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Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor
Sheila J. Poole, Commissioner
August 2018 — Vol. 2, No. 3

The Permanency Lens through Prevention and Community Support

Picture shows a mural made of construction paper representing homes, attached to a wall.Child welfare has been described as a “continuum of services designed to ensure that children are safe and that families have the necessary support to care for their children successfully.” Sometimes the first and last stops in that continuum can be overshadowed by foster care services in the middle. Supporting children and families through community and preventive services is often the first step in promoting the well-being, safety and development of at-risk families, and can provide additional supports to stabilize permanency outcomes.

When asked to develop a visual representation of their work, OCFS staff from the Bureau of Prevention, Permanency & Program Support (PPPS) rose to the challenge with a creative wall mural. The vision for the wall was to showcase the “home” that is built through the provision of prevention and permanency services. The larger structure contains images and symbols that represent our communities statewide. The display is full-color and three dimensional to reflect the rich, complex lives of the children and families in our communities. The houses represent where children can stay, and healthy, safe families can grow. The goal is to help families remain together, be healthy, and keep children safe in these homes and to represent the agencies OCFS collaborates with, as well as the services they provide that are “rooted” in all those communities and available to our children and families.

Picture shows a poster reading proudly serving over 120,000 children and families annuallyPPPS is a relatively small part of OCFS, but its breadth of services and programs is extensive. Staff members are privileged to offer programs and services throughout NYS that help prevent children from being removed from their homes, and provide avenues to achieving and maintaining permanency. Programs within the Bureau include: Healthy Families NY, Home Visiting Permanency Resource Centers, Domestic Violence Prevention & Victim Support, Kinship, TANF, Multi-Disciplinary Team, Child Advocacy Centers, Supervised Visitation, TANF Post-Adoption, KINSHIP Navigator, Parenting Education & Clinical Programs, Trust Fund (Child Abuse Prevention, Elder Abuse Prevention, Safe Babies NY), Public Private Partnerships, & Family Resource Centers.

Staff proudly showcased that each year, more than 120,000 children and families receive services and supports through programs within the bureau.

 

Permanency Resource Centers Supporting Families

On June 12, 2018, 15 Permanency Resource Center (PRC) representatives attended OCFS’s second annual PRC conference. Programs shared their success stories about services they provide to post-guardianship and post-adoptive families. Some examples are the programs’ collaboration with local DSS/ACS and the Family Court, and the provision of highly sought-after and well-organized respite services for families. PRCs have also been responsible for organizing a number of family engagement activities, such as visits to zoos and museums, picnics, and bowling. In the first year of programming, the PRCs served 156 post-guardianship families and 426 post-adoptive families with programs and services that prevented disruptions and averted family crisis. Three guest speakers spoke at the conference. Greg Owens, director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations, spoke about race equity; Tina Beauparlant, of Parent to Parent, discussed working with the school system and IEPs; and LCSW Marie Dolfi spoke about identity development.

In their packets, program representatives found literature related to each speaker’s presentation, including a step-by-step tutorial on how to advocate for children who need updated IEPs, and how to be proactive in obtaining counseling services for those children. Trauma was a central focus of the conference. The presentations from Beauparlant and Dolfi highlighted the common practice of schools labelling a child with behavioral issues and deeming counseling unnecessary. For the child who has experienced trauma, the correct approach is to address the behavior by asking not “Why do they behave this way,” but rather, “What trauma did they experience that has caused them to act on their emotions?” This approach can pave the way for necessary counseling. The program representatives shared positive feedback about the conference, and took away a wealth of information and referral resources to continue to support post-guardianship and post-adoption families throughout New York State.

Child Fatality Review Team Conference Focuses on Prevention
 
On June 14th and 15th, the Child Fatality Review and Prevention Unit hosted its fourth annual Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) event in Latham. Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez welcomed participants, and noted that CFRTs are nationally recognized as one of the most promising approaches for accurately counting, responding to, and preventing child abuse and maltreatment fatalities, as well as other preventable child deaths.
 
OCFS funds and supports 18 CFRTs in 20 counties across the state. These multidisciplinary teams have members who include community leaders in medicine, law enforcement, child welfare, public health and behavioral health. The deputy commissioner also mentioned how CFRTs have taken on various child fatality prevention initiatives such as child abuse and maltreatment prevention, infant safe sleep, suicide prevention, water-safety, distracted driving, driving under the influence, teen suicide, toy safety, fire prevention safety, and carbon monoxide safety. 
 
OCFS and its partners from the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services–Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the Westchester County Department of Health, and the Albany County Sheriff’s Office held presentations at the event on fire safety and prevention, water safety, drowning prevention, and the opioid epidemic. Representatives from five OCFS regional offices attended. 
 
After thanking the group for its hard work and dedication, Deputy Commissioner Velez expressed OCFS’s commitment to preventing child fatalities and its continued support of the vital work CFRTs do toward reaching that goal.  
 
In support of those efforts, on June 10th, OCFS announced a Request for Proposal (RFP) soliciting applicants to coordinate new or expand existing local and regional CFRTs for five years. For more information, go to: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/bcm/rfp.asp
 
Coming Events: 
OCFS will host the Homefinding Summit August 14th–15th, 2018 at the Desmond Hotel in Albany New York. Staff from local departments of social services and voluntary agencies who recruit, train and certify foster/adoptive homes will attend and hear from OCFS, Youth Advisory Board members, WRI and the Workers’ Compensation Board on ways to support resource families.
 
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