, just two more,” he teased.

Participants began mumbling to each other as they slowly crossed out two words, leaving just one word remaining.

“Everyone have one word left?” Madera asked. “Ok, good. Now stand up if that one word is family.”

Slowly, people began to rise from their chairs until almost all 175 attendees were on their feet.

The theme for this year’s summit was Family First: The Future of Residential Care. A primary goal of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) is to keep children safely at home with their families, and family engagement is critical to achieve this. Madera’s presentation was just one of the many lectures and workshops offered to voluntary agency executive directors, residential and clinical administrators, OCFS staff and other stakeholders attending the three-day summit, which was November 18–20 in Saratoga Springs.

Another key component of FFPSA is to use the least restrictive placement appropriate for the need of the child when removal is necessary. To meet the FFPSA standards, New York State must intensify efforts to maintain children in home-based settings whenever possible. The summit was packed solid with lectures and workshops, including topics such as building a trauma-informed continuum of care, successful family engagement strategies, partnering with youth and families, innovating programming, using new Medicaid services to improve child welfare outcomes, gender-specific and tailored programming for working with survivors of human trafficking, and recruiting and retaining LGBTQ+ parents.

Presentations were informative and created opportunities for robust discussion and shared learning. Thank you to those who attended and presented! Don’t miss next year’s conference!

New Family First Web Pages Offer One Stop for County Data

We are pleased to announce that the OCFS Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) website has been expanded to include a new webpage dedicated to FFPSA Data and Resources. Page visitors will find state, regional and county level data reports containing useful information for FFPSA planning, such as:

  • The percentage of children living in approved relative homes and institutional/group care.
  • Foster home and congregate care capacity.
  • Charts showing annual movements in and out of institutional/group care.

The webpage also provides tools for local implementation, a calendar for the OCFS Family First webinar series, detailed information on the Family First Transition Fund (and each county’s use of the fund), Family First data tools and links to other resources.

Check out the new FFPSA Data and Resources webpage here:

OCFS Staff Donate 133 "Backpacks of Care" to Domestic Violence Shelters

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul congratulated the Domestic Violence Prevention Bureau staff who led the Backpacks of Care drive for DV survivors who seek refuge at emergency shelters. Back row: Pamela Jobin, Deirdre Sherman, John Chimento, Bethani Whiting, Candace Calabrese; Front row: Lt. Gov. Hochul, Commissioner Sheila J. Poole and Patty Ryan.

Between home office and our regional offices, OCFS staff marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October by filling and donating 133 backpacks statewide that were distributed to domestic violence shelters in the regions where they were collected, including:

  • Home office and Albany: Community Action of Green County Inc. (Columbia shelter and Greene shelter), Equinox Inc., Unity House of Troy and YWCA of Schenectady
  • Buffalo: Cattaraugus Community Action
  • Rochester: Chances and Changes
  • Syracuse: YWCA of Cortland
  • Western New York: Brighter Tomorrows, Grace Smith House, Orange County Safe Homes, Putnam Northern Women’s Resource Center and My Sister’s Place
  • New York City: Judy’s Place

Legislative Update: Several OCFS-Related Bills Signed Into Law

The Governor signed several bills into law recently that affect OCFS and the children and families we serve. The new laws are:

Fictive Kin (A.8059/S6405)
The law allows "fictive kin" who presently may be deemed to be a relative foster parent for KinGAP purposes to petition the court to have a child placed with them as a relative foster parent under the Family Court Act.
Services for Relative and Non-Relative Kinship Caregivers (A.569/S.2714)
This law expands upon the current statutory requirements for what written information local social services districts must provide to relative caregivers in relation to whether they decide to be kinship foster parents or care for the child outside of the foster care system.
Training for Direct Care Workers in Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.4268/S.2659)
This law mandates that direct care workers in residential domestic violence programs have training in in adverse childhood experiences.
Expanded Duty for OCFS in RHY (A3619-A/S.1481-A)
This law expands the training requirements for employees of approved runaway and homeless programs concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender runaway and homeless youth.
Tax Checkoff for Hoyt Trust Fund (A.2456/S.2503)
This law creates a check off box on personal income tax return forms for the purpose of making a voluntary gift to the William B. Hoyt Memorial Children and Family trust fund for child abuse prevention.

OCFS Celebrates National Adoption Month

Renee Hallock, OCFS’s associate commissioner for child welfare and community services, reads OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole’s citation honoring Judge Gerard Maney in Albany County Family Court.

OCFS celebrated National Adoption Month in November by presenting a citation to the Honorable Judge Gerard Maney, retiring from Albany County Family Court after 28 years and almost 563 adoptions. Renee Hallock, OCFS's associate commissioner for Child Welfare and Community Services, did the honors.

Judge Maney has been a tireless and passionate advocate of children and families in Albany County and was dedicated to their wellbeing. He committed himself to going above and beyond so that no child or youth was lost in the mix of an extremely busy court.

OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole recognized Judge Maney for “his impeccable approach to the law and to the well-being of children and families. I thank Gerard Maney for his remarkable public service to the children and families of Albany County.”


We are pleased to announce several significant and exciting changes that have or will occur in CONNECTIONS for the second half of 2019, which will help increase efficiency and improve the process of accessing and gathering information.

  • In July, CONNECTIONS File Uploads has a new functionality that allows employees to upload documents and photos using a web link and then attach them to relevant stages/persons in CONNECTIONS. We’re striving for full statewide implementation in early 2020.
  • Mandated reporter letters are now being sent automatically by CONNECTIONS. OCFS has assumed responsibility from the local districts for providing the Summary of Findings letters to mandated reporters. The SCR staff asked all mandated reporters to provide an email address if they wanted a summary of findings, which are being recorded into CONNECTIONS. After the INV or FAR stage is approved and closed, a Summary of Findings letter is then sent to the mandated reporter. Collecting the mandated reporters’ email addresses also provides local CPS staff with an additional method of contact for mandated reporters, which is beneficial as information is needed. This rollout started for reports called in at the end of August 2019.
  • Another exciting update for CONNECTIONS is the new Placement Search and Referral module, which is used to assist with matching child(ren) with the most appropriate foster care setting statewide and is required for all foster care placements. A pilot deployment for this new functionality began the first week of September 2019, and Statewide rollout occurred on October 18, 2019. Feedback from the counties and voluntary agencies has been encouraging. An upstate county pilot participant commented that “(t)he Placement Module allows me to better see all the placement options available for the child. Before I was totally dependent on the foster care agencies we contract with to provide this information.” A pilot participant from ACS working in their placement office said this new module is “so wonderful.” An ACS CPS worker commented that the work she needs to do in the module “is extremely easy.”
  • Our newest update is for the Health Passport, which will soon provide approved Medicaid claims information for youth in foster care. Currently, claims are divided into three categories: medications, labs and medical encounters. Medicaid claims data will be viewable on new tabs on the Health Services window on FSS stages in CONNECTIONS. Rollout is planned by early 2020.

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