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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
May 2016 — Vol. 11, No. 3

Commissioner's Message

  Nothing is more important for a child than a safe, nurturing home. At OCFS –especially during this   National Foster Care Month - we are dedicated to give strength and support to vulnerable children in foster care.

OCFS works closely with local social services districts and voluntary agencies to help vulnerable children find caring and supportive foster parents. When children need a home away from home, foster parents play a critical role - one we recognize with the theme for this year’s National Foster Care Month: “Honoring, uniting and celebrating families.”

The good work you do here steers thousands of boys and girls toward the compassion and stability they need to grow into healthy, productive adults. They will see a brighter future because of your dedication to improving their lives.

Think of the many ways OCFS is there for kids: Kinship Care leads children into placements with relative foster parents and Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program provides financial support and medical coverage to enable them to continue to care for such children after they leave foster care; Bridges to Health promotes permanency for foster children with special needs by providing enhanced medical supportive services while they are in and after they are released from care; youth who are aging out of foster care and preparing for independence get services from the Education and Training Voucher program; Youth in Care Corner supports foster children who want to go to college; and Youth in Progress sends mentoring adults along with youth leaders to retreats, events, and activities.

These are only some of the ways your determination and attention to detail is working to change lives. Children who might have had nowhere to turn have options, thanks to you and your efforts to open up possibilities where none existed. You have my heartfelt gratitude as we continue to work together for New York’s children and families.


Brookwood's James LeCain Wins Howard A. Levine Award

Brookwood College Program (BCP) Instructor James LeCain is the winner of the May 2016 Howard A. Levine Award for Excellence in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare.

LeCain founded the college program in 2010 as an extension of the high school educational program at Brookwood Secure Center. BCP is believed to be the only college program of its kind in the United States and has awarded more than 1500 college credits. Four students have earned an Associates degree and additional credits toward attaining a Bachelors degree. The program is a satellite of Columbia-Greene Community College. At first, it offered only a few courses taught by one instructor.

LeCain developed an internship program with Columbia-Greene Community College and with SUNY New Paltz, which has produced 12 student interns. More than half of the BCP interns have returned to volunteer in the Brookwood College Program. LeCain organized a college course with Columbia-Greene Community College for this fall and is in talks with Vassar College to include that school in a similar course. The Columbia Girls Secure Center will join the Brookwood College Program for the next summer semester.

The award is named for retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard A. Levine, who was the first chair of what was then called the Special Committee on Juvenile Justice.



NYS Commission For The Blind Getting The Job Done

Nearly 90 percent of consumers receiving services through the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) are happy with the results. Respondents to a recent survey cite employment services as being the most important to them.

The NYSCB helped clients find jobs that pay an average of nearly $20 an hour – well above the national average hourly wage of $15.

“Federal wage statistics support and reinforce the positive feedback we received from the people we serve through our survey,” says NYSCB Associate Commissioner Brian S. Daniels. “We help blind citizens live the fullest and most independent lives possible by providing needed supports. Being able to support themselves financially is fundamental to that mission.”

The satisfaction survey is the first of its kind and was conducted at the request of the State Rehabilitation Council, a panel of policy and operations advisers appointed by the Governor. The overwhelming majority of those surveyed said they are very satisfied with services.

NYSCB engaged Cornell University’s K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Employment and Disability Institute to conduct the survey, which was funded by NYSCB and NYSOCFS. More than three hundred consumers responded. The survey found:

  • 87% of consumers reported satisfaction with the services they received.
  • Nearly two-thirds of clients who landed a job expressed satisfaction with the help they received in vocational goal setting and developing service plans.
  • Consumers had increased positive feelings about themselves, their futures, the quality of their lives and their levels of independence after participating in Vocational Rehabilitation services.

Associate Commissioner Daniels said, “I am proud of our staff and our private sector service providers, who support and encourage the aspirations of those we serve. The passion and vigor with which consumers of NYSCB services pursue their vocations is a daily reminder that visual impairment is not a barrier to successful employment.”

“The NYSCB State Rehabilitation Council is extremely pleased with the results of the Consumer Satisfaction Survey,” said Council Chair Pratik Patel. “We look forward to our continued work with NYSCB to maintain this high level of satisfaction.”

 Many clients expressed satisfaction with services related to goal setting, planning and learning self-advocacy, services that are seen as having far-reaching effects on consumers’ lives.

Finger Lakes Career Fair An "Awesome Experience"

Our colleagues at the Finger Lakes Residential Center are working to lead youth to a productive future. One of the latest steps in that direction came in the form of the annual career fair, which was held on April 22.

Described as a "huge success", the fair featured several professionals from the community who visited with the youth at Finger Lakes. The students had an opportunity to meet and ask questions of the various presenters.

Visitors included the Cortland State football coach, Bangs Ambulance, Department of Labor, TST BOCES, KJ Lawn Care, a representative from the plumbers union, a human resources manager from Renovus Solar, BEAM Outreach Coordinator from Tompkins Workforce NY and LCP Group, Inc.

Vocational Specialist Thomas Murphy called it "an awesome experience for all of our youth to have to opportunity to ask questions and learn something regarding various career opportunities"



Basketball Star Makes Inspiring Visit To Taberg

WNBA star Brianna Kiesel paid a visit to Taberg, calling herself “just a small city local girl who just believes in working hard and never settling.” That was her message for the girls at Taberg, who shot baskets in the gym with Kiessel. She was a local star at Proctor High School and later at the University of Pittsburgh, where she was on a full scholarship and earned two degrees. In college, Kiesell became the captain of her team as a sophomore. She was the first pick in the second round in the 2015 WNBA draft, going to the Tulsa Shock.

Kiesell told the Taberg girls about what her dedication and love for basketball has brought her. During her visit in March, she told the story of her Pitt team going to Vietnam and having the rewarding experience of teaching children basketball. She also discussed a recent trip to Israel where she played in an independent league during the WNBA's off-season. Her overall message to the girls was “it doesn’t matter where you come from, it really is about where you want to go and surrounding yourself with the people to help and encourage you to get there.”

Kiessel's visit left the Taberg girls excited about following her career next season.