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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Sheila J. Poole, Commissioner
June 2022 — Vol. 7, No. 6
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Commissioner's Message

EJune is Pride Month, and OCFS is celebrating with several events designed to promote understanding and inclusion. This month also brings additional noteworthy occasions, including Juneteenth, which recognizes the end of slavery in 1865, and the summer solstice (the longest day of the year).

And we can’t forget Father’s Day. I want to send my thanks and appreciation to all OCFS fathers, adoptive fathers, grandfathers, father figures and foster fathers. Children who feel close to their fathers and father figures benefit greatly: they are less likely to experience depression or involvement in the justice system, and they are more likely to earn good grades, go to college and find a stable job. So, let’s hear it for the fathers and father figures!

Our Pride Month initiatives are sprinkled throughout the month. Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is harmful in many ways. LGBTQ+ youth have higher rates of depression, anxiety, homelessness and suicide than cisgender and heterosexual youth. Parents, guardians and other influential adults working with LGBTQ+ youth can help them feel supported. As youth-serving individuals, we must be allies of LGBTQ+ youth, as we support the LGBTQ+ community and celebrate Pride.

It is important that all youth, regardless of how they identify, feel safe and supported. I hope you will observe Pride Month by being an ally, and I encourage you to participate in the many OCFS Pride Month activities that are happening over the next few weeks.

On June 15, we observe World Elder Abuse Day with this year’s theme, “Building Strong Support for Elders.” The Bureau of Adult Services encourages all OCFS staff to consider ways we can get involved to prevent elder abuse.

I am pleased to announce our Juneteenth virtual celebration on June 14 titled, "Race-based Spatial Inequities, A Visual Journey." Our guest speaker will present on residential discrimination, which significantly contributed to the wide racial wealth gap. I encourage all staff to attend if they are able; more details on the event can be found below.

It is a jam-packed June with lots of reasons to celebrate. I also hope all of you can take advantage of the summer weather and enjoy well-earned vacations. You deserve it!

Sincerely,
Sheila J. Poole
Commissioner

Articles

Updates from the Division of Child Care Services (DCCS)

OCFS’ New $2 Million Grant for Clean Water at Child Care Programs

OCFS has been spreading the word about a new program to test for lead in drinking water at child care programs around the state.

Under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded a $1.96 million grant to test for lead contamination, prioritizing low-income areas in New York State.

While participation is voluntary, eligibility is for both public or private water sources and OCFS licensed or registered facilities. Once signed up, child care programs are sent containers to gather a water sample and send it in for analysis.

The program, managed by Kimberly La Torre at OCFS, began last fall and runs until September 2023. You can find more information on the Lead Testing Program page. In late Spring, La Torre and Mark DeCicco, both from our child care division, outlined this program for the New York State Advisory Council on Lead Poisoning Prevention on behalf of OCFS. Besides testing, the program will offer e-learning training for all providers on the dangers of lead in drinking water.

Updates from the Commission for the Blind (NYSCB)

From Commission for the Blind to College-Bound
Cindy Liu
Cindy Liu

Summer is an exciting transition time for students as they leave one level of education and head for the next. For one young adult client from the Commission for the Blind’s (NYSCB) Harlem Office, it will be especially thrilling as she prepares for college – Cindy Liu is an honors student who earned a full scholarship to Yale.

“Our transition counselor works tirelessly and passionately with all our transition-age youth to develop viable vocational goals and support our participants as they navigate life to become independent, successful adults,” said NYSCB Harlem District Manager Shawn Chin-Chance.

Like Cindy, many visually impaired young adults participate in a variety of transition-related programs with provider agencies including Lighthouse Guild International (LGI). Services for youth ages 14-21 include paid summer work experiences, technology training and socialization skills.

Cindy made the Dean's list at LaGuardia High School in New York City. At Yale, she wants to study to become a lawyer. Cindy recently took part in a student leadership seminar in the Helen Keller Transition program. And this summer, supported by LGI, she will participate in New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program, gaining practical experience at a law firm.

Updates from the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services (CWCS)

Purple Pride for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is June 15. OCFS is teaming up with the state Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) and hopes you will look for the #WEAAD2022 hashtags on social media.

OCFS and NYSOFA are marking the day with a joint press release and media initiatives, letting people know why it's important to recognize the issue of elder abuse. Approximately 260,000 older adults are victims of elder abuse each year in New York State. And abuse doesn’t just mean physical – there is emotional, sexual, financial and outright neglect for the elderly.

Over the past three years, an average of 35,000 referrals have come into Adult Protective Services units across the state. With financial issues specifically, one in 44 potential abuse cases is reported to authorities. Investigators are also aware that the social isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this already “hidden epidemic,” increasing the number of underreported cases.

To spread awareness, OCFS and NYSOFA are encouraging counties to hold their own local press events about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Purple will represent the day, and many New York State landmarks including the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls and the Albany International Airport will be bathed in purple light. We invite you to wear purple on June 15 as well.

If you suspect that a vulnerable or dependent adult may be the victim of abuse, neglect, self-neglect or financial exploitation, please contact the local department of social services APS Unit or the Human Services Call Center at 1-844-697-3505.

Foster Family Park Passes Offer Opportunities to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Update: OCFS and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation have mailed 528 free Empire Passes for foster families around the state. We surpassed our goal of 500. Parks saw the need and went above and beyond. The Empire Pass provides unlimited use of most of New York State’s parks and recreational facilities including access to 180 state parks, 55 Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) forest preserve areas, boat launch sites, arboretums and park preserves. Consideration was given to foster families who have demonstrated a strong commitment to fostering; are a certified foster/adoptive family; have multiple children and will use the pass regularly. Thirty-two counties, New York City and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe responded, and the passes went out just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Empire Pass site for more information on how to get your own pass.

Mobile Response Units Ready to Roll

OCFS has four new mobile response units to support families in need around New York State. The new, reimagined recreational vehicles will bring services and resources to strengthen families in response to the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).

“We will go from the status quo of child protection as a primary prevention strategy towards services and resources that strengthen families and enable children to remain safely at home,” said Gail Geohagen-Pratt, associate commissioner for OCFS’ Child Welfare and Community Services division.

The mobile unit strategy is to develop and operate coordinated programs of community-based family support and family preservation services to reduce child maltreatment, address children’s safety and preserve the family unit.

The new response units are in four counties around the state: Albany, Monroe, Onondaga and Westchester. The Office of Victim Services provided funding to procure the mobile units. The mobile units will be staffed by a licensed clinician, a behavioral health specialist, a family peer advocate and/or a domestic violence advocate.

“With the arrival of the vehicles, we are excited to move forward with implementing the months of service planning that has been underway,” said CWCS Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu. “Each of the respective teams has been diligently working at identifying the services that best meet the needs of the children and families in their respective counties.”

When they arrive, the teams aboard the mobile response unit will work with the parent or caregiver and child to reduce or de-escalate a situation and offer support.

Mobile response units are an innovative community-based service to better support the communities, parents and youth we serve, and they present an opportunity to support systems transformation and build the child and family well-being continuum of care OCFS is working towards.

Updates from the Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth (DJJOY)

Training for the Future at Brookwood and Finger Lakes

OCFS facilities keep residents moving and thinking while expanding opportunities for life after they return home.

Recently Brookwood Secure Center for Youth in Claverack held classes created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the state flagger certification program. Acquiring an “OSHA-30 Department of Labor” card proves to employers that the holder has completed 30 hours of specialized training on critical workplace safety topics specific to an industry.

Flaggers help prevent injuries and keep workplaces safe and productive, and they can work on job sites providing protection to project personnel. After learning the proper safety and directional signals, they provide ease for traffic going through the work area.

Thirty-four residents have recently graduated with OSHA-30 DOL cards, and 39 earned their state flagger certification.

Residents at Finger Lakes Residential Center have also been busy. In April, the center held a threefold celebration:

  • Honoring academic achievements with awards in the gym.
  • Honoring an 18-year-old resident who went above and beyond to earn his “TASC” – Test Assessing School Completion – or GED, with pomp and circumstance.
  • Officially welcoming Dwayne Hayward, the new facility director.

DJJOY Deputy Commissioner Felicia Reid was a guest speaker and offered “wonderful words of wisdom and encouragement for all or our young people,” according to Dollbaby-Dee Cooper, a youth recreation specialist. “Residents were awarded certificates for all their hard work and effort in the classroom and in their vocational classes.” Finger Lakes also plans to hold an “ice cream social” for residents who made the honor roll for the third marking period.

During the final week of April, five residents participated in a “weatherization boot camp” taught by Al McMahon from the state Weatherization Directors Association. The four-day training earned them a nationally recognized certificate that covered skills including the use of an infrared camera, finding gaps in cooling and heating systems, and proper use for spray foam insulation.

Updates from the Division of Youth Development and Partnerships for Success (YDAPS)

Betting on Youth Sports and Increasing Participation

When New York State legalized mobile sports wagering, one percent of the state tax proceeds from the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law went to support grants for sports activities and education for youth. OCFS’ YDAPS division is helping New Yorkers benefit from those funds.

The $1 million in Youth Sports and Opportunity funding targets youth ages 6-17, with every county in the state receiving $5,000 or more, focused on historically under-resourced communities, public housing, areas with high rates of family homelessness, areas deemed “low income” and marginalized communities.

“The idea is to break down the barriers for all kids to be able to participate in sports including youth with disabilities; girls; transgender/gender non-binary youth; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning youth,” said YDAPS Deputy Commissioner Dr. Nina Aledort. “We will work with Native American tribes and tribal organizations and go into neighborhoods that experience higher rates of crime and violence and have poorer-performing schools.”

Youth Bureaus will contract with local not-for-profits or local grassroots organizations to provide sports and educational opportunities, according to YDAPS’ Matt Beck. Programs will focus on traditional sports as well as increasing physical activity with things like dance, yoga and hiking, and developing a positive relationship to one’s body.

Overall, the funds will help promote positive youth development and family time. In turn, that will promote positive social, emotional, health and educational outcomes.

Updates from the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA)

June is Packed with DEIA Activities

Juneteenth

Juneteenth is Sunday, June 19, celebrated with the state holiday on Monday, June 20. OCFS will hold a virtual event on Tuesday, June 14, at 1 p.m. where OCFS Executive Deputy Commissioner Suzanne Miles will offer some thoughts.

Historian and architect Livingstone Mukasa will be the special guest discussing "Race-based Spatial Inequities, A Visual Journey." He will cover residential discrimination, which significantly contributed to the wide racial wealth gap.

Please register for the event if you have supervisory approval to attend.

Please follow events and special days on the OCFS social media pages on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

OCFS continues to host top events each month, and June is no exception – Pride and Juneteenth are two events that will be bigger and better than ever.

Pride Month

Throughout June, OCFS staff is encouraged to wear Pride colors and share a photo for our intranet. Feel free to send them to the public information office (john.craig@ocfs.ny.gov) for posting on social media and/or the intranet.

A monthlong social media campaign that elevates different LGBTQ+ educational topics is running on our social media pages including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. So please follow and like us on your personal accounts if you’d like.

OCFS is also flying the Progress Pride flag outside home office in Rensselaer. The flag was designed in 2018 and supports Black and brown, queer and trans people and those living with AIDS.

Find a Pride Event Near You

See below for Pride events in your area, and check out www.iloveny.com/things-to-do/lgbtq/ for additional ideas.

Albany Region - Capital District
  • 6/11/22 Say it Loud! Black & Latino Gay Pride 12-5 p.m. Albany, NY
  • 6/12/22 Capital Pride Festival 12-5 p.m. Washington Park Albany, NY
  • 6/18/22 Hudson NY Pride Weekend (6/18-6/19) Hudson, NY
Syracuse Region - Southern Tier
  • 6/11/22 Pride Palooza (& Pride Idol Contest) 12-6 p.m. Binghamton, NY
  • 6/25/22 CNY Pride Festival 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Syracuse, NY
  • 6/26/22 Pride Week (6/26-7/3) Ithaca, NY
Westchester Region - Long Island
  • 6/10/22 Long Island Pride 5k 12 p.m. Long Beach, NY
  • 6/12/22 Long Island Pride 12-6 p.m. Farmingdale, NY
NYC Region
  • 6/11/22 Brooklyn Pride 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (twilight parade at 7:30 p.m.) Brooklyn, NY
  • 6/17/22 Pride in the Park: Opera and Musical Theater 7-8:30 p.m. NY, NY
  • 6/25/22 Harlem Pride 12-6 p.m. Harlem, NY
  • 6/26 PrideFest 11 a.m.-12 p.m. (parade at 12 p.m.) NYC
  • 6/26/22 NYC Pride 12 p.m. Manhattan, NY