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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
November 2017 — Vol. 2, No. 11

Message from the Commissioner

 One of the keys to our success is the relationship we have with OCFS-licensed voluntary agencies across the state. Our agency regularly communicates policy and practices with voluntary agencies to guide them in caring for vulnerable youth in a range of residential settings where they provide critical services. The agencies respond by turning policy into action and helping to transform lives.

This month, for the first time, more than 200 voluntary agencies convened in the Albany area for two days of discussions and workshops at the VA Summit. The gathering was aimed at enhancing the methods workers use to help children overcome trauma.

The continuum of services these voluntary agencies provide will become even more important as we implement the landmark Raise the Age law. The youth who are placed with OCFS or local departments of social services and their families look to OCFS to establish programs that will guide them along a path that can change their lives for the better and improve their mental and behavioral health. Our local agency partners will be an important part of this effort.

Soon, many of us will be celebrating Thanksgiving, a day of appreciation and gratitude, and a time that evokes traditional images of families enjoying each other’s company; a picture of the happy outcome all families deserve. I hope you find some of this joy in your own life and take the time to count your blessings. I am truly grateful for the cooperation of our voluntary agency partners, the local departments of social services, our sister state agencies and the dedicated staff at OCFS. Thank you for all you do!


Associate Commissioner Accepts Distinguished Honor Award

  At the 23rd Annual Symposium of the National Partnership for Juvenile Services, Associate Commissioner Joseph Tommasone accepted the NPJS’s Hammergren/Dunlap Distinguished Service Award. It is presented each year for exemplary and meritorious service to juvenile justice and detention services. Commissioner Tommasone has worked with NPJS as a member of its board of directors, and has presented on New York’s model during previous symposiums. “I believe this award shows the high regard across the country for the quality of our model,” Tommasone said. “I routinely receive positive feedback on the material I present related to New York model.”
  This year’s presentation was called “One Size Does Not Fit All: Individualized Programming for Challenging Youth in the Juvenile Justice System- Working to Reduce Isolation and Confinement.”
   It highlighted parts of the New York model that are used to move toward eliminating the need for the use of restraints and room confinement. The presentation was well-received and elicited a great deal of positive feedback.

Right: Associate Commissioner Tommasone with
NPJS CEO Wayne Bear (left)


OCFS, COFCCA Host First Voluntary Agency Summit

   The NYS Voluntary Agency Summit in Colonie, held November 1st and 2nd, was a discussion of the continuing commitment to serve vulnerable youth in a range of residential settings, through an array of services designed to promote safety, permanency, and well-being. OCFS and the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies cosponsored this event focusing on improving the continuum of services voluntary agencies provide. The summit delved into effective programming for youth, interagency cooperation, the mind science of bias and empowering change. Keynote speaker Jessica MacFarlane, MPH, is a research associate at the Perception Institute who has long studied the use of scientific data to promote equity.

Commission for the Blind Has New BEP Director

   Louise Werner is the new director of the Business Enterprise Program (BEP), a job that entails the supervision of three BEP field offices and the central BEP operations in the capital region; sites, licensed managers, and NYSCB staff fall under Werner’s oversight. She had previously been a district supervisor since December 2012. Louise brings years of experience in retail management to this position,” said Associate Commissioner Brian S. Daniels. “Her background is well-suited to advancing and strengthening BEP across the state.” The program is designed to offer business opportunities to blind and visually impaired New Yorkers. “I’m happy to be taking on this role with enthusiasm,” says Werner. “I’m leading a great team that is committed and dedicated to making New York’s BEP the best in the country.”

L-R: Assistant Commissioner Nathaniel Beyer, Director Louise Werner, Associate Commissioner Brian S. Daniels

OCFS Praises NYSP During Anti-Trafficking Trafficking Summit


OCFS recognized Senior Investigator Joshua Kean and the special victims unit in the New York State Police for their work and partnership in fighting human trafficking. At the OCFS Anti-Trafficking Summit in Colonie, Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez presented Kean with a citation on behalf of acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole, and as stated in the proclamation, "on behalf of all of the children and families in New York State whose lives have been forever changed..." The special victims unit worked in cooperation with OCFS to develop a coordinated system for responding to notifications that someone has been identified as a human trafficking victim. The unit has fielded more than 69,000 of these notifications.

Left: Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez presents Senior Investigator Josh Kane with a citation from OCFS.



OCFS, Bureau of Adult Services at 2017 AATI

  The Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging presented, on behalf of OCFS, the Adult Abuse Training Institute (AATI) November 1-3 in Colonie. People from various public and private service agencies attend this annual event to network, share their expertise, and reenergize their work. Social services professionals, law enforcement, attorneys, workers in financial institutions and other professionals bring their perspectives to fighting the abuse of vulnerable adults and improving the provision of services.

  This year, OCFS highlighted a new tool first reported in this space in June, a program called called Gatekeepers. It's a training resource to be used by local Adult Protective Services and Office for the Aging staff. It helps people who have frequent contact with older people to recognize warning signs of possible abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation; prevent abuse and report suspected abuse; and share information with vulnerable adults about where to find resources.

Above: Alan Lawitz, director of the Bureau of Adult Services at the 2017 AATI

Below: Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole welcomes attendees 

Weatherization Training for FLRC Youth

   On October 6, 10 youth at Finger Lakes Residential Center graduated after taking weatherization training with instructors from the New York State Weatherization Association and the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
   A few days earlier, the youth went through FLRC’s bi-annual weatherization installer “boot camp.” The youth learned about residential energy efficiency, which is standard in the weatherization and building performance industry. This included building health and safety, the basics of building science, sealing, and lead safety. They learned how to use a manometer, a combustible gas detector use, a personal carbon monoxide detector use, and how to deploy a blower door. The training also included instruction in sealing processes to be used around chimneys and other heat sources, and in containing recessed lighting. The youth prepared, loaded, and practiced dense packing using a cellulose machine that would be used for insulating and air-sealing walls and floored attics.

Autumn 2017 Sees Pheasant Release at Industry

 The 2017 release of pheasants brooded at Industry capped another successful year for the Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program. On September 28, youth were involved in the release of birds they had been learning about and watching grow since June. Last spring, approximately 250 chicks were delivered to Industry.

The program coordinates with the NYS Department of Conservation to release the birds in certain quantities and ratios throughout the state. Industry staff, including Maintenance Supervisor Matt VanNorman and maintenance staff member Wayne Dinehart took great care in delivering the birds to the release site at the Honeoye Creek Wildlife Management Area.
One youth who accompanied the release of about 120 pheasants noted every bird flew off in the same direction.
This was the third year Industry has participated in the pheasant program. Some youth had a different sort of bird on their minds as they were building a new barn. The building trades class constructed it for the ducks Industry has been planning for.

OCFS Paraprofessional Institute Graduates Inaugural Class

  The inaugural class for the OCFS Paraprofessional Institute has graduated. The Bureau of Training and Development offers the program, designed for the professional development of the paraprofessional staff within OCFS. Participants gain skills and knowledge necessary for performing their jobs effectively, and readies them for potential career advancement. This involves two days of training each month for three months, then three months of independent learning tailored to the needs of their job duties and any future career goals.
   Paraprofessionals include administrative assistants, program aides, call center representatives, Native American program aides, office assistants, secretaries, senior business management assistants, supply assistants, and youth communications aides.