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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Acting Commissioner
October 2017 — Vol. 9, No. 3

The Adult Services Newsletter

Message From the Executive Office

Variety - An Essential Ingredient of Adult Services

   When summer turns to fall, we can truly appreciate the variety of the seasons in the great northeast. Welcome to the October issue of The Adult Services Newsletter. You will find in the following pages:
  • a presentation by APS caseworkers from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe about how their traditional tribal cultural values infuse the casework conducted on the reservation;
  • an article by an assistant district attorney about the challenges – and opportunities – found during elder abuse prosecutions;
  • a review of recent APS data about perpetrators of adult abuse, neglect and financial exploitation;
  • an article by the judge who is the head of the New York State Judicial Committee on Elder Justice on a new way for victims of elder abuse and adult abuse to file for temporary orders of protection via Skype;
  • news about a webinar conducted by the Bureau of Adult Services and the NYS Office of Fire Prevention and Control to help APS staff and the staff at family-type homes for adults in identifying potential fire hazards in the homes of their clients; and
  •  a look at the efforts of Rockland County APS to conduct a community-wide outreach and public awareness campaign on the abuse of adults and the elderly.
   The variety of the articles in this newsletter mirrors the extensive range of issues that APS and Adult Services address on a daily basis. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to promoting the safety and well-being of vulnerable adults. Our mission could not be fulfilled without your efforts, and for that I am grateful.
Sheila J. Poole
Acting Commissioner


Message From the Director

St. Regis Mohawk APS Presents at National Conference

  I was  fortunate last month to hear Kristin Post and Lori Michaud, APS caseworkers for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, give compelling presentations before a national audience at the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) conference in Milwaukee. Their workshop was entitled “Self -Neglect and Tribal Elders: Collaboration with APS.” 
   They provided an overview of the Mohawk tribal system and its history, spoke of the trauma so many members of the tribe have experienced, and the tribe’s relationship with federal, state and local government. Kristin and Lori discussed  a number of their APS cases and described how their casework both complies with state regulations yet is keenly impacted by tribal cultural values, including what constitutes a family,  beliefs about death and dying, and traditional tribal health and spiritual remedies.
Below: Kristin Post, left, and Lori Michaud
   I also provided comments recognizing St. Regis Mohawk APS for its extensive  outreach and raising of awareness of adult and elder abuse issues, and for providing caring, culturally sensitive APS casework. 
   The session also included presentations from an APS representative in Alabama describing that agency’s relationship with the Poarch Creek Indian Tribe, a Montana APS representative discussing his involvement in cases on Indian reservations, and a member of the Cherokee Tribe discussing  the health and protective needs of many Native Americans, including the 85 percent of Native Americans who live outside reservations. Knowing of Kristin and Lori’s good work, I was  pleased to see them deliver  their presentations so well before a national audience. Congratulations!
   I also want to note the good work done by Lisl Maloney of our bureau, who presented at a NAPSA convening by the federal Administration for Community Living of its state grantees under the Enhancing APS Services program. Lisl, Mike Cahill, and I are the bureau team members working on the various components of the ACL grant, previously described in this newsletter. New York was well represented at NAPSA! If you are able to attend AATI this November, please come by and say hello.
Alan Lawitz
Bureau of Adult Services Director

Challenges and Opportunities in Prosecuting Elder Abuse Cases

By Ontario County Assistant District Attorney Heather Hines
         I have been a prosecutor for over ten years and currently prosecute all elder abuse cases in Ontario County. The first elder abuse case I prosecuted involved an 80-year-old gentleman who was assaulted at a bar where he sang karaoke.  Prior to 2008, the charge would likely have been simple assault – Assault in the Third Degree under Penal Law Section (PL) 120.00(1).  However, in 2008, the New York Legislature amended the Assault Second statute to include protection for individuals who were over the age of 65 and an accused who was at least 10 years younger than the victim.  PL §120.05(12). Prior to 2008, offenders accused of assaulting individuals over the age of 65 were most often charged with a misdemeanor – Assault in the Third Degree, which provides for prosecution of individuals who intend to cause physical injury to a person and cause such physical injury.  PL §120.00(1). A prosecutor was prevented from charging Assault in the Second degree, unless we could prove that the offender intended to cause serious physical injury and caused serious physical injury.  The 2008 amendment essentially enhanced the Assault in the Third Degree statue, making it a crime to intend to cause physical injury and cause such physical injury to a person 65 years old or older and with an offender at least 10 years younger than the victim. 
            The case went to trial and the defendant was ultimately convicted of Assault in the Second Degree and received a sentence of 2 ½ years in state prison. I faced many challenges with the case, including understanding and being aware of the limitations and needs of a victim with dementia, obstacles involving obtaining medical records from the Veterans Administration and a reluctance of the Court to view the offense worthy of a state prison sentence. It is important to be mindful of the circumstances of the victim. Does the victim have dementia? Does the victim suffer from hearing loss?  What effect, if any, do medications have on the state of mind of the victim? I learned to pay attention to the older adult; try to arrange testimony in the morning instead of the afternoon to avoid sun downing; make sure there are microphones for the victim, the Court and the person asking questions so that the elderly person can hear what is being said; establish a connection with the victim, don’t focus solely on the case and facts, get to know the person. We can learn so much from an older adult, we just need to take the time to do so. 
            There are numerous challenges when prosecuting elder abuse cases, no matter what crime may be charged.  Challenges can include a reluctant victim; uncooperative witnesses; an insensitive justice system; or a lack of solid proof.  It is important to remember that elderly victims should receive and deserve as much respect and understanding as any other victim we come in contact with.  Often elder abuse cases involve family members; whether they are stealing from the older adult, failing to provide care for the older adult, or physically or sexually abusing them. An older adult is sometimes reluctant to prosecute a family member, as they fear the offender will be jailed and not helped as they feel they should be; they fear they will be prevented from having contact with the offender; and they fear they will be placed in a nursing home. We need to consider all of these factors when prosecuting an elder abuse case.  It is important to remember that justice does not always mean that someone has to go to jail; justice can mean that the offender took responsibility for their actions, plead guilty and is received a sentence which included treatment and/or is monitoring by probation. I find that the most challenging cases offer the best opportunity to think outside of the box and find a way around the obstacles. It’s not always possible, but we should face the challenges and strive to better ourselves and push the envelope a little bit.   

Who Are The Perpetrators? A Review of Recent APS Data

By Adult Services Specialist Anthony Lareau, OCFS Bureau of Adult Services
I want to share with you some recent data from ASAP.Net regarding reported perpetrators of abuse, neglect by others, and financial exploitation. ASAP.Net is the electronic APS case recording and reporting data system used state-wide outside of New York City. All reported perpetrators are tracked in the ASAP.Net database after being assigned to one of the following categories:
1. Spouse/Significant Other
2. Family members (child, grandchild, nephew, niece, etc., exclusing spouse/significant other)
3. Non-Family (excluding spouse/significant other); or
4. Unspecified
Once the caseworker determines the most appropriate category for the suspected perpetrator, there is a prompt to provide the more specific relationship (e.g., not just family members, but uncle; or not just non-family, but landlord).
The Bureau of Adult Services reviewed 2015 and 2016 data for APS clients outside of New York City.  As in the past, we used data collected from ASAP.Net at the Open-Assessment stage, since caseworkers would have more detailed information than at the earlier stage of Open-Intake. 
You may recall we reviewed ASAP data regarding perpetrators in two previous reports.  The first one examined data from 2008 and 2009 and published the findings in the October 2010 Adult Services Newsletter article entitled “A Disturbing Trend: Intra-Family Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults.”  The second report, entitled “The Trend Continues: Family Members Comprise the Largest Percentage of Perpetrators,” was released in 2013 and looked at data from 2011 and 2012.  This year’s report reveals similar trends.
                 Physical Abuse
Family Members
Spouse/Significant Other
            Psychological Abuse
Family Members
Spouse/Significant Other
               Neglect By Others
Family Members
Spouse/Significant Other
              Financial Exploitation
Family Members
Spouse/Significant Other
  Sexual Abuse
Family Members
Spouse/Significant Other
Summary of Findings: 2015 & 2016
·        In 4 of 5 identified forms of abuse, family members remain the highest percentage of reported suspected perpetrators. The exception is Sexual Abuse, where in 2016, non-family constituted 71% of suspected perpetrators.
·        Family members made up the highest percentage of perpetrators in the areas of:
·         Neglected by Others; (66.34% for 2016 and 67.62 % for 2015)
·         Financial Exploitation; (55.50% in 2016 and 61.37% for 2015)
·         Physical Abuse; (50.00% for 2016 and 54.90% for 2015)
·         In the areas of Physical Abuse and Neglect by Others, the 2015 and 2016 data showed opposing results.  In 2015, a non-family member was more likely to commit physical abuse than a spouse/significant other, and less likely than a spouse/significant other to commit neglect. In 2016, the results were reversed.
·         In the areas of Sexual Abuse (71.43% in 2016 and 27.27% in 2015) and Financial Exploitation (35.95% in 2016 and 32.33% in 2015), the perpetrator was more likely to be non-family.
·         In the area of Psychological Abuse (27.50% in 2016 and 19.54% in 2015), the perpetrator was more likely to be a spouse/significant other.
·         Males had a higher percentage in being identified as suspected perpetrators in the areas of Sexual Abuse (100% in 2016 and 81.18 in 2015) and Physical Abuse (60% in 2016 and 64.37% in 2015). 
·         Females had a higher percentage in being identified as suspected perpetrators in the areas of Financial Exploitation (48.39% in 2016 and 50.68 in 2015) and Neglect by Others (49.50% in 2016 and 50.00% in 2015).
·         In 2015, males had a higher percentage in the area of Psychological Abuse (64.37%), while in 2016 males and females had an equal percentage.
·         The 2017 report shows a continued reduction in selecting the category Unspecified when attempting to identify perpetrators. This is a positive trend when comparing the number of times the term was chosen in the 2010 and 2013 reports. The trend suggests that caseworkers are identifying the suspected perpetrator sooner in the investigations. Please take note that in a future issue, we will present similar data for the New York City APS data system, APS.Net. 

New Statewide Program Allows Victims of Domestic Violence, Including Elder or Adult Abuse, to Obtain an Order of Protection via Skype

By: Justice Deborah A. Kaplan, statewide coordinating judge for family violence cases, and Deanna J. Lucci, Esq., assistant deputy counsel to Judge Kaplan
  In November 2016, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced at a press conference the launch of a pioneering initiative to facilitate domestic violence victims, including victims of elder or adult abuse, in obtaining a temporary order of protection via electronic filing and video conference. The rollout of the program is being overseen and implemented by the Office for Family Violence Cases (OFVC). The Remote Access to Temporary Orders of Protection (Remote TOP) program is available to petitioners for whom traveling to or appearing in court poses an undue hardship or creates a risk of harm to the petitioner. As of August 2017, the program is available in 15 geographically diverse New York counties, and new counties are being added every month. 
  As authorized by an amendment of New York’s Judiciary Law and the Family Court Act, the program adapts the automated New York State Advocate Assisted Family Offense Petition Program that was designed for domestic violence advocates and attorneys to assist litigants from remote locations in completing and filing family offense petitions. These remote, secure locations could be a Family Justice Center, a domestic violence shelter, senior center, hospital or domestic violence advocacy agency. The new program, the first statewide program of its kind, allows a domestic violence victim to electronically file a petition and appear via video conference for the initial ex-parte appearance before a judge. The paperless, electronic process offers greater access to family courts and allows particularly vulnerable people to seek immediate relief that may have been previously infeasible due to lack of transportation, mobility issues, lack of child care, safety concerns or poor health.
Counties currently participating as of August 2017 include: Broome, Chautauqua, Erie, Tompkins, Monroe, Onondaga, Jefferson, Columbia, Sullivan, Westchester, Saratoga, Manhattan, Bronx, Nassau and Suffolk. In conjunction with local court administrators, judges, advocates and the courts’ Division of Technology, OFVC continues to add counties to the roster. The OFVC’s goal is to make available the Remote TOP program in all 62 counties statewide within the next two years.
  Examples of success stories from Suffolk County include a 94-year old homebound woman who lived nearly 50 miles from a courthouse and who received a temporary order of protection with the assistance of an advocate in her home.  Another family court petitioner with a broken ankle could not drive or afford taxi service to and from court.  She was able to meet an advocate at a local library to file and appear electronically. Local Suffolk County Police precincts also offer victims fearful of attending court a safe harbor and have already served as a site for a video conference appearance. 

(Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Judge Kaplan and OFVC for this groundbreaking program!  Please keep the Remote TOP in mind to assist APS victims of abuse.) 

Family-Type Home for Adults Webinar


Deb Greenfield, Family-Type Home for Adults (FTHA) coordinator in the OCFS Bureau of Adult Services, and Victoria Marshall, fire protection specialist in the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services presented a webinar on June 21, 2017 with information for FTHA coordinators and APS investigators on how to identify and assess potential fire hazards in client homes. The webinar was recorded and is now available on HSLC online training. For further information, contact Helene Sobelman at (518) 402-3770.


Rockland County Annual Adult Abuse Awareness Campaign

By Deputy Commissioner John Fella, Adult and Special Services, Rockland County DSS

  On May 2, 2017, Rockland County’s Adult Protective Services held their 12th Annual Adult Abuse Awareness kick-off breakfast.
During the entire month of May, Rockland DSS conducts a number of outreach programs to libraries, shopping centers and senior centers to bring awareness to the public and other organizations about the issue of adult abuse. Distribution of pens, bracelets and other handouts also supported these efforts.
   This year the proclamation from Rockland County Executive Ed Day was presented to the supervisors and staff of Adult Protective Services by Joan M. Silvestri, the new commissioner of social services for Rockland County.



L-R: Lori Gifford, Alissa Mills, Commissioner Jean Silvesti, and Deputy Commissioner John Fella, accepting the proclamation for Adult Abuse Awareness Month