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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
October 2018 — Vol. 3, No. 10

Message From the Commissioner

This month, OCFS celebrates a major milestone in our work. I am proud that we are implementing the landmark Raise the Age law that took effect October 1. Signed in April 2017, this law will change lives for the better by increasing opportunities for diversion and community-based programs. It will stop 16-year-olds from being sent to adult jails and 17-year-olds will not be placed in adult jails as of October 1 of next year. I thank all OCFS staff who have worked tirelessly to prepare for this change and who continue working toward the second phase of implementation next year.

Scientific research has shown adolescent brains are not fully mature and can lead teenagers to make poor choices. No longer will youthful indiscretions lead to people carrying an adult criminal conviction for their rest of their lives. Raise the Age will make our communities and our state safer and will lead to more productive citizens and less incarceration.

Treating the underlying problems that bring young people into contact with the justice system in the first place is a better answer. Most youth who come into contact with the criminal justice system have issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, special education needs, developmental disabilities, and trauma. Under this law, young people will get the intervention and evidence-based treatment they need.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There is a critical need to recognize the long-lasting effects domestic violence can have on children and families, and to prevent their exposure to it. I hope you will join me in wearing purple on October 18 and celebrate our agency’s generosity in collecting backpacks of care for both male and female survivors of domestic violence. Let’s raise awareness and support all who have been affected by domestic violence.


Raise the Age Law Now in Effect

The landmark Raise the Age law took effect on the first of this month, the culmination of many months of hard work from the Raise the Age implementation team at OCFS. OCFS has worked closely with the courts and our partners at the Division of Criminal Justice Services; the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision; the state Commission of Correction; the New York State Education Department and the Governor's Office to transition into this new era with the highest level of coordination, cooperation, and success.

The law raises the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 and stops youth from being placed in adult jails or prisons. The law is phased in over two years, starting with 16-year-olds on October 1, 2018, followed by 17-year-olds on October 1, 2019.

Congratulations to the members of the OCFS implementation team who worked tirelessly making all the necessary changes to OCFS facilities, processes, policies and computer systems and traveling around the state, reviewing plans, answering questions and offering guidance to stakeholders statewide.

Kinship Navigator Team Honors Families, Supporters, and Commissioner Poole


On September 18, acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole was honored at the New York State Kinship Navigator’s 2018 luncheon in Albany. The event recognizes families who care for children and make a critical difference in their lives. The Navigator team has renamed its award for Assemblywoman Barbara M. Clark, who authored the first Assembly Kinship Care Month Resolution and was a legislative champion for kinship families. Commissioner Poole is the first to receive the newly-named Barbara M. Clark Kinship Champion award. In bestowing the award, Kinship Navigator noted Commissioner Poole’s steadfast leadership at the state level and vigorous work to help kinship families, as evidenced by the dramatic reduction in foster care placements and increased support for Kinship caregivers.

The Kinship Navigator team is one of OCFS’s valued partners and is a bridge between kinship programs and regional permanency resource centers, whose services support families who have a newly-adopted child or have become guardians of a relative’s child.

Left: Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole with NYS
Kinship Navigator’s Gerard Wallace
Photo: NYS Kinship Navigator


Dads Take Your Child To School Day

OCFS celebrated father engagement on September 16 with Dads Take Your Child to School Day. OCFS and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance greeted students and dads at North Albany Academy elementary school. Similar events were held at schools throughout the state. Children whose fathers are involved in their lives are more likely to have better academic, behavioral, and social successes; more likely to earn A-grades in core subjects; have stronger verbal skills and an increased capacity to solve problems; and less likely to exhibit problem behavior in school.


Youth Advisory Board Gives Foster Youth a Voice, Guides Policymakers

The OCFS Youth Advisory Board (YAB) met during a two-day forum September 21-22 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Albany. A series of energetic conversations focused on applying for college, career advancement, and the YAB newsletter. YAB members range in age from 19-24 and come from all over the state. They were selected from numerous applicants because of their expertise and willingness to make a change in the foster care system.
This latest gathering included a roundtable discussion with acting Commissioner Sheila Poole, Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez and Associate Commissioner Nina Aledort. Two representatives of the Schenectady Job Training Agency presented useful information about career tracks. OCFS staff focused on youth development and vulnerable populations also participated, along with agency fellows and the OCFS legislative coordinator.

The YAB meets quarterly to inform leadership, provide insight on foster care policies and collaborate with the executive staff at OCFS. The board’s mission is to make a difference for youth in care by giving them the voice to help create positive changes in the foster care system. Learn more about the board and how to become a member on the OCFS website.

Boys and Girls Club Making a Difference!


Since the beginning of the year, Industry Residential Center has been working in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester to offer programming for residents at Industry. The weekday incentive-based program has had a positive effect on residents, who must accomplish certain goals to participate. Activities include pool, ping-pong, basketball, air hockey and other games. The program includes a mentoring element where the club’s coordinator, Vic Torregiano, meets with residents and teaches them life skills. Mr. Torregiano is an NCAA Division 1 referee and has established a referee camp at the facility that leads to certification when the residents complete the camp. The camp is conducted in collaboration with the Community Multi-Services Office’s transitional services team, with an eye toward helping youth return to their communities with these skills and a rapport with the Boys and Girls club. The programs have been effective in keeping residents focused on good choices that lead to positive outcomes.

SCR Celebrates 45 Years

On September 11, SCR staff continued their celebration of the SCR’s 45th anniversary. Acting Commissioner Sheila Poole and Deputy Commissioner of Child Welfare Laura Velez joined in the festivities, which included a cake-cutting and the presentation of a proclamation from the governor. SCR Director Sheila McBain and Assistant Commissioner Kathryn Shelton joined in honoring the SCR team’s often difficult work. “SCR staff have one of the most difficult jobs imaginable,” said Director McBain. “The professionalism, compassion, and respect each staffer brings to every call is remarkable. We could not be more proud of the work they do.”

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