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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
September 2017 — Vol. 2, No. 9

A Message from the Commissioner

  OCFS began the end of summer at the 13-day celebration in Syracuse known as the Great New York State Fair, offering OCFS the opportunity to help in promoting the state’s agriculture, entertainment, food and services.
  I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to the regional OCFS staff who work our booth. Your presence and dedication is one of the keys to educating visitors about our agency’s many services. OCFS makes a significant difference in the lives of our fellow New Yorkers daily, by working to find adoptive and foster parents; assisting in the start-up of child care programs; showing youth the way toward a productive life; seeing that our elderly and vulnerable friends and neighbors are protected; and providing training for the blind that helps them find employment and maintain their independence.
  This year our state fair booth included video presentations that highlight services that enrich and even save lives. Visitors learned about safe sleep practice that can prevent the tragic death of an infant. They also saw the result of our work writing and producing videos that were part of a media campaign launched in April. Healthy Families New York used the videos to increase referrals to home visiting programs designed to help families avoid stressors and steer toward a bright future. The ads have been seen in neighborhoods where the service is most needed, and now fairgoers have had the opportunity to see one of the ways we’ve been letting New Yorkers know we are there for them. We suggested they check out the OCFS Facebook page, where recent news has included the opening of the first residential, vocational rehabilitation center for the blind, details about the Raise the Age law that has OCFS working toward treatment of older adolescents that will provide them the opportunity for productive life, and the effort to recruit mentors to inspire youth across the state.
  As we approach the end of summer, know that your dedication and commitment are truly promoting the safety, permanency and well-being of our children, families and communities. Our mission could not be fulfilled without your efforts, and for that I am grateful.


OCFS Working Toward Raise-the-Age Implementation

  OCFS has been hard at work preparing to put the landmark Raise the Age law into operation. Several members of the agency’s team were part of ten regional roundtable discussions throughout the state over the summer. The roundtable talks allowed various state agencies to present the facts about Raise the Age, and touched on implementation plans for the local and county stakeholders with whom OCFS partners in planning and caring for youth.

  The law raises the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 and is designed to improve the lives of youth who have no place being in adult jails or prisons. The law is phased in over two years, starting with the 16-year-olds on October 1, 2018, followed by the 17-year-olds on October 1, 2019. Both The Division of Child Welfare and Community Services and the Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunity for Youth will serve more youth since jail and prison will no longer be an option for most youth. OCFS is working closely with our partners at DCJS, DOCCS, SCOC, and the Governor’s Office to transition into Raise the Age with the highest level of coordination, cooperation, and success.

OCFS Back-To-School Drive Sends Kids To Class Packed and Prepared

  In August, OCFS staff made an effort to make sure as many children as possible started the new school year with school supplies. The agency found a real need at the Martin Luther King Magnet Elementary School in Schenectady, and an opportunity to help approximately 650 children who attend grades K-6. OCFS employees have a history of being responsive and generous during events like the “Back to School” drive. When school employees saw the delivery on September 6 (below) they were impressed. The final count includes at least 699 pencils, 17 1” binders, 38 boxes of 24-count crayons, 85 backpacks, 81 black pens, 273 blue pens, 47 red pens, 1 broad tipped marker, 62 boxes of colored pencils, 67 erasers, 87 glue sticks, 26 highlighters, 22 packages of loose-leaf paper, 32 pencil cases, 25 pencil sharpeners, a ream of copy paper, two pocket dictionaries, 65 pocket folders, 31 rulers, four scientific calculators, 15 pairs of scissors, 137 wide-ruled spiral notebooks, 11 packs of subject dividers, 40 boxes of tissues, seven boxes of washable felt markers, and 45 bottles of white glue, and dozens of backpacks.


OCFS Reaches Out at the Great State New York Fair

OCFS’s participation in the Great New York State Fair once again helped promote the state’s agriculture, entertainment, food, and services. Regional staff were on hand at the OCFS booth in the Science & Industry Building, assisting fellow New Yorkers and visitors with their questions about how the agency serves the public. They also had fun treats for visitors in the form of our signature purple sunglasses, keychains pencils and tote bags. Visitors asked about mentoring, foster care, adoption, elder care, child care, safe sleep practices, and more.

First Residential Vocational Rehabilitation Center Opens in New Hempstead

  Sunday, August 6th saw the grand opening of the first residential, vocational rehabilitation center for the blind in New York State. Located on a 35-acre campus at the Visions Center on Blindness, in New Hempstead, the residential center includes an up-to-date computer center; assistive technology instruction; professional, certified mobility instructors; rehabilitation therapists; workforce counselors; social workers; and a deeply committed, dedicated staff of professionals who are invested in helping blind New Yorkers achieve their goals.
  "New York State is proud to have supported you in this endeavor," said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole. "It is so important for blind New Yorkers – from young children to adults – to be able to receive services right here at home and not have to travel out of state."

Child Care Roundtable at Home Office

  On August 17th, 2017 OCFS convened a stakeholders roundtable discussion about child care that was targeted to a key group of New York State legislators and their staff, social services district officials and statewide child care advocates. Participants discussed and expressed a diverse range of opinions on policy issues pertaining to child care availability, access and quality. The roundtable was successful and well received.


FLRC Youth Wowed by Visit, Recruiting Effort at SUNY Cortland

On August 23, 2017, a Finger Lakes Residential Center Youth who has played high school football and is also a talented basketball palyer was treated to a recruiting experience at SUNY Cortland. "Marquan" described the visit as an "awesome experience" that exceeded all expectations. It began at the school's football practice and introductions to the entire team and every coach. Marquan was impressed with head footbal Coach Dan McNeill (“Coach Mac”) and the rest of the coaches. The team provided positive energy and enthusiasm that made Marquan feel welcome.

He then met with the Maurice kearney, assistant men’s basketball coach (and later with Head Coach Tom Spanbauer and Athletic Director Mike Urtz). Kearney led Marquan on an up-close and intimate look inside SUNY Cortland, giving him the full campus tour including the athletic facilities, the student life center, a dormitory, lecture halls, the new science center, the admissions and financial aid offices, and the library. Marquan had lunch with one of the returning senior basketball players.

Marquan presented himself extremely well and showed the maturity of a young man with a plan, asking several excellent questions. “I loved it," Marquan said at the end of the tour. "This place is great!”

The visit was even more meaningful to Marquan because two people who’ve established a positive working relationship and have helped Marquan greatly at Finger Lakes accompanied him on the trip, Kathy Fitzgerald, FLRC’s assistant director of treatment, Marvin Edmonds, a youth division aide and basketball coach.

Brookwood's 'We The People' Event To Include Goshen Secure Center

  A Supporting Effective Educator Development grant from the U.S. Department of Education, OCFS and the James Madison Legacy Project has made it possible for Goshen Secure Center to participate in the" We The Peoplet" event for the first time. Three students who have received either a high school diploma or a TASC certificate will compete in a debate with Brookwood Secure Center and John Jay College of Criminal Justice on December 7, 2017 at Brookwood Secure Center.
  The "We The People" event is run by instructor James LeCain, founder of the Brookwood College Program. That program is an extension of the high school educational program at Brookwood. It is the only college program of its kind in the United States, offering incarcerated youth a chance to earn college credits.


"MacShack" at MacCormick Sees Improvements











  The MacShack is the student-operated component of the MacCormick Secure Center Culinary Arts program. Under the guidance of Culinary Arts instructor Matthew Wright, students learn and practice skills while preparing restaurant-quality meals. Before participating in this program, students first earn their ServSafe and Occupational Safety and Health Administration certifications. This year, with the help of the building trades vocational education program, the MacShack is expanding, and features a new dining area.
  The students worked hard this year, first completing their OSHA certification, then putting those skills to good use constructing the dining area for patrons of the MacShack. They built and painted walls, stained counter tops, and assembled tables, spending weeks hammering away. The result is a beautiful area for staff to relax and eat a good meal; and a practical area
for the instruction in the culinary arts.Feedback from students and staff has been positive. Staff enjoy the new dining area almost as much as the food. The dining area has re-energized the MacShack program while increasing positive interaction between students and staff throughout the building. This project serves as a source of pride for all students and staff involved.

OCFS Multi-Cultural Day A Success

  The 2017 OCFS International Day was hailed by attendees as a success. Organized by the OCFS Diversity Committee, this event is an opportunity for staff to join their colleagues and coworkers in a celebration of the diverse cultures represented by OCFS employees. It starts with cuisine from various nations and stretches over performance and folk art. This year included dancers who showed off their skill in traditional Irish, Chinese, and African steps. The day also gave some of the youth from Taberg Residential Center a chance to practice and perform a drill.