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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Commissioner
September 2021 — Vol. 6, No. 9

Commissioner's Message

September brings new beginnings, such as the start of the school year and the beginning of the fall season. This September brings us many reasons to celebrate, including the inauguration of New York State’s first female Governor, Kathy Hochul.

Governor Hochul is no stranger to OCFS. In her previous role as Lieutenant Governor, she visited our home office to celebrate Women’s History Month. She has been a stalwart supporter of domestic violence survivors and founded a DV program with her mother. Governor Hochul has also been a staunch advocate of paid family leave, elder abuse prevention, women’s rights, juvenile justice and preventing gun violence. She has long been a champion of child care and served as the co-chair of the Child Care Availability Task Force.

As Governor, she will inspire many children and be a role model to girls throughout our state, showing them the possibilities that their futures hold. We congratulate Governor Hochul and look forward to continuing our good work under her administration.

We also celebrate our kinship caregivers this month. As we near Family First Prevention Services Act implementation, we recognize the critical role these individuals – grandparents, aunts and uncles and family friends – hold in keeping children out of the foster care system and in loving and nurturing families. We salute them, and we celebrate their valiant efforts on behalf of New York’s children.

This is also Hispanic Heritage Month, where we hail the many contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans to our agency, our state and our nation. This year’s agency event will again be hosted online.

And finally, we celebrate the incredible success of the largest grant we have ever administered – a nearly $1.1 billion federal Child Care Stabilization Grant. Congratulations to Deputy Commissioner Janice Molnar and the entire Division of Child Care Services team, with support from the Human Services Call Center and the Bureau of Contracts Management, on a smooth launch and successful execution of funding for child care providers who are desperately needed to stabilize the industry throughout our state. Providers are gratefully receiving these crucial funds and using them to help us restart our economy and reimagine our child care delivery system.

I welcome you back to the office with our fitting return to work following Labor Day. I encourage you to continue to follow the protocols in place to make our workplace safe and productive, and I thank our Office of Management Services, Human Resources, Labor Relations and Personnel staff for their work to make this a successful return.

Sheila J. Poole


OCFS’s Unwavering Support of Statewide Child Care Initiatives

More Than 10,600 Child Care Providers Have Applied for Grants from the $1.1 Billion Fund

More than half of New York State’s 18,000 eligible child care providers have requested $585 million in federal funding since the launch of the nearly $1.1 billion Child Care Stabilization Grant fund on August 4. The awards will directly benefit child care providers and will help to stabilize the struggling child care industry. Providers have until the end of November to apply.

“The fantastic response to the grant opportunity is encouraging in getting our economic engine running at full throttle once again,” said OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “I am proud of our staff who have worked so hard to make these grants available to child care programs quickly with as little administrative burden as possible.

The application process is streamlined, and it takes just minutes to complete.

“We are getting money to providers with record speed,” she continued. “Our Human Services Call Center has a dedicated help line to answer questions and our child care resource and referral agency partners are assisting any providers who need help in applying. We are so pleased with the tremendous success of the grant’s launch and encourage all eligible providers to apply right away.”

Successful awardees receive funds directly once they complete the simple online application. The funds may be used for personnel costs, rent or mortgage, utilities, facility maintenance or improvements, personal protective equipment, supplies needed to respond to COVID-19, goods and services needed to maintain or resume child care services, mental health supports for children and employees, health and safety training for staff, and other uses as outlined in the grant.

Eligible providers include OCFS-licensed or registered programs, permitted New York City day care centers and legally exempt group programs that are enrolled with an enrollment agency.

Child Care Provider Testimonials Bring Joy

Programs Receiving Grants Share First-Hand Impact of Funds

OCFS is receiving rave reviews from the child care provider community on the positive impact of the nearly $1.1 billion Stabilization Grant.

Please extend my thanks to all of your staff who have played a role in making this grant program happen! I believe it really will stabilize the child care system in our community!!

Oh my gosh, this is life-changing for my program.

I just can't believe this is real — I am really getting this help for my program.

The things I will be able to do to make my program even better for the kids in my care. I am just beside myself with excitement.

I just returned from helping our largest school-age program (which serves more than 700 kids) with their application process, and we were literally doing a happy dance after each submission. I know for this program in particular, this is a significant help for their staffing and ability to get back to where they were pre-pandemic for the children's programs.

Playing Nicely in the Sandbox

Commissioner Poole and Division of Child Care Services Deputy Commissioner Janice Molnar celebrated the success of the child care stabilization grant with a visit to The Spotted Zebra child care program in Colonie.

OCFS-Funded Settlement Houses Support Immigrants

Photo courtesy of the United Neighborhood Houses website

Settlement houses have been helping build strong New York neighborhoods for more than a century. The oldest settlement house in the United States was founded in 1886 in New York City. Initially focused on helping immigrants adjust to life in their new country, settlement houses provide a wide array of services and supports to their communities across all ages.

“It’s a one stop shop for some families,” said Jewel Brown-Gregory, director of the Bureau of Close to Home Oversight and System Improvement for the Division of Youth Development and Partnerships for Success (YDAPS). “They can meet the needs of various family members and are deeply rooted in the local community.”

Despite potential harm to their own workers, settlement houses were on the front lines of providing food, diapers and other necessities and supports all through the pandemic, Jewel said. They often work with disconnected youth by providing summer youth employment and other youth development activities. They also provide an array of child care services and a safe place for elder residents to congregate and socialize.

OCFS is excited to continue our partnership with settlement houses across the state. YDAPS is beginning a five-year contract cycle worth $2.45 million this fall.

Grandparents and Loved Ones Are Celebrated During September’s Kinship Care Month

In New York State, 122,000 children reside in kinship families. Kinship caregivers include grandparents, relatives, stepparents, neighbors and family friends who act as parents for children whose own parents are unable to care for them. Kinship caregivers provide continuity and security at a time that can be traumatic for a child.

During Kinship Care Month this September, OCFS celebrates these dedicated individuals and New York’s Kinship Caregiver Program, which links caregivers to resources, advocates for family needs and supports kinship families through the challenges they face to ensure connections for a child‘s stability.

“Every child needs a loving, nurturing, safe place to call home,” said OCFS Deputy Commissioner for Child Welfare and Community Services Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu. “Kinship caregivers are everyday heroes who devote themselves to a child’s success through their love and loyalty. By funding these programs, we help connect them with the resources they need to provide that nurturing environment.”

Kinship Navigator

The New York State Kinship Navigator, which provides an information and referral network for kinship caregivers, will sponsor its eighth annual celebration of Kinship Care Month on September 9 with a virtual event recognizing kinship caregivers and the professionals who serve them. The celebration will include special guest Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi and will feature a presentation on the rollout of the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse toolkit for kinship caregivers.

September provides an opportunity for us to acknowledge the sacrifices of these caregivers and to thank them for their inspiration and love of children. Their success in providing children with the belonging that comes with being part of a family forms the foundation for successful outcomes down the road.

Rochester Community Multi-Services Office Staff Active in Community Outreach

This summer, the Rochester Community Multi-Services Office (CMSO) participated in two community outreach events targeted at decreasing street violence in Rochester and surrounding towns and villages.

CMSO staff Ken Pryor attended the city-hosted Violence Prevention Summit at the Rochester Convention Center, which featured both local and out-of-state panelists and presenters (see left photo). They discussed causes of street violence that is plaguing many communities across the state and country. The summit also featured breakout sessions on transformative mentoring, measuring outcomes in violence prevention and the state of violence interruption in Rochester.

TIPS Event

Rochester CMSO staff members Pablo Astudillo, Bruce Blue and Dwayne Hayward participated in the Trust, Information, Programs and Services (TIPS) event in Rochester’s east side at Pennsylvania Avenue Park (see right photo). Staff, local law enforcement and the Monroe County Department of Probation visited neighborhood homes to conduct a quality-of-life survey and explain Project EXILE and the resources available in the community.

Project EXILE

Project EXILE was implemented in Rochester in 1988 in response to extremely high rates of gun violence and homicide. The program is a collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as local clergy, business representatives and community groups. The program strives to get illegal weapons off the streets through gun buyback programs, educate and build trust within the community and, if needed, prosecute gun crimes through the legal system.

Numerous agencies attended the event, distributed information and held drawings for free bicycles for kids.

Human Services Call Center Answers Its Seven Millionth Call

On July 27, the OCFS Human Services Call Center (HSCC) handled its seven millionth call! Call center representative Dale Van Ness (above with Bill Lather, HSCC manager) had the honor of answering the auspicious call.

The HSCC took its very first call on May 13, 2013, and now helps callers for 10 state agencies. It recently added new lines to support the Division of Child Care Services’ calls for help with the Essential Worker Scholarship and the Child Care Stabilization Grant.

The center’s six millionth call was handled on July 28 last year, so staff handled one million calls in the past year. That is quite a feat!

Thank you to all HSCC staff for helping achieve this milestone.

Goshen Hosts Colorful Art Show

Featured are pieces from an art show at Goshen Secure Center, created as part of the studio art course for high school students. Art themes included a Mona Lisa parody, parent and child, and sneaker designs.

In the program, students study different artists and develop their own style using mixed media. The works were displayed for three days in the chapel and will also be displayed at Goshen's Community Library and Catskill Historical Society.

OCFS at the Great New York State Fair

The Great New York State Fair is back this year following a one-year pandemic pause.

As in years past, OCFS sponsored a booth for the entire 18-day stretch. Kudos to Jackie Jensen in the Public Information Office for once again organizing our volunteers and the many details involved! And a huge thank you to all our booth volunteers, including Sara Simon (right) from the Syracuse office.

More than one million people are expected to go through the gates from August 20 through Labor Day. The fair is a celebration of food, exhibits, entertainment and summer fun and showcases animals, attractions, rides and entertainers.

Questions about the fair? You can find information at the New York State Fair’s website.

Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrates History, Culture and Contributions

OCFS celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15-October 15 to recognize and promote the history, culture and contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans, including New Yorkers whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. This year’s theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.”

First recognized as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson, the recognition was extended to a month in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan. As of August 2020, the Hispanic/Latinx population accounted for 18.4% of the U.S. population, representing the nation’s largest ethnic minority.

The OCFS Diversity Committee is celebrating the occasion with an online presentation celebrating the themes of heritage and hope.