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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Commissioner
July 2023 — Vol. 8, No. 7

July Commissioner's Message

Dear Colleagues,

July calls to mind lazy days at the beach, warm summer nights and, of course, the Fourth of July with its barbecues and fireworks. It’s a time to celebrate the freeing of our nation from British control, but also to reflect on how the vestiges of colonialism resulted in millions facing racism and oppression for centuries.

Following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it took nearly 100 years for Black Americans to begin their road to freedom. Women were not even mentioned in the founding document, a portend of the struggle for equality we’re still fighting for today. This challenging path continues to be traveled by many due to race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender identity and/or sexual identity and more. The Declaration of Independence rings hollow until we are definitively able to “hold these truths to be selfevident, that all [people] are created equal.” I am proud that our OCFS staff is committed to ensuring that America’s complicated and troubling past does not become its future.

Following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it took nearly 100 years for Black Americans to begin their road to freedom. Women were not even mentioned in the founding document, a portend of the struggle for equality we’re still fighting for today. This challenging path continues to be traveled by many due to race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender identity and/or sexual identity and more. The Declaration of Independence rings hollow until we are definitively able to “hold these truths to be selfevident, that all [people] are created equal.” I am proud that our OCFS staff is committed to ensuring that America’s complicated and troubling past does not become its future.

OCFS’s effort to preserve these family and community bonds was bolstered with the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). It allows child welfare agencies to give preference for placement of Native American children with relatives or First Nation families when entering foster or adoptive homes. I am thrilled that OCFS will be able to continue to support culturally conscious adoptions, despite much work remaining to ensure the equitable treatment of Indigenous peoples.

The State’s commitment to protecting vulnerable communities was on full display with Governor Kathy Hochul’s convening New York’s first-ever Youth Mental Health Summit. It was so gratifying to witness our youth voices being heard, with top experts giving power to their ideas on how to address their persistent feelings of anxiety, isolation and hopelessness. This sends a resounding message to our youth that they are seen and heard, and that they can count on the State to be their ultimate support system.

Finally, we saw first-hand just how much our State leadership recognizes the reformative work we are doing at OCFS when Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado toured the Human Services Training Center and spoke faceto- face with agency leadership about how he can advance our mission to uplift all of New York’s children, families and communities.

As we look forward to a more just and equitable future for all New Yorkers, it gives me hope that we will continue to deliver meaningful, positive change for everyone we serve. I cannot thank you enough for all you do, and I encourage you to find ways to rest, relax and recharge this summer.

With Gratitude,

Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq.
Acting Commissioner

Articles

This Month's News

Download the July 2023 Newsletter

  • Lt. Governor Visits OCFS to Glean Information on Key Initiatives and Provide Strategic Support
  • Leadership Changes Made at Division for Child Welfare and Community Services
  • Gov. Hochul Expands Paid Parental Leave to CSEA and PEF Members
  • Volunteers Needed to Staff OCFS Booth at New York State Fair
  • Application Period for Child Care Workforce Retention Grant Begins in July
  • OCFS Launches Direct Cash Transfer Research Pilot Program to Support Low-Income Families
  • U.S. Supreme Court Decision Upholds Indian Child Welfare Act
  • OCFS Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Diversity Initiatives
  • OCFS Kicks Off Pride Month with Flag Raising and Q&A with Chanel Lopez
  • Goshen Secure Center Student Celebrates Academic Accomplishments
  • NYSCB Partners With Community Organizations to Expand Sports and Recreational Opportunities for Visually Impaired Children
  • Youth Mental Health Listening Tour Uncovers Widespread Teen Unhappiness
  • University at Buffalo Partners with New York State Mentoring Program