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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
March 2018 — Vol. 3, No. 3

Message from the Commissioner

I am extremely proud of the crucial work you do here at OCFS every day. As we look forward to promoting next month’s annual Child Abuse Prevention Month activities, remember that we strive all year long to accomplish that goal in a variety of ways.

We recently notified local departments of social services and voluntary agencies of the expansion of KinGAP, a program that provides permanency for children when adoption and reunification have been ruled out. This much-needed expansion will enhance the process of bringing youth into the care of relatives and certain non-relatives. We know that youth have better outcomes when they are able to maintain family connections. By making KinGAP available to a wider array of relatives and for a longer period of time, we are promoting safety and well-being for children and young adults.

We continue our work toward the implementation of another important change. The Raise the Age law passed last year led to a flurry of activity that is ongoing for all involved in the juvenile justice process. This landmark legislation will soon raise the age of criminal responsibility to 17 years old this year, and to 18 years old in 2019. The work we are doing to prepare for this change is groundbreaking and will change lives for the better.

I’m also excited that OCFS is also a co-sponsor of “The Mind Science of Bias, Anxiety and Threat: A Forum to Develop Local Implementation Plans,” to be held in Colonie at the end of the month. This seminar is a follow-up to a similar gathering that helps social services workers recognize and overcome biases that can impede the delivery of services that can be critical to those who look to us for support. This important work will also be ongoing within the agency later this year.

 OCFS is focused daily on doing the right thing. Services aimed at leading all vulnerable New Yorkers to a self-sufficient future are our specialty, and providing those services for as many people who need them as possible is the way we fulfill our mission.


OCFS Grant Supports Adoptive Family Recruiters

    The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption awarded the New York State Office of Children and Family Services a $5.1 million grant that will fund a team of recruiters to find families for older children who have spent more than two years in the foster care system. The grant will roll out over four years, and the state will match the funding with $4 million to invest a total of $9.1 million to find permanent, adoptive families for these children. Children served under the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program are age nine and above, have spent at least two years in foster care, and are freed for adoption or another planned living arrangement.

    "OCFS is excited to partner with Wendy’s Wonderful Kids to help children who have been waiting in the foster care system the longest to find their way home, " said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. "We are grateful to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption for this wonderful gift which will enable us to help these children receive the best gift of all – a family of their own.”

    There are 600 children who fall under the program’s focus in the targeted counties of Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Erie, Montgomery, Onondaga, Orange, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Suffolk and Westchester. The recruiters hired under this grant will join a team of recruiters who have been working in 12 other counties. Future expansion of the program is expected to have recruiters working all over the state.

Success Story Highlights Goshen Barbering Program

    The barbering program at Goshen has produced a young barber who was released from OCFS in January and was employed and cutting hair in February. On March 12, he will take the examination to become a master barber. His story caught the attention of a local feature news writer whose report was published this month. The young man grew up in Newburgh, New York, and after making unfortunate choices, found himself placed in a juvenile justice facility. His teacher at OCFS credited Goshen's administrators for making the program available. "With your support he has all the tools needed to work," said Anthony Barton. "I am very, very proud of this young man."

MacCormick Youth Step Up to Help Local Shelter

    Youth at MacCormick Secure Center produced 10 fleece blankets to donate to the Ithaca Rescue Mission. The young men on the MacCormick horticulture made the effort during their winter break, deciding to perform a service for the community as they wait for warm weather to return. The team agreed that making and donating fleece blankets to a non-profit organization was a great idea.

KinGAP Expansion Offers Opportunity for Positive Outcomes

    This month, OCFS notified local departments of social services and voluntary agencies of the expansion of KinGAP, the program designed to provide permanency for children who do not have the option of either adoption or reunification. The expansion of the program will expedite the process that brings youth into a relative’s care and, in some new cases, the care of a non-relative. By making KinGAP available to a wider array of caring guardians for a longer period, the safety and well-being of children and young adults will be extended. The new permanency options are detailed in the recent publication of the administrative directive, 18-OCFS-ADM-03, available on the OCFS website.

OCFS Celebrates Black History Month

    An overflow crowd gathered at OCFS's home office in Rensselaer on February 22, 2018, to see OCFS youth and staff make presentations in observance of African-American History Month. Presented by the OCFS Diversity Committee, the luncheon featured youth contributing musical and historical pieces that fit the event's theme, "African-Americans in Times of War," which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war. Youth from the Sgt. Henry Johnson Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) and the Highland, Taberg, and Brentwood residential centers participated.

    Associate Commissioner Lisa Gharte-Ogundimu served as the emcee for the event, introducing OCFS youth from Columbia Secure Center who sang "Rise Up" and recited an original poem. Youth from Highland Residential Center danced and presented the history of the 369th Infrantry Regiment, aka The Harlem Hell Fighters. Some of the girls from Taberg Residential Center shared the story of three women whose contributions at NASA helped put the first man in orbit and were the basis for the film Hidden Figures. Girls from Brentwood Residential performed the pop song, "GIrls Run the World," and members of the YLA offered a drumming performance and shared demonstrated their knowledge of the heroic actions of the Tuskegee Airmen and Sgt. Henry Johnson's postumous Medal of Honor.





    One week prior to the event, OCFS staff gathered in the same room before work for the African-American History Month installment of OCFS’s Culture and Conversation series, which included coffee and doughnuts and a lively discussion, with a series of thought-provoking videos presented by Greg Owens (seen at left), director of the Bureau of Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations.


Mind Science Forum to Focus on Bias, Disparity, Equity



    The end of March will bring a forum designed to bring understanding of implicit bias and how it impacts our work and lives. Following up on a successful 2017 conference on mind science and mindfulness, OCFS’s Greg Owens will join the chief of policy and implementation at DCJS for a forum on March 28-29. 

    “OCFS is working diligently to safely reduce high rates of racially disparate out-of-home placements wherever possible throughout the state,” said Owens. “We’re collaborating with our partners from DCJS and other agencies in an effort to address this issue across other systems.” This latest forum will focus on moving from theory to the implementation of strategies to address implicit bias, anxiety, and stress that may be barriers to reducing the high rates of placement of Black and Latino/Hispanic children in over half of the counties in New York State. 

    The forum will be held at the Desmond Hotel in Colonie. It will be an opportunity for professionals from 10 counties to hear from experts from the Perception Institute and other experts, and to develop plans to implement strategies when they return to their home counties.

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