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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
February 2015 — Vol. 10, No. 2

A Message from the Executive Office

Dear Colleagues,

January and February are busy months for OCFS. I had the opportunity to attend the Governor's 2015 New York State of Opportunity Agenda presentation, which combined his annual State of the State address and Executive Budget presentation.

I am pleased to tell you that Raise the Age figured prominently into the Governor's 2015 Opportunity Agenda. Last year, the Governor convened the Commission on Youth, Public Safety & Justice, which provided recommendations regarding how New York State should raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction, improve outcomes for youth, and promote community safety. The Commission recently issued a report containing numerous recommendations. New York is one of just two states that charges all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults; raising the age will get this population out of adult prisons and jails into a system where they can receive appropriate rehabilitative services and no longer be housed with the adult prison population.

This year’s Executive Budget furthers the Governor’s commitment to a balanced, fiscally responsible budget focused on fulfilling our agency’s core mission. The Governor’s Budget provides local districts with 100 percent state reimbursement of capital costs for service expansion related to Raise the Age, and provides for 100 percent state payments for the other placement, detention and child welfare services costs resulting from changing the age of juvenile jurisdiction.

I'd also like to take a moment to acknowledge Bob Burns, a dedicated member of our child welfare division who died suddenly on January 14. It was truly a shock for the OCFS family to lose such a good friend and colleague. I thank and continue to be impressed by our generous and caring employees who took the time to donate to a fund for Bob's children, to whom we also send our strength and support.


Roberto Velez

Acting OCFS Commissioner

In Brief

OCFS Contributes to Statewide Food Drive

OCFS collected 455 pounds of food during the “Can-A-Day Challenge," held to benefit the 2015 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Statewide Food Drive for local food banks. Thank you for your support!

Additionally, thank you to the NYS Commission for the Blind's White Plains office for collecting 34 pounds of food, donated to the Food Bank for Westchester last month -- and to the Rochester Regional Office, which collected 63 pounds of food!

NEW: OCFS Flickr Album

An album of photos from OCFS "going blue" for human trafficking awareness has been posted on the OCFS Flickr page. Thank you for submitting your photos!


OCFS Unveils New Logo, Letterhead, & Communications Plan

Effective immediately, OCFS employees must use the new agency logo, letterhead, and email signature on all new communications. New York State has created branding guidelines to establish a standard and consistent look of logos and all communications across all state agencies, authorities, and programs.

PIO has created a new intranet page to help guide you through the process of changing the look and feel of our documents. There, you will find a summary of the guidelines, the full document issued by the state that all agencies must follow, new templates for PowerPoint presentations, memos, letterhead, fax cover sheets, and new logos. Don't forget to update the footer of the letterhead with your specific information.

Arial size 11 is the preferred font for OCFS communications (email body, Word documents, etc.).

Please take a few moments to read the summary of the guidelines to familiarize yourself with these changes. Compliance is mandatory and PIO is happy to assist with any questions you may have.

OCFS Collaborates, Shares Good News with Local Districts at Annual NYPWA Conference

OCFS Acting Commissioner Roberto Velez joined OCFS staff to kick off the three-day New York Public Welfare Association (NYPWA) Winter Conference in Albany on Jan. 27.

The purpose of the bi-annual conference is to share information and updates in policy and practice related to child care, child welfare, adult services, and juvenile justice, among other areas. OCFS staff participated in several sessions at the event, where this year's theme was, "We Are All in This Together!" 

The biggest news coming out of the conference was savings for local districts. The Executive Budget caps OCFS youth facility billings to local districts at $55 million per year, or at a cumulative total of $275 million through fiscal year 2019, saving local districts approximately $425 million. (New York City is required to invest funds in rental assistance programs or other homeless services to address the homeless population in order to access its portion of the savings.)

Additionally, OCFS staff members presented the following sessions:

  • Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act
  • Creating a Safe, High-Quality, Affordable Child Care System
  • The Transition of Foster Care Children into Health Homes and Managed Care
  • Executive Budget
  • What You Need to Know About the Title IV-E Waiver
  • Disasters: It Happened, Now What?
  • Fiscal Roundtable
  • A Dialogue with Local Districts Regarding the Transition of Foster Care Children into Health Homes and Managed Care

The NYPWA represents New York State's 58 local social services districts, and is the oldest public welfare association in the U.S. It provides information, policy analysis, and technical assistance to federal, state, and local policymakers, along with direct support to districts.

Safe Sleep Partners Raise Awareness in Monroe County

The Baby Safe Sleep Coalition, an OCFS partner in the campaign to promote safe sleep practices for infants, is continuing to engage Monroe County families to reduce the number of sleep-related deaths.

The following is a partial list of its accomplishments throughout 2014:

  • Approximately 25,000 Baby Safe Sleep brochures were printed (courtesy of Xerox Corporation). The brochures are included with all birth certificates mailed out by the Monroe County Department of Public Health.
  • The Health Care Professionals for Safe Sleep campaign has presented to 15 community pediatric practices and agencies that serve families and children. Education materials, including the Sleep Baby, Safe & Snug board book, have been delivered to six additional pediatric offices to share with patients.
  • The Monroe County Safe Crib Program merged with the Baby Safe Sleep Coalition to give low-income families access to safe cribs and safe sleep education. It is now a partner with the national organization Cribs for Kids. About 25 cribs were purchased this year.
  • Baby Safe Sleep videos were released to educate parents and caregivers about the risks of unsafe sleep practices by illustrating stories of loss.
  • Safe sleep has been highlighted in the press, both in print and on television.
  • The Coalition and Rochester General Hospital launched the Safe Sleep Education for Parents of Newborns pilot program in August 2014, which gives parents enhanced safe sleep education as well as a safe sleep kit to take home that includes a sleep sack, a baby book illustrating the safe sleep message, and materials that promote and explain the safe sleep message. More than 1,000 safe sleep kits were distributed by the end of December.

'Bill of Rights' Empowers Foster Care Youth and Children

OCFS has released a New York State Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in Foster Care. The document, which was developed through a collaborative effort by young New Yorkers in foster care and OCFS staff, empowers children and youth in foster care by explicitly listing their rights to safe, nurturing, and healthy environments.

The document includes, but is not limited to, the following rights:

  • Fair treatment and freedom from discrimination.
  • Enough food and adequate clothing.
  • Visitation with birth or adoptive parents, if it is in the child’s best interest.
  • Placement with brothers or sisters, if it is in the child’s best interest.
  • Contact with their caseworker, caseworker’s supervisor, and their lawyer.
  • Records and personal information will be shared only with those who have a legal right to see them.
  • Regular dental, medical, vision, mental, and behavioral health services as needed.
  • Free and appropriate public education and the ability to request assistance in applying to colleges.
  • Access to age- and developmentally-appropriate activities.

Goshen Residents Thank Staff During 'Mentoring Month'

January is New York Mentoring Month, and Goshen Secure Center residents gave their mentors 'thank you' cards with notes of appreciation during a January 21 celebration acknowledging the outstanding job Goshen staff does each day.

The Carl Talbird Award, which is given annually to “individuals who inspire leadership, mentorship, and dedication to the youth at Goshen,” went to YDA Franklyn Thomas, who has worked at Goshen for five years. (Carl Talbird, for whom the award is named, began working at Goshen in 1992, serving as a counselor, YDA, and American Correctional Association coordinator before his departure).

Thank you to all DJJOY facility staff for mentoring youth and helping to give them opportunities to succeed!

Brookwood Programs Provide Youth with Arts, Agriculture Education

Brookwood Secure Center youth are learning and growing with the help of several programs made possible by enhancement funds.

Music Production
The Brookwood Music Production Program is designed to introduce and instruct residents to beat-making, generally associated with the creation of original hip-hop and R&B tracks. The instructor, an accomplished producer from the music industry, conducts workshops on the weekends, mentoring residents in the construction of beats from both analog and digital media. Residents learn to operate software and equipment used in professional music production and gain a better appreciation for the work, precision, and expertise that goes into music production.

Brookwood is currently in the process of setting up a designated “Music Production Classroom” in the old school section of their facility, complete with four production stations.

Strength Through Expressive Arts Movement (S.T.E.A.M.)
S.T.E.A.M. is an applied music class that meets as a part of Brookwood’s after school program. Youth learn basic music theory and how to play several different instruments including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and drums. Residents are also taught how to read music and how to play in a live band performance.

Center 4 Creative Education
The Center 4 Creative Education is a non-profit arts and wellness community center with a mission to nurture and empower youth through the arts. Brookwood has partnered with C.C.E. to provide Dance Xross Fitness (DXF) and Afro-Cuban drumming workshops.

Brookwood Agricultural Initiative
The Holmes family, who own and operate a thriving business near the facility, has more than three generations of professional knowledge and experience in the art of planting, growing, and harvesting crops. Mr. Holmes meets with residents in the Brookwood after school program in classroom workshops, which teach residents various methods and techniques for growing crops under different circumstances. Youth then apply the knowledge they’ve gained in the classroom to grow their own garden and are able to see the fruits of their labor.

Disaster Preparedness: Finding Trusted Sources of Information

By: OCFS Emergency Management Coordinator Steven Taylor

It’s important to know how you will receive news about evacuation orders, shelter locations, weather warnings, and recovery resources during an emergency. That includes making sure you have back-up sources of power for radios, cell phones, and other devices. The most traditional means of getting pertinent information is through local television and radio, but with the advent of the internet and smartphones, you can get information in myriad ways.

New York State’s NY-Alert is a free notification system, and by signing up, you can receive warnings and emergency information via the web, your cell phone, email, and other technologies. Your information is protected and is never shared with anyone else.

A quick note: don’t get NY-Alert and OCFS NY-Alert confused. NY-Alert is an automated system with notifications for severe weather warnings, significant highway closures, hazardous materials spills, and many other emergency conditions, while OCFS NY-Alert is an OCFS-specific notification system that keeps staff informed in the event of an emergency, safety risk, or unexpected incident (such as a building closure).

Local Information
There are many counties, cities, and towns statewide that have their own emergency notification systems similar to NY-Alert. Check local websites, or call your local municipality, to find out how to sign up.

Emergency Apps
Emergency apps on smartphones and tablets, such as American Red Cross hurricane, tornado, or earthquake apps, provide critical information for preparedness, response, and recovery. Many local news stations also have great apps to push out weather watches and warnings.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio
NOAA Weather Radio is a great source for getting up-to-the-minute weather information. The network broadcasts continuous weather information directly from the National Weather Service like weather watches, warnings, and hazards 24 hours per day.

Remember to use a trusted source -- an emergency is no time to rely on amateur social media users who are not weather experts. The last thing anyone needs during an emergency is to get rumors or misinformation that adds more stress to an already stressful situation. Other recommended sources for information are your local or county emergency management office, the New York State Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER), OCFS NY-Alert, and local meteorologists.