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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
May 2015 — Vol. 10, No. 5

Message from the Executive Office

Spring is finally here (maybe) and with its arrival, OCFS is full speed ahead with a myriad of projects.

The legislature passed the 2015-2016 state budget on April 1. Although the Raise the Age proposal was not in the enacted budget, it remains a top priority. Our work at OCFS will continue over the next few months as Raise the Age along with a number of other large pieces of legislation could be taken up by the end of the legislative session. The enacted budget did appropriate funding for the implementation of Raise the Age including dollars that are only available if the legislation is enacted later in the year, as well as some money that can be made available to localities to assess readiness and commence implementation planning.

The related good news coming from the enacted budget is that we can move ahead with more flexibility in the hiring criteria for our DJJOY facility directors. The enacted budget also provides modifications to our BOCES proposal which extends our ability to contract with BOCES for educational services for youth in our facilities that was set to expire this year. The extension goes through June 2018 and it expands our authority to allow us to contract with BOCES to provide music, art and foreign language services, in addition to special education, career and technical education services that we already were authorized to provide through BOCES.

The budget also included $365 million to continue the state’s $1.5 billion commitment over five years for full-day Pre-K for 4-year olds. In addition, it expanded Pre-K for 3- and 4-year olds in high-need districts.

Finally, as you know, it is my privilege to have been asked to return to the agency as Acting Commissioner last month and I look forward to continuing our important work on behalf of the Governor and New York's children, youth and families.


Sheila J. Poole

Acting Commissioner 

In Brief

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the scope of elder abuse and educate the public about the warning signs of possible abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

The Awareness Day also encourages reporting of suspected elder abuse to the local Adult Protective Services unit and law enforcement; and sends a strong message that causing physical, emotional, or mental harm or injury, using methods of intimidation, taking advantage of a senior, or jeopardizing his or her health or welfare - is inexcusable and intolerable.

Record-Breaking Pinwheel Donations Benefit St. Paul's

OCFS was proud to present a check for $1,848 to St. Paul's Women's and Children's Shelter in the city of Rensselaer. The funds were raised through the contributions by staff from OCFS and the city of Rensselaer as a result of selling pinwheels to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect for Child Abuse Prevention Month. Thank you to everyone who made this generous contribution possible!


OCFS Co-Sponsors 20th Annual New York State Child Abuse Prevention Conference

The annual conference sponsored by Prevent Child Abuse New York (PCANY) and OCFS is designed to provide participants with skills and strategies to strengthen families, prevent child abuse, and promote children’s healthy development.

This year’s conference was organized around the following six tracks: Parenting Education and Support; Child Abuse Prevention Skills and Strategies; Child Sexual Abuse Treatment and Prevention; Reducing Barriers to Children’s Well-Being; Family Engagement and Involvement, and Personal and Organizational Resilience.  

OCFS Associate Commissioner for the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services, Renee Hallock, opened the plenary session with an overview of what was included in this year’s enacted state budget for OCFS and current OCFS initiatives to strengthen families and improve the well-being of children.

A number of OCFS grantees presented at this conference including: 

A special reception also recognized the 20 year anniversary of Healthy Families New York home visiting program. Bernadette Johnson was the emcee for the festivities and she also presented an award to Peggy Sheehan, program manager of Healthy Schenectady Families for her leadership and support to the HFNY network.

OCFS sponsored ten parents who attended the conference and brought information back to their communities.

Roadtrip Nation Kicks Off Special Program with Youth at MacCormick and Industry

Every high school student, no matter what the situation, has passions and interests that are unique to them. Roadtrip Nation helps young people connect what they are naturally interested in – whether it is playing video games, reading mystery novels, or catching bugs in their backyard – to a potential career down the road.

Recently, special funding from AT&T Aspire has enabled Roadtrip Nation to bring the program to youth at two OCFS facilities, MacCormick Secure Center and Industry Residential Center. Roadtrip Nation provides tools to help students connect the dots between their personal interests and real world opportunities. Through the program, students see firsthand how what they learn in the classroom today can become a future career.

AT&T Aspire, the company's signature education initiative, contributed $1.5 million to Roadtrip Nation this year, which will extend its program offerings to 15,000 students in twelve states, including New York. With a targeted goal to help empower youth at risk of not graduating, the program aims to encourage students to overcome their current obstacles and pave their own professional paths.

The curriculum engages students in self-reflection exercises to help identify their interests. Roadtrip Nation’s vast interview archive, which contains video interviews with hundreds of successful real-world leaders spanning every industry, allows students to learn the steps each of these leaders took that to bring them to where they are today. Throughout the curriculum, students connect to an online student community where they can share their projects and connect with like-minded peers who share similar goals from across the country.

During the interactive, educational event, the students heard stories from the road by the presenters, participated in exercises that lead students through a process of exploring their interests, and illustrate how they can connect those interests to their studies, their communities, and their futures, learned how to research and conduct a cold-call to a leader in students’ field of interest and learned interview best practices in Live On-Stage Interviews. The students were also invited to tour the Roadtrip Nation RV that the presenters travel the country on to conduct these events. 

OCFS Staff Discuss Job Opportunities at MLK Jr. Career Day Event

OCFS participated in the 16th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Career Fair at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, which was the largest yet with 150 businesses looking to hire employees to fill more than 3,000 jobs in the capital region.

OCFS Human Resources staff met with potential candidates, many of whom had never heard of the agency, but always wanted to work with children.

The MLK Jr. Career Fair was sponsored by the New York State Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Office of General Services. In addition to meeting with businesses, job seekers were able to attend career workshops covering topics such as resume writing, interviewing techniques and job search strategies.

OCFS joined businesses from 16 industry sectors, including manufacturing, finance and insurance, utilities and construction, professional, scientific and technical, healthcare and social assistance.

HFNY New York Team Wins Award for Exemplary Public Engagement

The Healthy Families New York (HFNY) home visiting program administered by OCFS was awarded the 2015 UAlbany President's Award for Exemplary Public Engagement.

Among those honored in conjunction with the program were Kristen Kirkland from the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Development (SPPD) and Bernadette Johnson from the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services (CWCS). The staff of the University at Albany’s Center for Human Services Research, the staff of Prevent Child Abuse New York, and Peggy Sheehan of Healthy Schenectady Families were also named as part of the award.

The HFNY team was honored at an awards ceremony on April 28. The UAlbany award recognizes individuals, projects, and programs that have made exemplary contributions to address a significant societal need and enhance public well-being through community-engaged research, creative activity, teaching, academic study, and/or public service.

May Proclaimed as Foster Care Awareness Month

May is Foster Care Awareness Month in New York State. We recognize that every child has the right to grow up in a safe, healthy and stable home environment and that foster parents play an essential role in providing temporary, safe, and nurturing homes to children when their parents are unable to care for them.

The good news is that from 1995 to 2012, the number of children in New York State's foster care decreased from nearly 54,000 to fewer than 21,000. OCFS, along with our partners at the local district level, are also reducing rates of re-entry into foster care.

There is still work for us to do: there are 19,000 boys and girls that are currently looking for permanent homes. Through the ongoing work of OCFS, local districts and family courts as well as the continued support of the Kinship Guardian Assistance Program (KinGAP), Youth in Progress, and Education and Training Voucher programs, foster youth are gaining permanency and well-being, and transitioning to brighter, more productive futures. In addition, current and former foster youth can find assistance with educational, vocational, housing, and other challenges in their transition from foster care to self-sufficiency thanks to preventive agencies and independent living programs.

The foster care homepage on the OCFS website offers a wealth of information about foster care, including the requirements that foster parents must meet, how youth placement occurs, and frequently asked questions.

Emergency Management Officer's Corner: Pet Preparedness

If you are a pet owner, part of your disaster preparedness should include a plan for your pet(s).  Disasters can be a very stressful time for pets and their owners.   Making an emergency pet kit can help you better deal with the disaster when it happens and lessen the stress to your pet(s).

Kits should include the following items (make sure you label all items in your kit with your name and your pet's name):


  • Medications (two weeks' supply)
  • Copies of health records with photos of your pet/s
  • Food and water dishes
  • At least one week's supply of food and water
  • A can opener if needed for canned food
  • Blankets, towels and bedding
  • Pet first aid kit Pet carrier(s) with ID tag or secure cage for birds or pocket pets Waste disposal bags for dogs and litterbox/litter and scooper for cats
  • Collar, harness and leash
  • Pet ID and microchip information
  • Toys (a favorite toy may help alleviate stress during a disaster)

It is important to remember if you are asked to "shelter-in-place," so should your pet. Shelter-in-place typically means that you remain in your home until the danger has passed; so the same would apply for your pets.  Bring them inside at the first signs of danger.  Your pets may become stressed during their in-house confinement, so consider crating them for safety and comfort. Crating your pets may also make it easier if evacuation becomes necessary. When you are asked to evacuate, remember - if you go, your pet goes! Do not evacuate and leave your pets behind in a crate because they will be rendered helpless until you return or until someone else reaches them. 

Do not stay behind because you fear that your pet will not have a place to stay at the shelter.  While most shelters do not allow pets, the shelters will work with the local Emergency Management and other groups to coordinate pet sheltering as close as possible to your shelter.  You can also plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets. Consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency or research pet friendly hotels as alternatives to staying in a shelter.  

Remember pets are family too.  If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pets.