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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
June 2015 — Vol. 10, No. 6

Message from the Executive Office

OCFS is looking back on recent success and looking ahead to new opportunities. 

In May, the Division of Child Care Services Lean Team received a 2015 Public Service Excellence Award from the State Academy for Public Administration. The Lean Team deftly reduced the day care licensing process from 173 days to 90 days to earn the recognition.

The Governor proclaimed May as Foster Care Month in New York. The Division of Child Welfare and Community Services highlighted the need for more caring, nurturing foster families across the State, while administering $1.34 million in grants to organizations that provide vital kinship caregiver services.

The Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth celebrated partnerships with institutions of higher learning. At Brookwood, youth completed a Sociology course with SUNY New Paltz students. At MacCormick, two youth counselors were honored by Cornell University for their support of the MSC Debate Team.

Still, there’s more work to be done.

As the legislative session winds down, the Governor continues to rally support for Raise the Age. We don’t know if the Assembly and Senate will take action, but we’re closely following the developments and getting ready for whatever changes come our way.

New regulations taking effect on June 1 will help to better protect children in day care facilities across New York. The Bureau of Adult Services is getting ready for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15. And the New York State Commission for the Blind is continuing its life-changing work on behalf of the vision-impaired.

We’re off and running.


Sheila J. Poole

Acting Commissioner

In Brief

OCFS Summer Picnic: June 24

Tickets are available for purchase on June 4 and June 10 from Noon to 1pm in the South Lobby in Rensselaer. Tickets cannot be purchased at the door on the day of the event. 

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: June 15

Join the OCFS Bureau of Adult Services at Crossgates Mall for a day of education and information.


HSCC Hits the Half-Million Call Mark

When Yaritza Aponte answered the phone at 3:49 p.m. on Friday, May 15, she did not know she was making history. Aponte just happened to field the 500,000th call to the Human Services Call Center (HSCC) -- and it came only two days after the HSCC celebrated its two-year anniversary.

“We knew we were getting close to 500,000 from our daily review of call volume, and we were certain it would occur on Friday, May 15,” HSCC Project Director Kathryn Shelton said. “We looked through our telephony report and decided this call was it.”

Once managers realized it was Aponte who answered the milestone call, they surprised her with balloons: an act of kindness that confused the call center representative.

“At first, I was worried that the balloons were a mistake,” Aponte said. “When I realized what they were for, I was excited and happy that I was a part of a grand moment for HSCC. Being relatively new here, it made me feel cared about and definitely part of the HSCC family.”

From left to right: Operations Manager Joe Duffney, Director Kathryn Shelton, Call Center Representative Yaritza Aponte, Project Coordinator Mike Clough, Quality Assurance Manager Jason DeSantis, Information Technology Manager Mike Damars  

When the HSCC opened on May 13, 2013, there were with five call center representatives answering three lines for the Department of Health. Today, there are 35 representatives answering 26 lines for nine State agencies.

In the coming year, the HSCC is projected to receive hundreds of thousands of calls. And Yaritza Aponte knows there’s a chance she will field the one-millionth one.

“Fingers crossed for getting the 1,000,000th call,” she said. “I’m feeling lucky.” 

"Ride to Make a Difference" Reaches Destination

They made it!

A Rensselaer County family bicycled across the State in May to raise awareness of the need for more adoptive and foster parents, and OCFS helped them spread the word.

Renee and John Capuano, of Castleton, recently adopted five children they were fostering: Edgar, 5, Vinny, 5, Nico, 6, Emilio, 6, and Franny, 8. Renee and John’s biological son, Paul, 16, came up with the idea of a bike ride to coincide with Foster Care Awareness Month.

Laura Velez, Deputy Commissioner of the Division of Child Welfare and Community Service (CWCS), spoke to NewsChannel 13 WNYT-TV (NBC) on Wednesday, May 13 as part of a story previewing the bike trip. By the next morning, it was the most-viewed story on wnyt.com.

Renee Hallock, Associate Commissioner for CWCS, spoke to Time Warner Cable News and the local ABC, CBS, and NBC television affiliates on Monday, May 18 just before the Capuanos embarked on their journey.

Clockwise from top left: NewsChannel 13's Kumi Tucker interviews Laura Velez about adoption and foster care; TV news photographers zoom in on Renee Hallock during the kickoff event at the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services; the Capuanos begin their journey; the Capuanos pose with Acting Fair Director Troy Waffner.


During the nine-day, 13-county trip, Paul pedaled a cargo bike with seats for Edgar, Vinny, Nico, and Emilio. Paul’s biological sister, Priscilla, 14, pedaled a tandem bike with Franny. Mom rode her own bike, while dad followed in a van.

When the family reached Syracuse, the Great New York State Fair rolled-out the red carpet, providing refreshments, a place to rest, and backpacks filled with Fair goodies.

Paul’s cargo bike blew a tire just before the Capuanos reached their stopping point in Buffalo, so they ran and walked the final two miles. The Buffalo News and the local CBS and NBC television affiliates covered their arrival.

“We are so surprised and overwhelmed with all of the interest,” Renee Capuano said after returning home to the Capital Region. “We hope it results in the addition of some new adoptive and foster families in New York State.”

Sweat, Success at Commissioner's 5K Challenge

Seven facilities in the Department of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth (DJJOY) competed in the Commissioner’s 5K Challenge on May 6, helping to raise awareness about the benefits of physical activity and healthy eating.

Youth and staff members pounded the pavement at Columbia, Goshen, Highland, Industry, Red Hook, Taberg, and the Youth Leadership Academy, competing in the 5K race or a supplemental 1K walk.

Industry typified the total team effort necessary to plan and execute the event.

Travis Schinzel and the Industry Recreation Department organized the race. Rev. Karyn Carter gave the invocation. DJ Barry Dean supplied the music. Head Cook Marilyn Heston and her staff prepared the post-race meal. Transport Agent Lisa Midnight snapped the photos.

More than 50 staff members participated at Industry, including representatives from the Buffalo and Rochester Community Multi-Service Offices (CMSO), Detention, and Quality Assurance. And there was similar support at the other six facilities that competed. 

Ines Nieves, the Deputy Commissioner of DJJOY, developed the Commissioner’s 5K Challenge as a way to promote the health benefits of running. Youth trained for several months under staff supervision, while also learning about the importance of proper nutrition.

On race day, Nieves competed at Highland.

The top runner at each facility earned a medal or a trophy, while all youth participants received a certificate signed by OCFS Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole.

In addition to inspiring a healthy lifestyle, the Commissioner’s 5K Challenge also piqued artistic interests. All seven facilities participated in a tee-shirt contest. A Taberg youth designed the winning entry.


Congratulations to the 2015 OCFS Workforce Challenge Team!

Team OCFS competed in the 2015 CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge on May 21 at the Empire State Plaza. This is the sixth year that CDPHP has been the title sponsor of the race, and a record 10,237 people participated. It is the largest annual road race between Utica and New York City.

This year's event benefitted the Brave Will Foundation, the Commission on Economic Opportunity “CEO” and The Food Pantries for the Capital District, all of which serve New York's children and families. While the final tally is not yet available, preliminary numbers from CDPHP show that thousands of dollars were donated to the charities this year.

OCFS employees proudly sported t-shirts printed at Taberg Residential Center. Three co-ed teams, two all-male teams, and four all-female teams competed for the agency against more than 500 companies and organizations from throughout the Capital Region.

The top male runner, Kieran O’Connor, of Tyler Technologies, Inc., finished the race in 17:02. This was his first time running in the Challenge. The top female runner, Karen Bertasso, of Albany Medical Center, finished the race in 20:22.

OCFS Language Access Plan Updates

The updated OCFS Language Access Plan (LAP) is now available on the Division of Human Rights website with an effective date of April 2015. 

The plan lists the OCFS language access policy and the vital documents OCFS has already translated into the six most common languages, as well as those that are awaiting translation. The documents listed in the plan were identified by OCFS divisions and offices as necessary to access programs or services.

In addition to the LAP plan, OCFS responds to requests for translations from program areas. The requests are based on clients’ inquiries and/or program needs. 

Training: All OCFS staff members are required to undergo yearly online training on language access. The training will be updated this year to include two forms OCFS has developed to better track language access delivery.
All OCFS managers who may have access to the multilingual population we serve are also required to take a mandatory language access training developed by GOER.
Mery Rosendorn in the Public Information Office serves as the OCFS Language Access Coordinator.  She will be reaching out to all LEP liaisons in the coming weeks to update them on their responsibilities.  The LEP liaisons can be found on the Intranet at the following link: http://ocfs.state.nyenet/LEP.asp
Language Access Resources: OCFS publishes all of the forms and publications it translates under each of the languages found at the top banner of our website. It also has a comprehensive webpage that appears on our main page about Language Assistance Resources.  Our Intranet also has information and user-friendly links to important information about language access.