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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
April 2016 — Vol. 11, No. 2

Message from the Executive Office

Of all the services the women and men of our agency provide for children, none is more important than those that keep young ones out of harm’s way – that is the goal at the heart of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Child abuse is a problem every single New Yorker can do something about – if they know where to turn when they see or suspect abuse.

Many of us at OCFS are familiar with the New York State Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-342-3720), created to put New Yorkers in direct contact with the State Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). Your colleagues who answer the calls at SCR are experts in recognizing when local investigators need to dig into cases where a child’s well-being or life might be endangered, but they can do nothing unless they hear from the people who witness abuse or suspect it. Maybe you’ve shared the hotline number with someone calling the office with a complaint. Feel free to share that number with your friends and your families, and remember that contacting help through 911 may also be the right call.

New York has been a leader in child abuse prevention, with our child abuse hotline, prevention programs with home visiting for at-risk families, increased mandated reporting and raising public awareness through our website, public education campaigns and work with local districts.

Children are often described as being our greatest resource. They are certainly this agency’s greatest responsibility and it is up to us to utilize every resource available to help and protect them. Our dedicated staff answering calls at the SCR and many others at OCFS who work tirelessly to prevent child abuse have my thanks and deepest gratitude.


Sheila J. Poole

Acting Commissioner


Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul visits OCFS for Women's History Month observance, praises agency's work and encourages more women to join public service


Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul paid an inspirational visit to OCFS on March 9, meeting first with girls from Columbia Secure Center before addressing employees in the South Building conference room.

“You are on the front lines of changing and improving lives,” Hochul told a group of about 70 people. "At the end of the day, that’s a life well-lived. Be proud of that.”

The Lt. Governor accepted Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole’s invitation to visit OCFS as part of the Office’s recognition of Women’s History Month. In her remarks in the South Building on March 9, Hochul pointed out policies and proposals designed to protect women and enhance their quality of life.

“I’m very proud that, with the governor’s leadership, we now have the toughest laws against sexual assault on college campuses in the State of New York," Hochul said.

Pointing out the difficulties some people have in making ends meet, Hochul reminded the group of the Governor’s effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Most minimum wage earners in the State of New York happen to be women and to see them struggling, working forty hours a week with just one job - and many times they have two jobs - and still not living above the federal poverty line if they have a child (is tough)," Hochul said. "What’s wrong with this picture, folks? We’ve got to address this.”

(At left: Columbia Secure Center youth present a gift basket to Hochul. It includes a bracelet crafted by Goshen Secure Center youths Daryus B. and Abel M. under the guidance of YC II Phyllis Brunson-Sutton.)

Addressing the Governor's proposal for 12 weeks of employer-funded, paid family leave, Hochul recounted meeting a woman who went back to work as a bus driver and had to take her newborn to work with her.

“It can change people’s lives in a profound way,” she said.

On March 31, the legislature approved provisions on both the paid family leave plan and increasing the minimum wage.

New Partnership Promotes Healthy Diets in DJJOY Facilities

As the top chef at the Executive Mansion since the Pataki administration, Noah Sheetz spent close to a decade planning and preparing meals for the most discerning of palates.

He finally met his match as a visiting chef at Red Hook Residential Center.

“There is a resident there who, when I met him, ate little more than Doritos and strawberry milk,” Sheetz said. “At first, he flatly refused any vegetables that I offered him.”

Using locally-grown produce in hands-on cooking demonstrations, Sheetz gradually broke down the wall of resistance.

“Now he tries everything we make during the demonstrations,” Sheetz said.

Traveling Taste Buds

Sheetz trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America and established the Chef’s Consortium in 2010. The non-profit organization promotes local food and regionally-sourced ingredients.

Mary Quell hit upon the idea of having Sheetz and his member chefs visit DJJOY facilities as part of their Traveling Taste Buds program. Quell is the Nutrition Services Administrator and Clinical Dietitian in the Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth.

“My goal was to provide more fresh, local, healthy options to the youth during their meals and snacks,” Quell said. “I reached out to Noah to assist me with creating recipes.”

The program began at Brookwood Secure Center and soon expanded to include Goshen Secure Center, Highland Residential Center, and Red Hook. Classes are now forming at Brentwood Residential Center and Youth Leadership Academy. Other facilities have their own culinary programs.

How It Works

Offered as an extracurricular program, each cooking demonstration lasts 45 – 50 minutes. The visiting chef – Sheetz or another consortium member – shows youth how to prepare a healthy meal using simple cooking concepts.

Waffles, steamed dumplings, and vegetable stir fry are three of the many dishes that have proven popular.

“The residents learn basic cooking fundamentals, which give them skills to prepare simple nutritious meals when they are on their own,” Sheetz said. “It also provides them with a foundation of learning that can be applied to a career in culinary arts if that is a career path they are interested in.”

The program is working. In each facility, the visiting chefs are exposing youth to new ingredients and cuisines from different cultures. In the case of the Red Hook youth who used to shun vegetables for Doritos, the cooking demonstrations are inspiring better eating habits.

“I believe each experience with the program is changing his outlook on food and making his diet healthier and more diverse,” Sheetz said.

OCFS Celebrates Milestones in State Service

Linda Prokorym is so focused on her work at the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, she barely noticed that a quarter-century had whooshed by.

“You’re doing your routine, you’re working, and then – Wow! – it’s 25 years,” Prokorym said. “The years just go by so quickly.”

Prokorym, a CPS II Supervisor, joined dozens of her OCFS colleagues at the Length of Service Ceremony (at right) on January 14.

Organized by the Employee Recognition Committee, the event celebrated staff who reached 25, 30, 35, or 40 years of service in 2015.

Columbia Secure Center provided the catering. Two youths prepared and served a delicious meal under the guidance of Recreation Specialist Dominic Bucci, Culinary Arts Teacher Margaret Fitzgerald, Head Chef Frank Kearns, and YDA Brenda Rowlett.

“It feels really good to give back to the people who take care of us,” Raven W. said.

Samantha H. added, “Hearing everyone appreciate the food makes me feel good.”

After the luncheon, the OCFS Executive Staff called up each of the honorees to receive a certificate. They are:

40 Years - Rose Lyon

35 Years - Renee L. Bradley, Barbara Campbell, Michael J. Christian, Susan Dellaro, Louis DiRenzo, Susan Duchnycz, Melvin J. Fuller, Roger T. Gray, Georgette Halliday-Simpson, Anne M. Hunter, Alan J. Lawitz, Susan B. Lederer, Nancy L. Levy, Colleen A. Mulligan, Ines M. Nieves, Charles M. Nuara, Eileen T. Parr, Barbara A. Potenza, Marie L. Thibodeau

30 Years - Sue Ellen Ali, Derwin Bannerman, Mark Blatz, John A. Blue, Daniel P. Brower, Clayton G. Carey, Richard Chaffin II, Orlando A. Cruz, Andres Curbelo, Raymond Davila, Steven J. Devoe, James P. Dufresne, Pamela Fetcho, Frances I. Franco-Montero, Marilyn J. Heston, Carolyn D. Jack, Deborah E. Jackson, Mikki L. Judge, Lonne R. Kleiman, Bruce C. Merriweather, Nancy A. Oliver, Renee Parlavecchio, Anne Field Pascale, Munna M. Rubaii, Deborah M. Szczerba, Victor G. Torregiano, Rodney L. White, William Youberg

25 Years - Melanie A. Amirault, Eugenia M. Avery, Adrian E. Barnhill, Duane A. Barrett, Francesco E. Bianco, Jr., Garnett G. Blake, Larry R. Bradt, Effie M. Brown, Joseph Burden, Osvaldo A. Bustamante, Larry C. Carpenter, Annie L. Carter, Melonie Cavanagh, Dawn D. Clarke, David G. Colombo, Mark C. Comstock, Timothy E. Connor, Cynthia Cooper-Henry, Addison I. Cunningham, Mark A. Davis, Joseph P. Demagistris, Robert R. Dick, Deborah E. Fischer, Craig M. Galarneau, Geda C. Grant, Sandra L. Haggett, Scott P. Handy, Johnsie M. Hassan, Donald P. Horn, Victoria M. Hunt, Joseph A. Hutton, Michael A. James, Rhonda L. Jangro, Kimberly Jefferson, Eric S. Jensen, Anne M. Johnson, Josephine M. Kamya, David F. Kelley, Pamela A. Knowles, Kevin B. Lane, Farooq Mallick, Elizabeth M. McCarthy, Michael A. Miller, Patricia Muller, Emmiline L. Murphy, Penni B. Orlando, Denise B. Pachot, Debra Peete, Denise M. Pitcher, Linda A. Prokorym (above, holding certificate), Curtis Pross, Shirley A. Rose, James M. Schmitz, Jose R. Serrano, Vanessa Smythe, Christopher J. Sullivan, John Sullivan, Andrea Sweda, Jeanne M. Tatko-Gile, Leslie Thompson, Marguerite Thompson, Daniel M. Tiska, Tracy T. Windley, Michael R. Zielinski

Living Our Mission

OCFS proudly introduces a new feature highlighting staff who embody the agency's mission to promote the safety, permanency, and well-being of New York's children, families, and communities.

We begin by revisiting the holiday season, when staff from the Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth (DJJOY) and the Office of the Ombudsman (OTOO) at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building went above and beyond for a group of pre-K students in Harlem.

Shawn Chin-Chance, DJJOY Office of Community Partnerships

"We believe in the mission of OCFS and reflect it in our everyday interactions. So this holiday season, we decided to do our traditional holiday potluck party and also purchase gifts for children in the Harlem community. I recommended Storefront Academy Harlem to my colleagues because I know how essential the school is to the East Harlem community. My kids went to Storefront in 2014 and I strongly support and believe in the mission of the school, which aligns with our agency’s mission. It was founded in 1966 by Ned O’Gorman, an award-winning poet, author and community activist who believed in Harlem's children. I personally knew Ned before his passing, and he was an extraordinary person that I was pleased my children had a chance to meet. Although my kids no longer attend the school, I try to find ways to give back to them."

Shona Bowers, Manhattan Community Multi-Services Office (CMSO)

“Our Office theme this year was 'In the Spirit of Giving.' We decided to seek out a school in Harlem to give educational materials and toys within the community we serve. It was a pleasant surprise to walk into a class that holds our future leaders! When they saw us with those gifts, they could barely contain their excitement! They were well-mannered and super excited at the same time. I felt as if I worked for Santa. It was truly a feeling of gratification and appreciation on our part, as well as the youth who received the gifts for their class. I loved the way the teachers explained to the children that these gifts are not only for them, but for all of other students that will come to the classroom after they transition forward! Our Harlem Team was overjoyed knowing that we were able to give gifts that will keep on giving at Storefront Academy Harlem."

Do you know a staff member who is Living Our Mission? E-mail press@ocfs.ny.gov.


Youth who are growing through their experience in OCFS programs left a lasting impression on those who attended the African-American History Month observance on February 25.

About  100 people gathered for the observance and luncheon.  They enjoyed performances by two singing teens from the Brookwood Choir, including a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror”.

One highlight was the drumming  of students who are progressing though the Youth Leadership Academy. The musical group was is led by Kazi Oliver, a musician who’s been described as an “African drummer extraordinaire.”

Mary Liz Stewart, co-founder of the Underground History Project Capital Region, urged those gathered to understand the “Underground Railroad” was a movement and is a significant part of American history.

DJJOY’s Youth Leadership Academy presented teens who impressed  with variations on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  historic 1968 speech  in Washington, D.C.

“I have a dream that my friends could see their worth and get a job,” said one student. “I have a dream that one day I will leave the slums;  that one day all children will embrace where they are from;  that grown-ups will set an example for the young.”

Another said, “I have a dream that someday I can say I made a difference and overcame all obstacles on my way to success. Oh, I have a dream, yes I do, that this dream will no longer be a dream but be a reality.”