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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
September 2023 — Vol. 8, No. 9

September Commissioner's Message

Dear Colleagues,

As the beginning of a new school year for families with children, September may feel more like a fresh start than a new calendar year does. This month can be a beneficial time to examine where we’ve been and where we’re going.

The recent passing of former OCFS Commissioner John Allen Johnson has given many of us pause for thought. While I did not have the honor of working with him, I know that his wonderful legacy looms large, and the work he began in 1998 forms the bedrock of our mission today to promote the safety, permanency and well-being of our children, families and communities.

Commissioner Johnson oversaw the merger of the former state Division for Youth and the former state Department of Social Services into the new OCFS in 1998 and ushered in a transformative era of human services that focused on child-centered, family-focused programs; upstream preventative measures; early intervention; and collaboration with other social services organizations.

His many accomplishments include the creation of Healthy Families New York, a perfect example of an upstream approach designed to strengthen families, create positive family bonds and improve outcomes for children. Today, we’re continuing the Commissioner’s mission with our newly launched Direct Cash Transfer pilot program, designed to bolster families by easing some of their financial burdens, and our new Family Opportunity Centers, which promote positive parenting and parental involvement in children’s education.

In September, we also recognize the tremendous work of our child welfare staff. Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week, Sept. 11-15, honors the immense challenges our staff face and celebrates the successes that children and families have achieved with the support of these special employees. Recognizing the critical workforce shortage we face in the field, we will also spread the word about career opportunities, the training and commitment needed to do this work, and the significant impact on those served.

Furthering efforts to support our communities, I encourage staff to participate in the Sept. 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, organized by AmeriCorps to honor the lives and service of those lost in the 9/11 attacks. Members of an AmeriCorps VISTA program administered by our local Commission on National and Community Service will be picking vegetables at the Patroon Land Farms for the Regional Food Bank. OCFS employees who wish to join them can search available volunteer opportunities on the Regional Food Bank’s website. Other volunteer opportunities on or around 9/11 can be found on the AmeriCorps website.

We will also celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the contributions of Americans tracing their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean. Hispanic Heritage Month begins on Sept. 15, the anniversary of independence in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It also marks the independence of Mexico on Sept. 16 and Chile on Sept. 18. Watch your email for details on the celebration, which continues through Oct. 15.

Our work has its challenges, but it is also deeply satisfying to see the positive, lasting effect we can have on the lives of New Yorkers. I deeply appreciate and respect all the efforts of our child welfare workers and everyone here at OCFS. And a special shout-out and thank you to those working the OCFS information table at the New York State Fair and spreading the word about our vital services.

With gratitude,

Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq.
Acting Commissioner


This Month's News

Download the September 2023 Newsletter

  • Former OCFS Commissioner John Johnson Remembered as Visionary for Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Accomplishments
  • New York State Recognized for Building Dynamic Partnerships in Child Care System
  • Child Welfare Workers Honored in September for Their Unwavering Dedication
  • Innovative Policy Author's Guide to Help Promote DEIA Principles in OCFS Policies and Programs
  • Taberg Head Cook Promotes Healthy Eating During 30-Year Career
  • NYSCB Summer Programs Keep Students on Track with Skills Development
  • Youth With Lived Experience Recommend Concrete Supportive Services for Homeless Crisis
  • New Coloring Book Among Many Resources Available to Promote Family Engagement