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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
June 2018 — Vol. 3, No. 6

Message from the Commissioner

One of the ways our agency works to promote the safety and well-being of children is by helping to serve the needs of runaway and homeless youth. When children are living on the streets, or do not have consistent, stable housing, they are highly vulnerable. Whether in cities or in rural settings, homelessness can lead to a life of neglect, abuse, conflict, forced work, and sexual exploitation.

A series of positive regulatory changes enacted in 2017 will support our work in serving runaway and homeless youth. Among those changes are the extension of the length of stay from 18 to 24 months for certain youth who are homeless and are in a transitional independent living program; local governments that receive funding under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act have the option of extending services from 30 days to 60 days in certain cases for youth 14 and older, and from 60 days to 120 for runaway and homeless youth in crisis services programs; programs serving runaway and homeless youth who are 21 and older must be authorized and certified by OCFS, and they must provide foster care-related information to youth who may be eligible to re-enter foster care.

We are always looking for ways to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and seeking the positive outcomes and permanency all children deserve.

After Foster Care Month and the promotion of our inspiring social media messages from former foster youth, OCFS is continuing to use federal funding for the Education Training Voucher program. The ETV program helps youth who are aging out of foster care and into a world of self-sufficiency. Through the work done in this critical program, OCFS is supporting the needs of those who deserve our very best efforts.

I hope you’ll join me in remembering vulnerable adults this month, too, as we observe World Elder Abuse Day on the 15th. The Bureau of Adult Services, along with the New York State Commission for the Blind, our child care services division, and everyone who contributes to the OCFS mission, is an important part of one of New York’s most dedicated and passionate state agencies.


Safe Sleep Videos Aim to Save Lives

 OCFS is sending out a vitally important message on child safety through new videos on social media that urge parents and grandparents to follow the ABCs of safe sleep. In the first three days on Facebook, the videosreached thousands of people. Produced by the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services and our partners at the University at Albany’s Professional Development Program (PDP), the videos have also been sent to local departments of social services and are expected to be played at rest stops along the New York State Thruway. 

Social Media Videos Promote Foster Parenting

As part of May’s Foster Care Month activities, the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services teamed up with PDP to produce a series of inspiring messages from young adults formerly in foster care to feature on OCFS social media channels and other outlets. The videos feature the young adults talking about how their lives were improved through being in foster care when they were children. These success stories showcase the good work of dedicated service providers and the foster parents’ love and affection. The entire series of 21 videos was shown during an inspiring gathering at the home office in Rensselaer.

Best of OCFS Highlights

The first round of The Best of OCFS nominations produced a home office presentation that highlighted the dedication and devotion that goes into the agency’s services and the positive results those services produce. The program is an opportunity to showcase the important work done at OCFS to see how it directly affects the lives of the people we serve, including some who, as seen above, joined in to express their gratitude and appreciation. Success stories include blind and visually impaired New Yorkers who learn to become independent and maintain employment, counties that analyze their data in ways that help move children into permanent homes more quickly, and youth who are bound for college and others who learn weatherization skills and the building trade.

Nominations can include an individual or team, or a project that made a difference. The nominees who are highlighted present their work and share information about how their ideas came to be executed in a meaningful way. Videos describing the awardees’ work are available for viewing on the OCFS intranet site. To nominate a colleague’s work for a Best of OCFS recognition, email proposals to bestofOCFS@ocfs.ny.gov






Above: Jason Eckert, NYSCB's NYC regional coordinator

Right: OCFS youth race their solar-powered cars
during the recording of the “Energy Warriors”
segment of
The Best of OCFS.

Below: Youth Counselor Justin Medina


NYSCB Accepts CABVI Award, Joins Vision Rehabilitation & Employment Institute

The New York State Commission for the Blind accepted the Luca Award from the Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) at its annual meeting May 19. The award is named for a former CABVI manager who inspired the hiring of blind people in the Mohawk Valley. During the presentation last month, the bureau was recognized for the impact it has had on employment in that region and its role in making significant improvements to the Preferred Source Program.

At the Vision Rehabilitation & Employment Institute June 5-6, NYSCB Vocational Counselor Craig Hedgecock joined a panel focused on a collaborative approach to providing job placement services to job seekers with visual impairments. The NYSCB, NABA, and the Career Center in Albany collaborate using a team approach to support all job seekers in accessing the employment services and resources at the local career center, including workshops and recruitment. Business Enterprise Director Louise Werner and Julie Hovey of NYSCB presented on transitioning for the future during an interactive workshop that provided useful information on the BEP and its future in New York State.  

Left: CABVI President Rudy D’Amico, with NYSCB Associate Commissioner Brian S. Daniels.

Empire State After-School Program Grants to Support High-Need School Districts

OCFS is administering a $10 million grant that will support not-for-profit, community-based organizations, as well as school districts that serve high-need or at-risk youth, or have high rates of homelessness. First announced as part of the governor’s 2018-19 Executive Budget proposal, these four-year grants will allow non-profits and school districts to establish or expand after-school programs.

"After school programs give children a safe, supported and nurturing place to spend their after-school hours while giving parents peace of mind. These programs promote academic and social success for children that will benefit them throughout their lives," said OCFS’s acting Commissioner Sheila Poole.

Grant awardees will receive annual installments for the four-year grant period, which are subject to availability of funds. For more information or to apply, see RFP2018-12.

Pheasants Arrive at Industry Residential Center

Industry Residential Center accepted 250 pheasant chicks from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) this spring, in preparation for Industry’s fourth year raising birds until they are mature enough to be released.

The chicks are near the end of the brooding stage, when staff and residents move them to the outdoor rearing pen to continue growing and developing their brilliant adult plumage. 

In early fall, Industry staff will coordinate with DEC to plan the birds’ release on New York State properties. Over the last few years, Industry has released nearly 500 birds into the wild. Youth who have experienced this program in the past were very interested in the behavior of the birds. Industry staff and residents alike are looking forward to another successful year.

Paraprofessional Institute and Supervisory Institute Graduate Cohorts

The OCFS Paraprofessional Institute's second class, and the Supervisory Institute’s 12th cohort have graduated. The Bureau of Training and Development (BTD) offers these programs designed for the professional development of staff within OCFS. Participants gain skills and knowledge necessary for performing their jobs effectively and preparing them for potential career advancement. The paraprofessional institute (bottom photo, below) 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. On May 9, BTD celebrated the most recent cohort of the Supervisory Institute, graduating 27 supervisors from Cohort 12.
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. Congratulations!


Above L-R: Barbara DuVal, Dorothy Sherman, Rita Mahoney, Kayla VanBaaren, Brianne Heritage, Kristy Smith, Colleen Swint, Nicole DeMarco, Robert Rochler, Jaime Young, Rulyn Vogel, Cynthia LaCoy, Joanne Rivers, Mary Russell, Crystal Lavare and Kyleigh Johnson


1st row, L-R: Mary Padilla, Jen Voelker, Cristine Kirsch, Nicole Gennarelli, Sarah Durfee, Brooke Brennan
2nd row, L-R: Ann Gallagher Sagaas, Danielle Waring, Kenneth Kirton, Carmen Ferraro
3rd row, L-R: Amy Ryan, Marjorie Galkiewicz, Cindy Squadere, Brenda Jones, Lori Urbin, Jill Laquidara, Kelly Polk, Christine Coons
4th row, L-R: Chris Geitter, Laurie Eckert, Chris Waring, Jimmie Eddington, Lisa Erb, Kathleen McGarry, Keith Rowson, Mario Franco