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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Commissioner
October 2022 — Vol. 7, No. 10

Commissioner's Message

I always know it’s fall when I have the pleasure of attending what was previously called “Dads Take Your Child to School Day.” This year, the Albany City School District expanded its recent event to celebrate all adults who inspire our scholars. I joined them to commend the work of caregivers and to discuss that kids with this kind of support fare much better in life on many levels.

Our OCFS October traditions continue with several opportunities for self-empowerment. We celebrate the month by embracing the diverse fabric of our community’s experiences, including Coming Out Day, the continuation of Hispanic Heritage Month, White Cane Day and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

We at OCFS know all too well the long-lasting effects and trauma experienced by children who are exposed to domestic and community violence. This year’s theme is “Every 1 Knows Some 1,” and I hope you will join me in wearing purple on October 20 and support our agency’s generosity in collecting items for care bags for survivors. Please help raise awareness for all who have been affected by domestic violence.

Domestic violence crosses all social, economic and racial boundaries. If you or someone you know needs help, I urge you to call:

Many hotlines can help you identify the signs of abuse, provide safety planning and highlight ways that you can be an ally and support someone who may be a victim.

In staff news, I’m very excited to announce that Sharon Devine was appointed deputy commissioner for administration effective October 11. She has extensive senior leadership experience in New York State government and most recently served in the role of deputy commissioner for administration for the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Additionally, Solomon Syed was appointed deputy commissioner of public information in our Public Information Office (PIO), effective October 10. He is an award-winning, experienced communications professional with more than 13 years in television news, marketing and government relations. Stay tuned to next month’s newsletter for more detailed stories on both Sharon and Solomon.

And may each of you recognize and rejoice in your own identity and all the good work that you do with OCFS every day.

Sheila J. Poole


Tonya Boniface Promoted at OCFS and Named Chair of New York State Personnel Council

Tonya Boniface
Tonya Boniface will take the helm as chair of the statewide Personnel Council

Congratulations to Tonya Boniface, recently promoted to deputy commissioner for Human Resources, for being elected chair-elect of the Executive Committee of the New York State Personnel Council. She’ll serve in that capacity for the coming year before stepping up to chairperson in September 2023.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity to work with other state agency human resource professionals to advocate for our agency in all personnel matters and work closely with state Department of Civil Service on creating policies and practices,” Tonya said.

The Personnel Council’s mission is to improve personnel and employee relations policies, practices and procedures, including merit system administration and the management of personnel. It also promotes a set of professional ethics and standards of conduct among all personnel professionals and advises elected and appointed state officials on matters of public personnel policy in New York State.

Additionally, the Council provides a forum for the exchange of issues and the formulation of suggestions for the improvement of personnel administration throughout New York.

Updates from the Division of Child Care Services (DCCS)

OCFS Staffers Could Benefit from Expanded Child Care Assistance

Income Requirements

Income limits for eligibility by family size.
Family Size Annual Income Limit* see table footnote Monthly Income Limit
1 $40,770.00 $3,397.50
2 $54,930.00 $4,577.50
3 $69,090.00 $5,757.50
4 $83,250.00 $6,937.50
5 $97,410.00 $8,117.50
6 $111,570.00 $9,297.50
7 $125,730.00 $10,477.50
8 $139,890.00 $11,657.50
* New income requirements as of August 1, 2022, make child care assistance available to more New Yorkers. Annual Income Limit numbers are 300% Federal Poverty Level (FPL), effective 08/01/22 - 06/01/23.

Even if you’ve been ineligible for child care financial assistance in the past, you might just be eligible now.

A recent expansion of the New York State Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) increased the income eligibility levels to include families who earn up to 300% of the State Income Standard for their household size. This means more New Yorkers will have access to child care assistance than ever before.

The CCAP is a federal- and state-funded program administered by local departments of social services (LDSS) with OCFS’ support and oversight. The program helps families afford safe, quality child care while parents or caregivers work, receive training or further their education.

“This expansion is a huge accomplishment for New York State as we lead efforts to provide more families with child care financial assistance to support their success and well-being,” said Division of Child Care Services Deputy Commissioner Nora Yates. “We’re very excited for our families.”

If you qualify, you can use the child care provider of your choice, as long as that provider is licensed, registered or enrolled with OCFS as a legally exempt provider. And if you prefer a family member or friend to provide your child care, that person can enroll as a legally exempt provider.

For more information about the program, go to Help Paying for Child Care, and to apply for financial assistance, contact your LDSS to request an application.

Updates from the Commission for the Blind (NYSCB)

October Brings Two Events Promoting Disability Awareness

White Cane Day

With a nod to Blindness Awareness Month, NYSCB presents a White Cane Awareness Day event October 13 from 10-11:30 a.m.

White Cane Awareness Day is set aside annually to remember the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired. The cane serves as a symbol of their independence and provides a reminder to motorists and others to take extra care when they see someone carrying it.

Our virtual program will feature multiple speakers, including the deputy director of the state Office of the Chief Disability Officer, Meghan Parker, explaining her role and discussing assistive technology for people with visual impairments. Other speakers will focus on the history of White Cane Day and NYSCB’s New York City Metro Region Director Francesco Magisano will discuss his experience as a blind triathlete and coach.

Watch your email for an invitation to the event.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

In honor of this National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), NYSCB is co-sponsoring Governor Kathy Hochul’s First Annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month (DREAM) Symposium.

The event helps launch a multi-pronged approach to significantly improve the low employment rate of people with disabilities. It acknowledges the rights that people with disabilities are entitled to, highlights the value that disabled New Yorkers bring to the workforce and helps match prospective qualified candidates with employers who believe that a diverse workforce is an empowered, quality workforce.

The highlights of the inaugural, two-day event will include an in-person vendor fair on October 4, workshops geared to the disability community, a disability history exhibit, entertainment and a virtual job fair October 11.

The newly created Office of the Chief Disability Officer sponsored the event in collaboration with OCFS, the state Department of Labor, Office of Civil Service, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Mental Health and the State Education Department.

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

Adoption Month Highlights Need for Permanent Homes with Loving Families

November is National Adoption Month, a time to celebrate individuals who have stepped up to make a positive impact in the life of a child or youth by becoming an adoptive parent. It is a month to raise awareness and encourage all of us to learn about adoption and about the urgent need for adoptive families nationwide. This year National Adoption Day is November 19

In 2021, 1,214 children were adopted from foster care in New York. There are currently more than 3,400 children in foster care awaiting adoption, some of whom have not yet been matched with an adoptive family.

During Adoption Month, many of these children will be featured on OCFS social media, in Heart Galleries (featuring the photographs of New York children in foster care in need of loving, permanent homes) and during Adoption Exchanges.

OCFS is planning a press conference with an exciting speaker for November 1 to spread the message to consider becoming an adoptive parent, along with showing a video featuring and celebrating New York adoptive families and launching a new social media campaign with the hashtag #BetheChange to help spread awareness.

Learn more about adoption from foster care, view photos and narratives of the children in foster care awaiting an adoptive home, and call the New York State Parent and Kin Connection Helpline to learn more at 1-800-345-KIDS (5437).

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

DEIA Encourages Everybody to Come Out and Shine

We at OCFS encourage you to be proud of who you are and want you to know that we support you.

National Coming Out Day has been observed on October 11 for the last 33 years, and this year’s theme of “Born to Shine!” highlights the power that coming out can offer individuals and communities.

Our DEIA Office honors the bravery it can take to come out and live as the truest version of yourself.

Coming Out Day was founded in 1988 by psychologist Richard Eichberg and gay rights activist Jean O’Leary to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community. For more information, please visit our intranet DEIA section (internal only) and the Human Rights Campaign resource page.

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

MacCormick Residents Design Waste-Free Cities
MacCormick future cities
MacCormick teacher Kathy Suarez shows off models created by participants in the facility's Future City competition

The Future City challenge starts with a question: How can we make the world (or universe) a better place?

To answer it, residents at MacCormick Secure Center formed teams to imagine, research, design and build either the city of their dreams or a city on another planet. “I can’t emphasize how amazing both the models were and the stories behind the youth who created them,” said Felicia Reid, DJJOY’s deputy commissioner.

Future City is a project-based learning program for middle school students across the country. This year’s theme was “A Waste-Free Future.” Teams had to design a waste-free city using the principles of a circular economy and had to complete deliverables: a 1,500-word city essay, a scale model (or multiple model segments) built from recycled materials and a Q&A session with judges.

Teacher Kathy Suarez developed a program to also fit the needs of her high school classes. She and her co-teacher, Maura Eagan-Martin, turned the program into a summer STEM project for the whole MacCormick facility. They mined their own homes and offices and enlisted the help of staff members to contribute the necessary “building” materials.

Project participants created models of their imagined cities and developed presentations to share with judges. After a question-and-answer period, the judges chose a winning team from each of the facility’s three units as well as an overall winner.

If you work in Home Office, please make sure you check out these amazing models that are displayed in the lobbies of the North and South buildings and will be on display at Goshen Public Library.

Goshen Public Library to Feature Residents’ Artwork
Goshen art project
Here are just a few of the artistic creations by Goshen residents that were on display at the facility. They’ll be displayed this month at the Goshen Public Library’s annual art exhibit.


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

YDAPS Annual Youth Event Features One of Our Own
Dana Barrett
Dana Barrett addressed Region 4's annual Youth Day

OCFS Peer Youth Specialist Dana Barrett recently shared the story of her journey from foster child to graduate student and full-time employee as the keynote speaker at YDAPS’s annual Region 4 2022 Youth Event at Bruno Stadium in Troy.

Dana addressed an audience of former youth in foster care and independent living and homeless youth who were invited to advocate for a better world and explore their paths to adulthood in a safe and engaging environment with supportive adults.

Dana’s resilience led her to graduate from Hartwick College with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and two minors in social work and photography. She is currently furthering her education at the University at Albany in a dual master’s program in social work and criminal justice, while lending her youth voice and lived experience within YDAPS.

OCFS Staff Members Show Generosity Once Again and Donate 3,300 Individual Items for School Supply Drive

school supplies
Piles of pencils (and a whole lot more) donated by OCFS staff

OCFS staff members have done it again, showing generosity and personal commitment to meeting children’s needs.

Home Office, the Statewide Central Register, the Human Services Training Center and the Human Services Call Center joined together again this year to collect school supplies for students from a high-needs local district.

Rensselaer City School District received a large supply of donated items ranging from binders to book bags -- 3,303 individual items -- just in time to start the new academic year.

Many thanks to all who donated and helped with the collection!


Help Spread the Word about Reduced-Cost Internet

Please continue to take every opportunity to spread the word about the availability of a $30-a-month subsidy to help low-income households connect to the internet.

Eligible households may also be able to access a one-time $100 grant for purchase of a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. A household qualifies for the monthly subsidy if its income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or meets any one of a number of criteria. For example, a household that qualifies for SNAP, free/reduced school lunches or public housing would qualify for the internet subsidy.

For more information, please see the official announcement.