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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
April 2015 — Vol. 10, No. 4

A Message from the Executive Office

Dear Colleagues,

All of us at OCFS work diligently year-round to promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of New York’s children and their families, but April is a particularly important month to our agency: it’s Child Abuse Prevention Month. OCFS is commemorating the month by working with its partners to educate New Yorkers about how they can help improve the lives of our children.

OCFS and the City of Rensselaer are partnering again this year to plant a Pinwheels for Prevention garden to raise awareness of child abuse and to create a visual reminder that everyone has an important role in preventing child abuse and nurturing the children of our community. Pinwheels will be sold at Home Office, the Statewide Central Register (SCR), the Human Services Call Center (HSCC), and at Rensselaer City Hall for $3 apiece until April 9. OCFS and City Hall staff will plant the pinwheel garden on April 9 at 12:30 p.m. in Huyck Square, at the corner of Third Avenue and Washington Street. Proceeds from the pinwheels will benefit St. Paul's Center, an emergency shelter for mothers and children in Rensselaer. Last year, our campaign raised $1,300 for the CEO Family Resource Center in Rensselaer. Additionally, OCFS employees across the state are encouraged to wear blue on April 9 to raise awareness about child abuse and the importance of preventing it.

OCFS continues to do incredible work in preventing child abuse, in raising awareness and in working with communities to promote success within families. This year, the Healthy Families New York (HFNY) home visiting program is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Since its inception, this evidence-based program that supports families in high-risk communities statewide has enrolled nearly 35,000 families and assessed more than 54,000 parents; in fact, home visitors have completed more than 1.1 million home visits since 1995. OCFS applauds HFNY for preventing child abuse and neglect, improving birth outcomes, promoting success in school, and supporting positive parenting.

I extend a sincere thank you to each and every one of you for the work you do every day to put New York’s children first!

Kind Regards,

Roberto Velez

Acting Commissioner

In Brief

New York State Child Abuse Prevention Conference

OCFS, the New York State Children and Family Trust Fund, and Prevent Child Abuse New York are co-sponsoring the 20th Annual New York State Child Abuse Prevention Conference, “Building Resilient Families, Celebrating Successes,” on April 13, 14, and 15 at the Albany Marriott (189 Wolf Road, Albany).

Guest speakers and workshops build upon skills to help equip professionals, advocates, and caregivers to strengthen families, prevent child abuse, and improve outcomes for at-risk children and families.

OCFS Donates 175 Books to St. Paul's Center

OCFS recently donated 175 new and gently-used books to St. Paul's Center in Rensselaer as part of the statewide Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literacy Drive. The books will be provided to mothers and their children who stay at the emergency shelter.

Last year, St. Paul’s Center assisted more than 400 mothers and children. OCFS will also donate proceeds from this year’s Pinwheels for Prevention campaign to the non-profit.

Meet and Greet: Capital Area Multi-Agency (CAMA) Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

OCFS will be joining the Capital Area Multi-Agency (CAMA) EAP, which was created in 2004 and consists of multiple agencies that share three full-time EAP Coordinators.

The OCFS Capital District EAP Committee will hold a "meet and greet" with CAMA Coordinators on Thursday, April 9, 2015, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in each of the buildings on the Home Office campus.

11 a.m.–11:30 a.m.: West Building
11:45 a.m.–12:15 p.m.: South Building
12:30 p.m.–1 p.m.: North Building


Ithaca Mayor Celebrates African American History Month at MacCormick

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, one of the youngest mayors in U.S. history, celebrated African American History Month at MacCormick Secure Center on February 18, where he delivered remarks and talked to the youth about his struggles and successes.

Mayor Myrick shared an inspirational personal story about roadblocks early in his life that he later transformed into achievements. He told youth of complications during his birth, homelessness as a young child, his father's drug addiction problems, and his mother's challenges trying to make ends meet for the family, all of which he said were not acceptable deterrents to achievement for him. He admitted that although school wasn’t particularly enjoyable for him, his story of strength and survival opened the door for him at Cornell University -- an opportunity that he said the youth also have. 

Many youth were inspired by his story, and expressed sincere interest in knowing what employment and educational opportunities awaited them upon re-entry to their community. Mayor Myrick accepted an invitation to return to MacCormick and other facilities in the future to speak to the youth about how they can fight for better opportunities and bright futures for themselves.

Goshen Art Students Imitate Influential Artists

Students at Goshen Secure Center recently studied the Harlem Renaissance and artists like William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, and Faith Ringgold. The students were tasked with creating collages using paper to express a snapshot of a day in their life. This idea was inspired by the artistic style of telling the story of an artist’s life.

OCFS and Human Trafficking Task Force Meet with Japanese Delegation

Representatives of New York State’s Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking, including OCFS staff members, welcomed a delegation of Japanese officials to New York City on March 6 to discuss New York’s multi-agency approach for combating human trafficking.

Their two-day visit to New York City was aimed at building on U.S.-Japan cooperation to combat trafficking in persons, as well as developing a better understanding about how multiple levels of government and law enforcement work together on these cases.

In December 2014, Japan revised its national action plan for combating human trafficking and is in the process of creating an interagency task force at the national and local levels in order to improve identification and response efforts.

OCFS has been working for years to put a stop to trafficking, which robs children of the opportunity to live their lives free of abuse and neglect. A large number of trafficked individuals are children and youth, so OCFS partners with the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA) through the ChildRight: New York project to identify youth vulnerable to trafficking, and provide services to them and training sessions for child welfare professionals.

OCFS Announces First Regional CAC in State

New York State's first Regional Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is expected to open in the coming months in Clinton County, serving as the hub for additional satellites throughout the North Country, including Franklin County, Essex County, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. 

The Regional CAC provides a non-threatening, child-focused environment where joint investigations, specialized evaluations, trauma-informed treatment, and prosecution of child physical and/or sexual abuse cases are provided by a Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT).

OCFS staff members are looking forward to working with stakeholders in the North Country in using this evidence-based CAC model that improves outcomes, promotes safety, and supports the well-being of children and their families.

OCFS funds 40 CACs serving more than 43 counties and 18,000 children statewide. The CAC model not only results in more complete and informed investigations and prosecutions, but also emphasizes a less traumatic response to child victims and their non-offending family members. OCFS and the National Children's Alliance (NCA) provide a framework of standards for developing and establishing CACs.

CWCS Continues to Explore Race Equity and Cultural Competence

OCFS remains committed to working toward embedding a race equity lens throughout the agency on several fronts. The Division of Child Welfare and Community Services (CWCS) staff continues to explore issues related to the history and context that has resulted in various race-based inequities in various systems via participation in Race Equity Learning Exchange sessions with national expert and consultant Khatib Waheed. CWCS staff also communicates regularly with leaders in cultural competence from across the nation, sharing knowledge about what is working to reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities.

CWCS staff recently led a day-long session with more than 60 social work field instructors and supervisors to encourage them to support social work/welfare students as they explore issues of race and ethnic equity in their field placements. The session introduced the field supervisors to the work that OCFS has done and continues to do through CWCS and the Race Equity Cultural Competence Steering Committee. Participants left asking for more exposure to the work, and evaluations indicated that the presentation and the work that followed were very well-received.

OCFS Staff Celebrate Diversity at Home Office

Capital Region OCFS employees recently held a Diversity Celebration honoring African American History Month and Irish American Heritage Month at Home Office. The event was organized by the Diversity Awareness Team to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of the cultural diversity of our workforce.

Staff were treated to a lunch hour program that included a choreographed dance routine by Taberg Residential Center youth to “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” made popular by Diana Ross and the Supremes. In preparation for their performance, residents researched the group and duplicated the Supremes' choreography to the song.

Chastity McGivern of Albany's Irish American Heritage Museum showed a DVD documenting Irish immigration and shared the importance of keeping Irish traditions alive.

Bernett Marion, Director of the OCFS Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Development, shared the inspiring story of Dr. Carter Woodson, the founder of African American History Month.

Additionally, staff prepared foods celebrating African American and Irish American cultures.

Photos of the celebration can be found on the OCFS Flickr page.