OCFS Agency Newsletter

Skip to Form

Accessible Navigation and Information

Use the following links to quickly navigate around the page. You can jump to:

Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
December 2016 — Vol. 11, No. 8

Commissioner's Message

  Amazingly, another year is coming to an end. As chronicled in this space in September, we had a great year at OCFS. During that time, we worked hard on implementing new child care regulations to improve safety. We partnered with four hospitals in western New York to prevent sleep-related infant deaths; gave away pack-and-play cribs to hundreds of families as part of the state’s multi-agency Safe Sleep for Babies campaign; shared the story of how the New York State Commission for the Blind wins praise from the people it serves in vocational training; published a study measuring the high cost of the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, for which APS Director Alan Lawitz received an award; we also saw Brookwood’s Jim LeCain recognized for doing wonderful work through the college program and we launched a new website, recruit4fostercare.org, that offers a resource to those working to improve outcomes for foster children.

  As summer faded into autumn, we focused on other ways to touch the lives of our fellow New Yorkers and their families. From the celebration of Kinship Care Month to our participation in Dads Take Your Child To School Day and our annual holiday drives, the spirit of giving and thinking of those in need made me proud.

  In the last few months, we’ve done even more to further our mission. Our friends at the New York State Council on Children and Families launched the Multiple Systems Navigator, a website for youth, parents, caregivers and direct care workers that provides a single resource on supports and services available from multiple health, education and human services agencies that serve New Yorkers. NYSCCF also made a splash in the news with the Every Student Present campaign to promote school attendance. Through the efforts of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service, volunteers across the state are working to improve the lives of thousands.

  We shared the story of how OCFS is looking after the well-being of youth in residential centers by providing healthy food choices; published two comprehensive guides to help providers serve survivors of human trafficking; promoted the creation of the Youth Justice Institute, designed to improve services for children, teens, and young adults in New York’s criminal justice system; and we awarded $2.5 million for eight regional Permanency Resource Centers to serve families who have a newly-adopted child or those that become the guardians of a relative’s child – programs that provide supportive services, connect families to resources and help this agency fulfill its mission of promoting permanency and well-being.

  I can’t think of a better gift that we, as public servants, could give to those we serve than the tireless, continual dedication from you, who make OCFS much more than a workplace. As we enjoy the holiday season, I am so proud of all the work we have done to serve vulnerable children and adults. I hope you have a productive and fulfilling end to 2016, and I look forward to working with this impressive team to meet whatever challenges 2017 brings our way.

Sheila J. Poole
Acting Commissioner


OCFS Wins One of Five Lean Project Impact Awards and Honorable Mention for a Second Project

  OCFS picked up one of only five New York State 2016 Lean Project Impact Awards presented among dozens of state agencies that are eligible to participate, and received praise for a second Lean project. The honors follow the dedicated effort and hard work of the agency’s project teams, "Empire Belts" and the Office of Agency Performance Improvement (OAPI), which leads the OCFS Lean program. The awards were presented during the New York State Lean Awards Ceremony at the Corning Tower observation deck on Wednesday, November 9.
  The award shows OCFS has been applying Lean principles to work done in the Office of the Ombudsman (OOTO). Staff members meet with youth in residential programs to assist with concerns about services and care, and to provide assistance with legal problems. OOTO makes about 45 visits to facilities across New York State each month, and meets with hundreds youths each year.
  Prior to Lean, it took an average of 122 days to finalize a facility visit report and OOTO was swamped with a backlog of 164 reports. Since the introduction of Lean, OOTO is completing reports in just five days. Team members are Tracy Swanson (also an Empire Belt), Jeff Czarnecki, Robert Hughes, and OOTO Director Viola Abbitt. 

Lean has been described as a business system philosophy designed to continuously improve competitiveness by achieving the highest quality and lowest cost.

Above: Commissioner Sheila Poole with Lynda Fleurismond
of the CWCS Office of Youth Development

Below, L-R: Associate Commissioner Derek Holtzclaw,
OAPI Director Barbara Kruzansky, and from OOTO,
Tracy Swanson, Anna Myricktorres, Erin Oliver and Jeffrey Czarnecki

  The Office of Youth Development team was recognized for streamlining the process of issuing operating certificates to Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelters. Team members Amy Papandrea, Rolene Ford, Arlene Reece-Solomon and Lydia Dzus, under the leadership of Matt Beck and Laura Velez, reduced the average time it takes a shelter to receive an operating certificate from 115 days to just 39 days, making shelter available that much sooner for youth who need a safe haven.

  “I am so very, very proud of our teams and am so happy to see their excellent work recognized with a much-deserved statewide award,” said Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “I congratulate all involved in this outstanding effort and re-affirm our commitment to applying Lean principles to process improvement at OCFS.”

  “It is amazing to see how effective Lean is in bringing about positive change," says OAPI Director Barbra Kruzansky. "We are very excited about everything our project teams have accomplished, and we look forward to leading many more successful Lean projects here at OCFS."

  The OCFS Lean Team, comprised of Empire Belts and staff from OAPI, met recently to prepare for the next wave of Lean projects. Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole attended to commend the group for what they have done to make Lean a success at OCFS. 

Right: (Front row, L-R), Derek Holtzclaw, Barbara Kruzansky, Tracy Swanson, Monica Minor, Shelly Fiebich
(Back row) Matt Newberry, Beth McCarthy, Pam Kelly, Julia Sennett,
Karen Kissinger, Steve Taylor
Not pictured: John Benson, Warren Hamilton, Carol McCarthy, James Reyling.
   The next Empire Belt Boot Camp is scheduled for December 5-6 in Albany. Kruzansky points out the camp is a two-day training program for those interested in leading Lean projects. "We're looking forward to expanding our Lean Team," she says. Anyone who would like to attend should contact her for details: Barbara.Kruzansky@ocfs.ny.gov

Youth Justice Institute To Improve Services for Children, Teens and Young Adults

On November 16, the Governor announced the creation of the Youth Justice Institute, a partnership between the state and the University at Albany, designed to improve services for children, teens, and young adults in New York’s criminal justice system. The institute will train public and private youth service providers so they can put into place best practices and programs proven to improve outcomes for at-risk youth.

“Too many youth end up trapped in our criminal justice system and, absent resources and opportunity, are doomed to repeat the same vicious cycle of recidivism and incarceration,” said the Governor.

The institute is expected to promote best practices to reduce recidivism, improve outcomes and enhance public safety.

Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole said, “OCFS is proud to be part of this innovative and visionary initiative to improve outcomes for children, youth, families and communities. The institute will help our local partners develop solutions to complex problems and apply them on a larger scale as part of New York State’s ongoing juvenile justice reform efforts.”

OCFS and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services developed the institute. It is based at the University at Albany’s School of Criminal Justice, which is expected to hire an executive director by early next year to lead the institute. It will be overseen by a seven-member executive committee chaired by the commissioners of DCJS and OCFS.

The institute will provide training and technical assistance to organizations implementing or developing youth justice programs, while serving as an information resource for the best evidence-based practices in the youth justice field. The institute will also help evaluate youth justice programs, practices and policies, so that organizations relying on its training can gauge the effectiveness of their programs. 

The Youth Justice Institute is modeled after the Tow Youth Justice Institute at the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, created in 2014.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services provides staff to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, which administers federal juvenile justice funds provided to New York State, among other responsibilities. The Juvenile Justice Advisory Group allocated $1.1 million in federal funds over the next two years to establish the institute.

OCFS Researcher Presents HFNY Study Results at Virgina Summit

OCFS's Kristen Kirkland, Ph.D. presented results from the Healthy Families New York (HFNY) seven-year research study at the Sixth National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs in Arlington, VA on November 15. The summit brought together researchers, advocates, policymakers, and practitioners from across the nation to address key issues in the home visiting field and to exchange ideas about best practices and lessons learned. The HFNY research study is the longest running evaluation of a Healthy Families America (HFA) home visiting program and is highly regarded in the home visiting field. Dr. Kirkland presented as part of a panel discussing the “Timing of Key Outcomes for Early Home Visiting Programs: What Happens When?” along with two other researchers presenting results from evaluations of HFA programs in Massachusetts and Oregon.

“It was a pleasure to showcase the results from HFNY," Dr. Kirkland says, "and to bring back new approaches and ideas for improving HFNY home visiting practices.”

The HFNY research study is a longitudinal randomized controlled trial (RCT), considered to be the gold standard of research designs. It is in its 15th year of collecting data and has demonstrated that HFNY has immediate and lasting effects on the families that use its services.

Among the details Dr. Kirkland presented at the summit:

  • The program reduced low birth weight deliveries among women who enrolled before the 31st week of pregnancy (five percent versus 10 percent in the control group), and was particularly effective in reducing low birth weight for black (three percent versus 10 percent) and Latina mothers (five percent versus nine percent).
  • The program reduced child abuse and neglect, where self-reporting mothers engaged in 30 percent fewer acts of psychological aggression at year one, 31 percent fewer acts of minor physical aggression at year one, and 75-88 percent fewer acts of serious physical abuse at years one, two and seven. Fewer target children reported their mothers engaged in minor physical aggression at year seven (71 percent versus 77 percent).
  • For mothers with a confirmed child protective services report prior to entering the program, the study showed a 50 percent reduction in subsequent CPS reports after 7 years; and a 49 percent reduction in the rate at which children of young, first time moms who enrolled early in pregnancy were confirmed as victims in child protective services reports between ages five and seven.
  • Children in the program were less likely to repeat first grade; more likely to score above grade level in first grade on three specific behaviors that promote learning; and had greater participation in gifted programs by year seven.

Interviews were conducted with 1,173 women in the HFNY and control groups at study enrollment; at the time of the child’s birth; and at the time of the child’s first, second, third, and seventh birthdays. Data were also collected from child welfare, vital statistics and public assistance administrative records, the HFNY Management Information System, and videotaped observations of parent-child interactions. The target children were also interviewed when they were seven years old and their first grade school records were requested from their schools. 

The HFNY home visiting program promotes parent-child bonding and attachment by matching parents with knowledgeable and caring workers who provide information and support during pregnancy and early childhood. Services include helping families access community resources and services, educating families on parenting and child development, connecting families with medical providers, and assessing children for developmental delays.

You can find more information about the HFNY program and the results of the study at: www.healthyfamiliesnewyork.org.

OCFS Participates in Program to Help Domestic Violence Survivors, Encourage Recycling

  OCFS was one of many state agencies that stepped up to assist the New York State Commission on National and Community Service in collecting used cell phones last month.

   State employees donated more than 1,000 phones to be either recycled or refurbished. The project was carried out in conjunction with the Verizon HopeLine program on National Recycling Day, November 15.
     The Verizon HopeLine program encourages recycling and benefits survivors of domestic violence. 

     HopeLine sells the collected cell phones and accessories and uses the proceeds to help survivors of domestic violence and nonprofit organizations that work with survivors. The program also donates phones and service plans to survivors. 

The New York State Commission on National and Community Service - New Yorkers Volunteer works to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering in New York State. It administers programs funded by the National Community Service Trust Act of 1993, including AmeriCorps State and AmeriCorps Education Awards programs.

OCFS Donations Benefit Food Pantry and Youths in Residence

 OCFS succeeded in delivering donated items to those who can use them this holiday season. Staff brought in canned food to be taken to the Hope 7 Community Center in Troy. Collection boxes were set out in the lobbies at the home office in Rensselaer and the Statewide Central Register. It wasn't long before vital contributions began to come in, including vegetables, beans, and personal care items such as toothpaste, shampoo and baby wipes.

   A different sort of donation will be put to use at the Taberg Residential Center for Girls and the Columbia Secure Center for Girls. OCFS staff donated skeins of yarn that will be turned into hats and scarves to be placed on a mitten tree in the Rensselaer City Hall and in locations in Oneida County. The hats and scarves will serve as critical source of warmth for those who need it this winter.