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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
May 2018 — Vol. 3, No. 5

Message from the Commissioner

OCFS continuously strives to produce positive outcomes for youth in the foster care system. During National Foster Care Month, I’d like to recognize the diligent effort our staff makes in improving the lives of vulnerable children, adults, and families under stress. Our support and partnerships with local departments of social services, the court system, community non-profits, congregate foster care programs and advocates are critical in providing safe, nurturing homes where caring foster parents can enrich children’s lives.
This year’s theme for National Foster Care Month, “It’s All Relative: Supporting Kinship Connections,” reflects our efforts to keep families together. To that end, New York State recently enacted a law that opens new doors for children and also provides some non-relatives the opportunity to take in children who need them. With the expansion of the Kinship Guardianship Assistance program, more children who do not have the option of adoption or reunification may find permanency, thanks to a wider array of caring guardians who can offer their care for a longer period.
We also salute the contributions of relative foster parents who continue to support young people after they age out of our foster care system. And, we celebrate the supports available to youth in foster care: the Bridges to Health program that connects foster children who have special needs with enhanced, medical supportive services; the Education and Training Voucher program that supports youth as they prepare for independence; and the Youth in Care Corner that inspires foster children who want to go to college. In that spirit, please join us by wearing your favorite college apparel on May 2, College Signing Day.
I also congratulate Shelly Aubertine-Feibich and the entire Child Welfare and Community Services team who worked with our partners at the University at Albany’s Professional Development Program to produce a series of inspiring messages from former foster care youth being featured on OCFS social media channels during Foster Care Awareness month. The videos feature adults talking about how their lives were improved through being in foster care when they were children. These success stories were showcase the good work of dedicated service providers and the love and affection of the foster parents for whom we are so grateful.  
Sheila J. Poole
Acting Commissioner


OCFS Rolls Out Social Media Videos for Foster Care Month

May is Foster Care Month, a time to show our appreciation of caring foster parents and the immeasurable effect they can have on the lives of children and youth. To spread that message, OCFS is sharing inspiring messages in short videos on social media, at New York State Thruway rest areas, and in New York State Department of Motor Vehicles offices. The messages encourage potential foster parents to be the one who changes a young person’s life, an act of giving that can reverberate positively throughout a child’s entire life. 


Request for Proposals in Phase 3 of Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative

Vulnerable New Yorkers of all ages stand to benefit from an initiative that includes a just-released request for proposals (RFP) that is expected to lead to critically needed housing, enhanced child care assistance, training, counseling and crisis intervention. The RFP is part of the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, a $20 billion, five-year plan to create or preserve more than 100,000 affordable housing units and at least 6,000 supportive housing units. The lead agency is the New York State Office of Mental Health. 

The RFP was developed by a team that included representatives from OCFS. It is intended to serve homeless veterans and their families; victims of domestic violence; frail or disabled senior citizens; young adults with histories of incarceration, homelessness or foster care; chronically homeless individuals and families; individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities; as well as persons living with HIV or AIDS, serious mental illness and/or substance use disorders.

"This initiative will provide vitally-important stable housing for children and families and promote new opportunities for caregiver skills training and support,” said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole. “Coupled with critical funding for child care assistance, this initiative holds promise for improving children's well-being throughout the state."

Division of Child Care Services Says "Thank You" To Providers

May 11, 2018 is National Provider Appreciation Day. The Division of Child Care Services is letting child care providers know how much they mean to New York's children and families. OCFS has placed video messages of appreciation in DMV offices, NYS Thruway rest areas and on social media, and was in the Empire State Plaza concourse on May 8, offering parents printed thank you cards to share, and encouraging people to remember providers on this special day. There is also a thank you card for providers on the agency website with this message:

"National Child Care Provider Appreciation Day is celebrated annually on the Friday before Mother's Day to recognize and thank child care providers across the nation for the extraordinary work they do. On this Friday, May 11, 2018, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services would like to express our appreciation to all child care providers, teachers, school-age program staff, and those responsible for the education and care of the New York State's children. The Office of Children and Family Services recognizes your dedication to enriching children and youth across the state by creating safe and nurturing environments. Your continuous support to foster learning and growth is an integral part of their development and future success. We thank you for your work during what we believe are the most critical developmental periods in a child's life."

Finger Lakes Residential Center Finds Renewable Energy is Just Ducky

One of the Finger Lakes Residential Center (FLRC) Energy Warriors joined Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) staff and Ithaca community members at the CCE Compost Fair and 4-H Duck Race in downtown Ithaca on April 29. Energy Warriors Re-entry Educator Laura Komor had help from the youth and from FLRC staff member Todd Etchison, Youth Counselor Joe Murphy, and Youth Division Aide Cameron Edgar at a table featuring a solar panel and circuit board display.

The Energy Warriors Green Career Pathways program introduces youth at four New York State Office of Children and Family Services facilities to green career training, work readiness and life skills development. The program combines classroom instruction with hands-on energy efficiency skills training.

They also shared information about Energy Warriors and renewable energy. The team had the opportunity to showcase an actual solar panel and speak with community members about photovoltaic energy and the benefits of renewable energy. The CCE energy team’s energy bike was set up next to and worked in concert with the FLRC display. Fairgoers pedaled to create enough energy to light various types of light bulbs and to power appliances. The fair was an opportunity for OCFS youth to learn and explore, including a farm animal petting zoo and compost exhibits. It was a fun, educational, and exciting community field trip for all involved.

A solar car race is scheduled during the Energy Warriors Youth Summit, May 31 at the OCFS home office. Teams from Finger Lakes Residential Center, Sgt. Henry Johnson Youth Leadership Academy, and Brookwood Secure Center will participate.

Commissioner Poole Named to Raise the Age Panel

OCFS acting Commissioner Sheila Poole is serving on a team of social services and law enforcement experts to evaluate state and local efforts to implement the groundbreaking Raise the Age law.

The creation of a Raise the Age Implementation Task Force was announced at the end of April. It is comprised of members from the public and non-profit sectors, calling the team a significant step forward in ending recidivism.

New York State will raise the age of criminal responsibility in the state from 16 to 18 over the next two years. The law takes effect for individuals who are 16 years old on October 1, 2018, and on October 1, 2019 for 17-year-olds. The 15-member task force will monitor the overall effectiveness of the law by reviewing the state's progress in implementing its major components, and evaluate the effectiveness of the local adoption and compliance to the law.

OCFS Staff Makes an Impact With Shoe Donations

The director of development at a Rensselaer non-profit organization says OCFS staff members who donated shoes during March and April "helped homeless families begin a life of dignity and stability that they deserve." The shoes had been collected through a project organized by staff in the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services and were displayed during a Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month event in April that gained attention in the local media. In a letter to OCFS, Joanne Morehouse of St. Catherine's Center for Children, said, "Too often, the families in our homeless shelter come to us with nothing but the clothes on their back...thank you for your compassion for the children, families, and individuals we serve. You let them know that there is someone who cares about their future."

Below, L-R: Kathleen McGarry, OCFS; Deirdre Sherman, OCFS; Katelyn Finneran, St. Catherine’s; Alyssa Barkley, St. Catherine’s; Tricia McNabb, St. Catherine’s; Mark Manderville, St. Catherine’s; Jaclyn Yusko, St. Catherine’s; Nicholas Kurtessis, St. Catherine’s; and Carisa Dettmer-Huble, St. Catherine’s.

Human Services Call Center Earns Third Straight Award

The OCFS Human Services Call Center received a Times Union “Top Workplace” award for the 3rd consecutive year. This year, the call center is one of only 50 workplaces in the greater capital region to earn this prestigious recognition. Awardees are determined solely by employee responses to a third-party survey. This New York State consolidated call center receives more than one million calls annually on behalf of 10 state agencies, helping more than 5,000 New Yorkers daily. Excellence in service delivery is key to the call center’s success. The team demonstrates flexibility, creativity, open communication and exceptional recognition programs that keep morale high in a challenging environment.

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