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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
October 2017 — Vol. 12, No. 10

Message from the Commissioner

   During October, we’re reminded of the long-lasting effects domestic violence can have on children and the need to prevent it. Research shows that it can be not only physically injurious but also mentally unhealthy. I encourage you to join OCFS staff in wearing purple on October 19 to raise awareness and to stand with those who may be enduring a difficult home life, those who have survived one, and those who have not.

   One of the things that makes work in human services so special is the belief in what we do and our collective determination to make the world a better place. We can do that daily, step by step, until those who face even extreme adversity are touched by our efforts. You may never meet someone whose life is impacted by what you do, but know that they are there and that they, and I, appreciate the work OCFS does so well to make a profound difference for our fellow New Yorkers.

   In addition to wearing purple to raise awareness, I encourage you to find other ways to stop domestic violence. Please consider spreading the word through community organizations, volunteering to help families impacted by violence or by donating time or other resources to a worthy cause. Working together, we can support families and prevent violence in our communities.

Sheila J. Poole
Acting Commissioner


OCFS Staff Join the Hurricane Relief Effort for Puerto Rico

At several locations around the OCFS home office, the dedicated staff are stepping up to help those in need. The ongoing collection of supplies will help Puerto Ricans who are dealing with the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria and the prospect of a worsening local economy as many of their fellow islanders leave to take up residence on the U.S. mainland. The effort is part of a statewide donation drive for non-perishable goods such as flashlights, lanterns, water, and diapers.

NYSCB Gift to New York Public Library to Empower Thousands

   The New York State Commission for the Blind has provided the New York Public Library an advanced tactile graphics suite of software and a Braille embosser that will lead to the creation of tactile maps of New York City and floor plans of iconic city library branches. The gift comes at the same time the library launches a project called Dimensions: Tactile Graphics for Patrons with Disabilities.
   “NYSCB is delighted to make this software available for our consumers,” said NYSCB Associate Commissioner Brian S. Daniels. “Artists, parents, vision rehabilitation professionals, the public, and most importantly, blind library patrons will have a center of creativity for their graphic projects at no cost to them.”
    The project uses the Braille embosser and a 3D printer to produce accessible graphics that patrons can explore by touch. Blind and sighted users can easily collaborate to create maps, diagrams, floor plans, books, classroom materials and other accessible items. The project will help learners at all levels understand fundamentals of geography, science, and art, and will empower them to explore New York City in new and exciting ways. The software donation is part of ongoing partnership and collaboration between the NYSCB and the library, which has donated space in the past for the commission’s downstate public forum. The forum is where NYSCB gathers information and feedback from consumers on how to better serve them in meeting professional development and business opportunities for blind consumers.
   The gift of more than $5,000 was made possible by funds donated to the NYSCB’s Gifts and Bequests Fund from grateful consumers and their families.

Healthy Families Training Institute Held in Colonie

  Hundreds of participants gathered for the 2017 Healthy Families Training Institute September 18-20 at the Desmond Hotel, giving family support workers and others who work toward protecting children a great opportunity to discuss strategies designed to lead to positive outcomes. Healthy Families New York is an evidence- based home visiting program offering services to expecting parents and new families who are at risk of child abuse and neglect.
   One workshop focused on overcoming racial disparity and helping workers explore biases and develop ways of making sure they provide services in a culturally competent manner. Sarah Kane, a trainer at the Parsons Child and Family Center, said support workers will do better work when they have an “understanding of the backgrounds of these families so that you make sure you’re treating people respectfully, you’re treating their home respectfully and you’re following the norms that would make them feel good.”
   HFNY services include educating families on parenting and child development, connecting families with medical providers for prenatal/well-baby visits and immunizations, assessing children for developmental delays, assisting parents to work toward goals for themselves and their children, and helping families access community referral resources and services.


Kinship Awards Luncheon Honors Families, Supporters

   On September 19, acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole took part in the New York State Kinship Navigator’s 2017 awards luncheon in Albany. The event recognizes families who care for children and make a critical difference in their lives, and it honors those in government who work to support the program. There are twenty-two kinship caregiver programs across New York State, helping to improve the well-being of children, reducing the effects of trauma on kinship children and families, working to get more children enrolled in the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program, and connecting kinship families to services. The Kinship Navigator team is a bridge between kinship program and regional permanency resource centers, and is one of OCFS’s valued partners.
   Commissioner Poole highlighted the Governor’s proclamation of Kinship Care Month, and paid tribute to the late Patricia Bryant, a long-time stalwart of OCFS’s kinship care programs and a grandmother who cared for her grandchild and understood the love, fortitude, and sacrifices that make a difference in a child’s life. She is missed greatly.

Dads Take Your Child to School Day a Success

OCFS assisted in distributing dozens of back packs on September 16, Dads Take Your Child to School Day. The event depends on the involvement of schools and community organizations throughout the state. Statistics compiled by non-profit groups whose goal is to improve children’s well-being through responsible fatherhood show that kids benefit from engaged fathers. Children whose fathers are involved in their lives are more likely to have better academic, behavioral, and social successes; more likely to earn A-grades in core subjects; have stronger verbal skills and an increased capacity to solve problems; and less likely to exhibit problem behavior in grade school.

L.I. Community Multi-Services Tours African American History Museum With Youth and Families

The Long Island CMSO shares the story of their visit to the National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C. The museum tells the stories of people who achieved success under difficult circumstances; how they improved their circumstances and continue to do so through formal and informal institutions that serve as beacons of hope, strength, and support. The museum demonstrated that the African American story is one of determination, faith, perseverance, pride, and resilience. The youth, their families, and the case managers gained new knowledge and insight from a trip they will never forget.” The July trip was an expansion of that office’s “Avoiding The Gates” initiative and the “YAP to Yale” concept. YAP is the Sing Sing Correctional Facility’s Youth Assistance Program that shows juveniles the inside of the prison and introduces them to inmates and the inmates’ stories; in 2016, OCFS youth who participated later toured Yale University and came to see the value in making positive choices.

OCFS Youth Gain Skills, Income During Summer Youth Employment Program

   During the summer at Finger Lakes Residential Center, six deserving youth were hired into the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) and worked a total of 772 hours, collectively earning almost $7,500. The youth worked in woodshop activities, building maintenance, gardening, horticulture, automotive repair, and culinary arts. One project involved cutting steel to replace worn out grills for use at state parks. All of the youth worked hard and learned valuable skills that will last a lifetime.