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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Acting Commissioner
November 2023 — Vol. 8, No. 11

November Commissioner's Message

Dear Colleagues,

Later this month, many of us will gather with friends, family and community on Thanksgiving to express gratitude for all that we have and that which bring us joy. Personally, I am so grateful to be leading this amazing agency and proud of our incredible staff for all you do to advance our mission.

Thanksgiving often conjures images of reunion, harvest and sharing, and I know that this day is a beloved and cherished tradition rooted in gratitude and love for many families. At the same time, native and Indigenous voices have long called for us to recognize that this holiday is rooted in some hard truths about this nation’s founding in colonialism and the genocide of Native Americans. These oppressive origins persist across our modern systems, making many of the things we will take for granted during the holidays – like warm meals and safe, caring environments to host our gatherings – nothing more than a dream for the children, families and communities we serve. That must change.

In pursuit of this goal, we are committed to elevating the voices of those who seek to be seen, heard and recognized through awareness months and days. November is Native American Heritage month, a celebration of the cultural and foundational impact of Tribal communities throughout our country. I hope you’ll join our Native American Services Bureau on Nov. 6, from 12 p.m. -1 p.m. for “The Retelling of the Haudenosaunee Creation Story.”

This month will also feature National Homeless Youth Awareness and National Runaway Prevention Month. We must remember these young people, many of whom may be in need of permanency services because they fled situations where their families were unwilling to appreciate and respect them for their LGBTQ+ identity. Later in this newsletter you will find an inspiring story of a shelter that is celebrating its 25th year of providing a home-like environment for youth and helping rebuild families wherever possible.

Speaking of the pursuit of permanency for our young people, this is National Adoption Awareness Month. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our Bureau of Permanency Services, thousands of New York’s children have found loving environments in which to thrive. While the month recognizes the decision to legally adopt a child, I think it’s equally important to appreciate the families who provide children a stable, welcoming home however they choose or are able to — foster care, kinship and fictive kin care and even informal adoptions or guardianships that last years or even a lifetime. OCFS is also planning a number of exciting activities to highlight how families can open their hearts by opening their homes, including an event in New York City on November 14.

Other key reminders this month focus on Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance. It may seem that every month is brimming full of activities centering the voices of communities who have long been marginalized, excluded or impacted by systemic discrimination and disproportionally harmful policies. At OCFS, our goal to address those inequities, confront generational trauma and empower all children, families and communities in New York State to overcome them. Until we no longer need to raise awareness about voices unheard, we must amplify those voices and enact the change they seek.

Our work here is incredibly important, vital and rewarding, and I hope you feel an equal sense of gratitude as you gather with your own families this month.

With gratitude,

Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq.
Acting Commissioner


This Month's News

Download the November 2023 Newsletter

  • OCFS Promotes Updated Mandated Reporter Training in NYC
  • Acting Commissioner Discusses Link Between Domestic Violence and Child Welfare
  • New OCFS General Counsel and Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs Appointed
  • New York Selected as First State to Qualify For Federal Expansion of Military Child Care Assistance
  • Income Eligibility Expanded for Child Care Assistance
  • Healthy Families New York in Queens Graduates 19 Families
  • Child Care Providers Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Six Industry Students Attend Community College
  • Business Enterprise Program Signs Contract To Run Vending Machines in NYS Bus Depots
  • Disability Rights Events Focus on Employment
  • Malta Youth Shelter Celebrates 25 Years of Service As Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month Begins
  • AmeriCorps Helps Students Apply for Financial Aid
  • AmeriCorps Supports Veterans and Military Families