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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
April 2017 — Vol. 12, No. 4

Commissioner's Message

Nothing we do here at OCFS is more important than what we are about to focus on throughout the next month – keeping children safe from harm. That’s the mission at the center of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it’s a goal that we can accomplish by providing the supports and services families need to be successful. We know that parental education and support can make a difference in a child living the life he or she deserves. We must also educate the public so that friends, neighbors or anyone can spot the signs of trouble and make the right call.
All New Yorkers should be familiar with the New York State Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-342-3720), to reach help quickly when they believe a child is being abused or maltreated. The trained staff who answer those calls are expert at recognizing when local investigators need to take a closer look, but the staff cannot help unless they hear when a child is in danger. Sharing the hotline number with friends and family is a good way to spread out the safety net that might save a life.

I hope you will join us on April 24 as we plant a pinwheel garden in Albany’s Academy Park , a simple way to acknowledge the value of the precious lives of the youngest among us. Stand with us as a leader in child abuse prevention.

Children are our top priority. Not only keeping them safe, but also helping to see that they have the chance to lead a carefree, happy life that is free from worry. That’s what the pinwheel symbolizes. I am deeply grateful to everyone at OCFS for the work they do in serving the vulnerable people of this state, from the tiniest newborn to the frailest of the elderly. As we continue our critical work during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, let’s encourage others to keep an eye out for the well-being of all children – they deserve our very best.


Raise the Age Legislation Signed Into Law

On April 10, the Governor signed into law legislation that OCFS has been supporting for years - a bill that will raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18-years-old in New York. Acting OCFS Commissioner sheila Poole was among those with the governor when he signed the bill at the New York City Mission Society. This law will mean young people in New York who commit non-violent crimes will get the intervention and evidence-based treatment they need.

Under current law, New York automatically processes all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, no matter their offense. The new provisions will raise the age of juvenile delinquency from age 16- to 17-years-old beginning on October 1, 2018, and will raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18-years-old on October 1, 2019.

"This is truly a special and an historic day,” the Governor told those gathered at the signing ceremony on April 10. He credited several legislators with coming to the table to reach agreement on the legislation. “I brought in members of the Senate, I brought in members of the Assembly. We sat at a conference table. I said gentlemen and ladies, if we don’t work this out it’s going to die. If it dies, it’s going to make a lot of people disappointed; it’s going to continue abuse; it’s going to continue disillusionment, and it’s up to you to forge compromise and put your politics aside and figure out how to get to ‘Yes.’ They actually came up with a great program.”

Previously in this space, Commissioner Poole has expressed the need for such legislation, saying, "We are far better off, in most cases, when we treat the underlying problems that bring young people into contact with the justice system in the first place and rehabilitate youth. There’s a better way, and part of the solution is rooted in the kinds of services we at OCFS provide across New York State every day."

Without age-appropriate facilities and programs, teenagers face a greater risk of being involved in a significant assault, being a victim of sexual violence and committing suicide, with juveniles who are confined in adult facilities five times more likely than the general population to commit suicide.

The state will also create a Raise the Age implementation task force, with committee members designated by the Governor. Additionally, individuals who have been crime free for ten years after serving a sentence will be able to apply for the sealing of previous criminal convictions.

April 5th Event Helps Raise Awareness of Child Abuse Prevention Efforts

OCFS staff and friends planted pinwheels on Wednesday, April 5, in observance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. They were joined by Rensselaer city employees who work nearby and members of other agencies that also work to prevent child abuse. The bright toy can be a symbol of the carefree, happy life all children deserve. Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez spoke to those gathered about the importance of building support in communities that serves OCFS’s mission to promote permanency and well-being. See more pictures and two brief videos on flickr. See how others across the country joined in the effort on Pinterest.                                                                

New "Parent Guide" Helps Families Nurture Healthy Babies

The Parent Guide – Starting Life Together: Your Guide for Building a Nurturing, Healthy Relationship with Your Child is a new resource for parents,offering a fresh perspective on what they can do to support their children.

“It guides parents through pregnancy and the early years with helpful information on having a healthy baby," said Deborah Benson, executive director of the New York State Council on Children and Families. “It puts the collective expertise of child-serving professionals in New York State in one convenient place to answer parents’ questions.”

The Council on Children and Families coordinates New York State health, education and human services systems as a means to provide more effective systems of care for children and families. 

The guide has key parenting tips designed for children up to age five. It is available for free at www.nysparentguide.org. 

Research shows approximately 700,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect in the United States each year, and more than 1,500 children die each year from abuse and neglect in the United States. Infants under one year are most likely to be victimized and their parents are most likely to be the abuser.

The Parent Guide was created to provide parents with ways to prepare for the joy, stress and frustrations often associated with adjusting to life with a newborn. The Guide helps parents anticipate behavioral challenges typical of healthy developing children and suggests caring responses, recognizing how parents grow in their role as their child ages.

Dr. Dina Spiropoulos of Main Pediatrics in Buffalo, New York, calls the guide a valuabel tool that provides families with knowledge and resources. “Caregivers have questions about parenting and need reliable information," Spiropoulos said. "Pediatricians often have limited time to spend with a family."

Training of Mentors Promotes Better Outcomes for High School Students

Former NY First Lady Matilda Cuomo and staff members from the New York State Mentoring Programs  met with a school superintendent last month, continuing their work in matching at-risk youth with mentors who have the ability to inspire young lives. Discussions with Superintendent Michael Prayor in Brooklyn centered on bringing the high school peer-to-peer mentoring model to the school districts he oversees (15, 17, 18, 29, 21, 22). Training was scheduled for early April for his schools.



DCCS Member Accepts Award as a "Champion for Children"

Kathleen Pickel, the manager of the regional office support unit in the OCFS  Division of Child Care Services was in Rye Brook on March 31 to accept the "Champion of Children" award from the New York State Association for the Education of Young Children. The group presented the award at its annual conference.

In her nominating letter, Deputy Commissioner Janice Molnar said Pickel has made "a significant contribution to the field of early care and education and is worthy of a Champions for Children, Early Childhood Supporter award...it is because of her that New York State regulations, especially those for child care centers, have been considered by Child Care Aware of America to be among the best in the country, ranking second after the Department of Defense."

Pickel is the lead on child care policy and regulations and their enforcement, the training of child care providers, and providing assistance to six OCFS regional offices across the state. She began working at OCFS in 1985 as an intake worker and later as a supervisor at the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. Prior to that, she was at St. Catherine’s Center for Children, working directly with young women who needed emotional and behavioral support.

Above, back row, L-R: Patty Maltempo, sister; Frances Franco-Montero, Spring Valley regional office manager; Kathleen Pickel; Patty Persell, NYS Council on Children and Families; Janice Molnar, deputy commissioner; Jim Hart, director of program operations. Seated: Linda Darrah, CCFS 2; Christine Coons, CFSS 2; Mark DeCicco, CFSS 1