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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
August 2017 — Vol. 12, No. 8

OCFS Presenters Share Knowledge at NYWPA Conference

   The New York Public Welfare Association’s 148th Annual Summer Conference in Saratoga Springs gave OCFS staff an opportunity to share their expertise and help prepare social services providers for a major change in how youth involved in the justice system are served.
The conference’s theme was The Ripple Effects of Care, Compassion, and Respect. One of the most popular sessions was one presented by Assistant Commissioner Lisa Ghartey-Ogundimu and Associate Attorney Cassie Kelleher-Donnaruma that focused on the Raise the Age legislation signed into law in April. The crowd spilled out into the hallway as Kelleher-Donnaruma and Ghartey-Ogundimu provided an overview of the law and its impact on local departments of social services, especially as it pertains to the attorneys in those departments.
   The Division of Child Care Services presented a review of the reassessment of subsidy program requirements, an overview of recommendations from the 2017 community forums on child care requirements, and provided updates on implementing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act.
   Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez was among the panelists discussing the new Child Welfare Foundations training. The new training is being piloted July – December, and will be finalized for 2018. The model is based on developing caseworker competencies in ten domains using classroom instruction, skills clinics, computer-based training, and on-the-job learning.
Associate Commissioner Nina Aledort was joined by Katherine Jones during an overview of proposed ways of monitoring implementation of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act that created requirements to remove road blocks for youth and foster families to improve outcomes.
   The conference was held at the Saratoga Hilton Hotel from July 16-19.

Expansion of Child Care Subsidies Part of Anti-Poverty Initiative in Monroe County

OCFS will administer $3 million to expand child care subsidies through Monroe County as part of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The funding is part of a $4.75 million investment that expands three early childhood initiatives in Rochester to support the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. When the Governor announced the funding in mid-July, OCFS acting Commissioner Sheila Poole said she was pleased to see that expanded child care subsidy and increased slots will make quality child care accessible to more families. "This support is essential for children and families,” she said. “It’s a key component in fighting poverty.”

Funding will support new summer learning programs, and child care and home visiting services for children and caregivers. These strategic investments and collaborative community efforts will help young New Yorkers get quality care, access new learning opportunities, and have the opportunity to grow into self-sufficient adults.

Child Advocacy Centers in the Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and North Country Regions Receive $2.5 Million in State Funding

   Some upstate New York communities will offer, for the first time, critical services in child-focused, community-oriented facilities where children and their families can receive coordinated intervention from social services, law enforcement, medical, advocacy and therapeutic systems, when an allegation of child abuse or maltreatment has been made. In late July, New York State announced nearly $2.5 million for five child advocacy centers (CACs) across the state over the next five years. CACs provide a stress-free environment where children and their families can meet with experts and lessen trauma while survivors are in recovery.
   “We are moving steadily closer to our goal of having CAC services available in every part of our state,” said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “OCFS is pleased to administer these vital funds to bring CAC services to counties that serve to improve the lives of thousands of children.”
   OCFS will disburse the Federal Children’s Justice Act funds to CACs that will serve people in Fulton, Montgomery, Hamilton, Genesee, Wyoming, Orleans, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Ontario, Yates, Lewis and Seneca counties, as well as the St. Regis Tribal Reservation. New York State will now have 54 CACs serving 53 counties and the St. Regis Tribe.

OCFS Seeks Mentors in Finger Lakes Region

   Matilda Cuomo, chair of the New York State Mentoring Program is urging potential mentors in the Finger Lakes region to take that step and become an inspiration to a young New Yorker. The former New York first lady was on Finger Lakes News Radio July 24 talking about the statewide need for adults who can donate a little of their time. The program matches students in grades 3-9 with mentors between October and June. School faculty members supervise and facilitate weekly mentoring sessions in school. Mrs. Cuomo chaired the committee that established the nation’s first school-based, one-to-one mentoring program from 1987 until 1995. In 2015, the program was reinstated with Mrs. Cuomo chairing pro bono. Mentors receive training and go on to meet their mentees in sessions that typically include board games, sharing stories, arts and crafts projects, and often just talking.

Queens Community Multi-Services Office Hosts First "Queens Celebrates Kings" Event

   The Queens Community Multi-Services Office hosted its first “Queens Celebrates Kings” event on Tuesday, June 20th, 2017; a family dinner to honor all fathers, uncles, grandfathers, older brothers, and male role models who make a positive impact on their family. Marcos Malvido of Forestdale Inc.’s Strong Fathers program presented an insightful and inspiring talk on the significance of a father’s role in providing structure in a family. One former OCFS youth, Nelquin Rodriguez (center, above, with Ayodeje Saul and Gregory Delts) gave a riveting and moving account of his experiences and his journey from being a youthful offender to a prison inmate and a free man again. He gave a touching account of the effect his incarceration had on his role as a father. All of the men received certificates in recognition of their contributions. Queens CMSO Supervisor Ayodeje Saul and several staff members worked to make the event a success, and look forward to making it an annual celebration.                                                        

Highland Microgreen Program

   Staff at Highland Residential Center are calling the new microgreens program an overnight success, and they say youth are clamoring to sign up for the program. Instructor Jillian Naveh has several youth in each class, seeding, watering and harvesting greens that are delivered to the kitchen for dinner prep. Studies have shown that microgreens blended into other foods boost a typical meal’s nutrients. Youth taste each type of sprout and decide which types to continue to grow in a special room where temperature and light are carefully controlled; program participants learn about the results of overwatering and neglecting the sprouts, and about the benefits of eating healthy foods. Twice a week, six trays of seeds are started. Radish, broccoli, kale and mustard are some of the microgreens youth have been experimenting with. The program aids in nutrition for youth and allows them to learn in a positive environment. Naveh has two program assistants who also teach and mentor youth.
   They feel a sense of pride knowing the sprouts they grew go into their food. Though nervous at first to try them, the youth have begun telling others about the work they are doing and how it is making a difference at the center.

Foster Families Step Up for Park Passes in Joint OCFS/Parks Project

   500 foster families from New York helped make an OCFS/State Parks project a success, receiving gift cards and Empire Passes to enjoy New York State parks this summer and fall.
   The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and OCFS announced the project in May, National Foster Care Month. Since then, every available pass and gift card has been claimed by an eligible family, giving them an opportunity to explore the outdoors by visiting parks throughout the season and enjoying overnight camping.
   Upon announcing the opportunity, State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey pointed out that finding new ways to connect families to state parks is always a goal. “We are happy to help foster families connect with the many exciting adventures our parks have to offer while showing our appreciation for caring for children who need them,” she said.
   In New York State, approved foster parents receive training to provide a safe, stable and nurturing home for thousands of children who often feel personal loss when separated from their own families. Activities such as camping can help foster parents help foster children in coping with stress. The Empire Pass provides for day-use vehicle entry to the state parks and many other state recreation facilities for the calendar year.