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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
April 2018 — Vol. 2, No. 4

Message from the Commissioner

During April we are focused on one of the most critical aspects of OCFS’s services: the promotion of children’s safety and well-being. Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time for us to highlight prevention activities and our year-round commitment to helping children and families keep safe from harm.

We do that work by providing the supports and services families need to be successful, and by encouraging parental education and support that can make a difference in a child’s life.

Child Abuse Prevention Month is always a good time to remind New Yorkers about the New York State Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-342-3720). This critical tool helps people find help quickly when they see that a child is being abused or maltreated, or even when they believe abuse or maltreatment could be happening. The staff who answer those calls will recognize when local investigators need to be called in for a closer look, but they first need to hear from those who have reason to believe a child has been harmed. Think of sharing the hotline number with your friends and family as way of helping to hold a safety net that could save a life.

Thank you to all who joined us on April 9, “Wear Blue Day,” in wearing blue to raise awareness of prevention efforts. That same day, OCFS staff planted “Pinwheels for Prevention” in a pinwheel garden in Rensselaer’s Huyck Park just outside our home office. When we acknowledge the value of children’s precious lives, it helps us all stand stronger, together in the interest of child abuse prevention; they are our top priority and they deserve or best. Thank you for all you do to promote the safety, permanence and well-being of our fellow New Yorkers.


Prevention in the News: Pinwheel Plantings Put Focus on Child Abuse Awareness

OCFS staff joined acting Commissioner Sheila Poole and friends in Rensselaer on April 9 for the agency’s annual pinwheel planting. Commissioner Teresa Beaudoin of the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services attended, along with Tim Hathaway, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New York, and Colleen Pidgeon, program coordinator at CoNSERNS-U, a family-serving nonprofit based in Rensselaer. Pidgeon’s program and St. Catherine’s Marillac Family Shelter in Albany planned to distribute shoes that OCFS staff donated and displayed in Huyck Park. The 182 pairs of shoes lined up among the pinwheels represented the average number of indicated maltreatment cases reported in New York every day. The pinwheel planting was reported in the Troy Record in an article that pointed out pinwheels as a symbol of the bright, happy, carefree life all children deserve.

On April 2, OCFS staff joined friends at Prevent Child Abuse New York in Albany, and acting Commissioner Sheila Poole presented Executive Director Tim Hathaway with a proclamation from the Governor declaring April Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan was there, too, along with Assembly members Patricia Fahy and John McDonald. WNYT-TV covered this event, sharing news of local prevention efforts with viewers in the capital region.

The agency also invited two speakers to the home office on April 5 for a presentation on recognizing signs of abuse. John Cooney is a retired Troy police captain and an instructor in media strategy and police training that focuses on mental health awareness and interviewing techniques during sexual assault investigations. Carly Sunderlin is a licensed master social worker with the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program at Samaritan Hospital. She presented on the “Enough Abuse” campaign that focuses on building adult and community responsibility for preventing child sexual abuse.


State Budget Item Aims to Steer Vulnerable Youth Away From Gangs

The Governor signed a bill designed to cut off the recruitment of youth for gangs and to support comprehensive youth programs on Long Island. Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole was among the officials looking on as the governor signed the legislation into law in Brentwood on April 11.

Of the $18.5 million in investments, $2 million will fund expansion of the Empire State After-School Program on Long Island. This expanded initiative will keep young people engaged in sports, music, art, and other educational programming during after school hours and help deter potential gang activity.

Mind Science Forum Focuses on Implicit Bias

On March 28-29, OCFS’s Greg Owens joined the chief of policy and implementation at DCJS for a forum designed to bring understanding of implicit bias, and how it affects our work and lives. Owens is the director of strategic partnerships and collaborations.

“OCFS works 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, held at the Desmond Hotel in Colonie, focused on moving from theory to the implementation of strategies to address implicit bias, anxiety, and stress that may be barriers to reducing high rates of placement of black and Latino/Hispanic children in over half of the counties in New York State.
Following up on a successful 2017 conference on mind science and mindfulness, this forum gave professionals from 10 counties the chance to hear from the Perception Institute and other experts, and to develop plans to implement strategies to take back to their home counties.

Mandated Reporter Training Now Available in Spanish

Spanish-speaking mandated reporters can now take a free, web-based course in their primary language. The online training covers their obligations in preventing child abuse and maltreatment. The course is available 24/7 through the OCFS website. Trainees will learn definitions, indicators, and how to make a report to the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). The narrated and user-friendly training includes video segments that enhance learning points.

New York State recognizes that certain professionals are specially equipped to perform the important role of the mandated reporter who calls notifies the SCR of child abuse or maltreatment. For a list of mandated reporters, click on the OCFS Summary Guide for Mandated Reporters in New York State. This and other publications are also available in Spanish and other languages on the OCFS website, under Publications.

Brooklyn CMSO and SFPC Family Fun Night

The Brooklyn Community Multi-Services Office (CMSO) collaborated with the Statewide Family Partnership Committee for their Family Fun Night Program (SFPC) in March. It is an opportunity for current and former OCFS families to get together, enjoy each other’s company and continue the process of transitioning youth to the community. Forty people got creative with paints and posed for pictures in the photo booth, a new addition to the program. Easter baskets were given to all the youth and children, caregivers received free raffle tickets for a chance to win movie tickets, and everyone enjoyed ping pong and pizza. The SFPC attends CMSO family fun night whenever possible to provide activities for the youth and their families.


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