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Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor
Sheila J. Poole, Commissioner
October 2020 — Vol. 4, No. 2

Deputy Commissioner's Message

A Message from Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu

Voting Rights, Eliminating the Racism That Cripples All Children and Getting Into “Good Trouble”

As November rapidly approaches, and with it the presidential election, I reflect on the past several months and the tremendous challenges and turmoil our nation has faced. We have felt outrage at the systemic racism that has once again been brought to the forefront of our consciousness and sadness at the deaths of our fellow New Yorkers from COVID-19.

Compounding this anger and sadness are the recent deaths of Representative John Lewis and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mr. Lewis was called the “conscience of Congress” for his indefatigable pursuit of human rights, and the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 would become the catalyst for the passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.

Justice Ginsburg was also a champion for equality and justice, and her dissent in Shelby County v. Holder – which would scale back the protections provided by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – is a salient example of this: “Congress approached the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA with great care and seriousness,” wrote Ginsburg. “The same cannot be said of the Court’s opinion today… One would expect more from an opinion striking at the heart of the Nation’s signal piece of civil-rights legislation.”

Racism is Evident in Society And in Child Welfare

Justice Ginsburg knew well that racism and discrimination still existed in 2013 when Shelby County v Holder was heard, just as it still exists today. We see it in real estate and banking with the continued practice of redlining, we see it in the school-to-prison pipeline, and sadly, we see it in our own child welfare system as data continue to show the overrepresentation of children and families of color being reported to the State Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment, removed and placed into foster care, and slower rates of permanency.

We also see this in the use of physical restraints. Several studies have concluded African American youth were more likely to be physically restrained in a residential treatment center. This month, we distribute two new policies to address this overrepresentation – the Blind Removal Process and Kin-First Firewall. We are also moving toward a system that bans prone restraints and significantly reduces, if not eliminates, all physical restraints.

Fifty years ago, the 1970 White House Conference on Children called for “The Development of Program to Eliminate the Racism Which Cripples All Children.” These policy and practice changes across our state will move us in that direction, toward the “good trouble, the necessary trouble” that Mr. Lewis so passionately encouraged us all to do, even in his final moments on this earth. The time is now.

In Brief

Family First Readiness…

Have you reviewed your updated Bubble Chart Data? Just go to the OCFS Family First Data page, then scroll down to “County-Level Data,” and find your county. You will also find the Bubble Chart Tutorial if you need assistance.

#VOTE!

Election Day
November 3, 2020

Early Voting Dates for General Election
October 24 – November 1, 2020

NYS Board of Elections: Voting Options

Early and Absentee Voting

Save the Date for Educational Neglect Webinar

Please join OCFS and the New York State Education Department on October 26 or November 5 for a joint webinar, Navigating K-12 Educational Neglect During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Identifying the resources and supports child welfare and local education departments can bring to strengthen families through this crisis. Watch your email for a calendar invite.

Reminder to wear purple on October 22 to raise awareness and show our commitment to victims and survivors of domestic violence.
#DomesticViolenceMonth.

#MaskUp

Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu

Articles

Healthy Families New York Praised for Return on Investment

Healthy Families America, a national leading family support and evidence-based home visiting program, recently cited the Healthy Families New York program for demonstrating its return on investment.

The study highlights the benefits to both families and taxpayers, including a reduction in parental alcohol use, fewer adverse childhood experiences (such as abuse and neglect), greater school success, a reduced need for special education and a reduced use of public assistance. For more information on the study and its outcomes, please check out the Healthy Families America Return on Investment brief.

New York State has 43 Healthy Families programs in 39 counties, including the five boroughs of New York City, statewide serving 6,027 families between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020.

OCFS Seeks to Ban Prone Restraints in all Child Welfare Residential Programs

On September 17 and 18, OCFS held two WebEx meetings with voluntary agencies to discuss banning prone restraints in residential and juvenile justice facilities.

With a focus on social justice and race equity, honest conversations about how our system operates must include the use of restraints in congregate care programs. If a restraint is administered, we know that all efforts at de-escalation have failed. We are focused on changing the culture of our system so there is a collective understanding that with a concentrated, integrated approach to treating the specific needs of each youth, we can drastically reduce and ultimately eliminate the need for physical intervention.

Transforming The System

“While our initial focus is banning a physical technique,” said Associate Commissioner David Bach, “the goal and vision is transformative to our system and will prove to be tremendously beneficial to youth, families and staff.”

In collaboration with our Raise the Age (RTA) providers, OCFS recently began the process of eliminating prone restraints in RTA programs and secure and specialized secure detention facilities. OCFS has been working with our training partners to provide alternate training options to all agency partners.

By the end of November, OCFS strives to ban prone restraints in 12 residential treatment centers, and by June 2021, all congregate care programs will have banned prone restraints.

Healthy Families New York Praised for Return on Investment

With support from Casey Family Programs, the OCFS Division of Child Welfare and Community Services’ Parent Advisory Board (PAB) met for the second time in August.

Board members, including Hope Newton (right), parent advocate from the Center for Family Representation, discussed proposals they would like to see be included in Governor Cuomo’s upcoming State of the State address in January and issues for the upcoming legislative session, including

  • programs and training grounded in trauma-informed care,
  • better supports to help families achieve stability,
  • better training for foster parents caring for LGBTQ youth, and
  • facilitating access to legal representation for families and better healthcare supports.

The board also explored the Host Family Homes Program that OCFS is currently considering, which would allow a parent/guardian to request that their children be cared for by a safe host family on a voluntary basis for a short period of time. More discussion will ensue on this topic.

Thank you to the parents and OCFS staff who contributed to a successful and informative day.

Kinship Care Month Celebrated

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued a proclamation celebrating caregivers across the state and acknowledging September as Kinship Care Month. OCFS promoted Kinship Care Month with multiple social media posts.

The proclamation reads: “…it is vitally important that New Yorkers have a valuable resource in the Kinship Navigator, which provides information, referrals and assistance via its website and toll-free telephone line; and is working with New York State through a federal grant to provide an evidenced-based model for a statewide system of kinship care.”

The NYS Kinship Navigator held its sixth annual kinship care month celebration virtually. Dr. Joseph Crumbley, who is a trainer, therapist and consultant, was the keynote speaker. You can find more information and watch the September 16 event on the NYS Kinship Navigator site.

Learn more about Dr. Crumbley at drcrumbley.net.

OCFS and the New York Kinship Navigator also presented during a Children’s Bureau national webinar, “Honoring the Strength and Diversity of Kinship Families; The Role of Kinship Navigator Programs.”

Child Abuse Hotline Enhances Intake Procedures For Previously Reported Child Fatalities

OCFS has enhanced the intake protocols for duplicate calls related to child fatalities to the New York Statewide Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR).

Rather than creating a new report for the same case when no new information is collected, SCR staff will instead add the new call to the existing report. Previously, the second call would have led to a new investigation.

The investigation of re-reported fatalities with no new concerns or allegations traumatizes families and the communities that support those families. A second investigation without new allegations unnecessarily draws from CPS’s investigative resources that could be better served promoting the safety and well-being of children involved in open investigations.

Highlights of The ADM

To address this issue more thoroughly, the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services released a Local Commissioners Memorandum (LCM) in September. Highlights include:

  • When the SCR receives a re-report on a previously investigated fatality, the SCR will
    • confirm by searching CONNECTIONS (CONNX) that the fatality was in fact previously investigated and concluded/closed; and if so,
    • ask the reporter/source if they are reporting new allegations regarding the fatality.
  • If the previously investigated fatality is identified in CONNX and the reporter/source reports they have no new allegations related to the fatality, then the SCR will:
    • register an Additional Information (Add Info) with a subcategory of Fatality (INT ADD FATL) rather than creating a new report with investigative requirements; and
    • merge the INT ADD FATL stage into the case where the fatality was previously investigated; and
    • assign primary jurisdiction to the district that conducted the previous fatality investigation. Secondary will be assigned to the appropriate corresponding regional office.

Information is also provided in the ADM, and OCFS will provide technical assistance to the field.

Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, OCFS celebrated with our youth, families and colleagues. This year’s national theme is “Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past and Embrace the Future.”

National Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15 to October 15. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed what was then National Hispanic Heritage Week, which fell on the week that included September 15 and 16.

Those dates commemorate independence days in six Central American countries. Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica celebrate their independence from Spain on the 15th, while Mexico celebrates its independence on the 16th. In 1988, the week was expanded to a month and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

Almost 20 percent of the total U.S. population is Hispanic, a jump from 1970 when Hispanics made up just five percent of the population.