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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Commissioner
December 2018 — Vol. 3, No. 12

Message From the Commissioner

As we enter this season of giving, I would like to thank all of you who have generously donated to the many causes we have supported throughout the past year, and to those of you who have also donated your time to worthy causes in our community. As a human services agency, it is our mission to help others. But we take that mission beyond our work and truly live in the spirit of supporting our neighbors.

I am inspired by all the good works that come from the people in our agency that go above and beyond what is required. In the past year alone, we have helped domestic violence survivors by donating emergency backpacks to help individuals fleeing violence get a fresh start; we have provided toiletries to shelters for survivors seeking refuge there from a violent situation; we have helped children from low-income families by providing school supplies to help them in school; we have provided low income children and families with needed items requested through our giving trees; and we donated food to provide a nice Thanksgiving meal to those in need.

While all of the giving traditions of this season are festive and joyful, there is no gift to me that is greater than the privilege of leading an agency of dedicated human services professionals who are so committed to making a difference in the lives of others. I wish you all a peaceful and joyous holiday season and look forward to a wonderful 2019.


Second New York State Voluntary Agency Summit A Success

The New York State Voluntary Agency Summit is an opportunity for discussion of the continuing commitment to serve vulnerable youth in a range of residential settings, through an array of services designed to promote safety, permanency, and well-being. OCFS, the New York State Office of Mental Health and the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies partnered to host the second annual event, focusing on improving the continuum of services voluntary agencies provide. Held in Saratoga Springs, the summit provides an opportunity to work collaboratively, to learn about innovative practice models, and to examine how factors such as agency culture, staff and youth expectations, family engagement and leadership significantly affect outcomes. It’s a forum for robust and honest discussions about challenges and successes in residential care.

This year’s keynote speaker was Jessica MacFarlane, MPH, a senior research associate at the Perception Institute. MacFarlane conducts original research studies and translates findings on the science of implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat. Her remarks guided those in attendance through concrete ways that science and an understanding of implicit bias can improve family engagement.

The New York State Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Training Event brought together residential stakeholders who explored the use of best practices and positive outcomes for youth and families served in their systems of care. BBI consultants who have worked on residential transformation in other states shared information to support all New York State residential stakeholders in continuing their good work with youth and families, and in making improvements to residential interventions.

Adoptive Families Honored With Citation From the Commissioner

On November 16th, National Adoption Day, OCFS celebrated the incredible families who have opened their hearts and homes to adopt a child from foster care. In a show of appreciation of their commitment and dedication, each family received a citation signed by Commissioner Poole, including some parents who work at OCFS. In addition to OCFS staff, judges and other child advocates commemorated the adoption journey during a celebration at the home office. The day a successfully completed adoption is finalized is a treasured moment for both parent and child.

On OCFS’s social media pages during November, the agency introduced viewers to nearly 80 children who are freed for adoption across New York State.

Last year, more than 800 children were freed for adoption along with 3,200 children in foster care also with the goal of adoption. Nearly 2,000 children were adopted from foster care in 2017. The children available for adoption can be seen on the OCFS Photolisting. The staff at OCFS are proud of all New York State families who have chosen to adopt, and look forward to more in the years to come.

Above: Deputy Commissioner Laura Velez speaks about the life-changing decision to open one's heart and home to adopt a child. Below: The deputy commissioner stands with adoptive parents honored during Adoption Awareness Month.

OCFS Pitches In To Brighten The Holidays

Through the generosity of OCFS staff, our agency donated nearly 1,000 food items to Equinox, Inc. for its annual Thanksgiving dinner event in and around the capital region. OCFS is also partnering with Albany and Rensselaer counties to “Adopt a Family” and “Adopt A Senior” to help those in need during the holiday season. By donating a gift or money to be used toward the purchase of gifts for a child or a senior, OCFS staff are once again fulfilling a need in our community. “Giving Trees” at the home office in Rensselaer and at the Human Services Call Center in Schenectady were decorated with tags showing specific requests from people in the community. Staff members placed these gifts under the tree to be delivered to those who need them.



Albany Regional Office Holds Youth Resource Fair

The Albany regional office partnered with Hudson Valley Community College to host a youth resource fair for youth in or aging out of foster care at HVCC’s campus in October. Often, the largest obstacle for youth is not knowing what programs or resources exist--and when they do know, they are frequently overwhelmed and unsure where to begin. The goal of the resource fair was to educate youth, young adults, and their caregivers about the wealth of resources and services available in the capital region.

The target audience was youth ages 14-21. The event attracted 150 people, including 61 vendors from 39 agencies. Resources were offered for education, employment, financial, health and wellbeing, life skills, mentoring, safety, and youth leadership. Nearly every youth who attended reported learning something new, and 4 in 5 said they would attend the event again and recommend it to a friend. The fair was an excellent opportunity for networking between youth and community resource providers. The regional office is still hearing from people who made a positive connection because of this event.

$6.8 Million Award Expands After-School Programs

Empire State After-School program funding has been awarded to 15 school districts and community-based organizations across the state. The funding will support the availability of 4,250 new slots to these programs, bringing the total number of after-school slots to 89,000 statewide. With last year's $35 million commitment, the total number of Empire State After-School awards now totals $45 million.

Acting Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, "After-school programs improve academic and social success in children, and parents have peace of mind in knowing that their children are being cared for in a safe and nurturing environment that is also fun and enriching.”

These programs help students stay on track outside the classroom, and offer at-risk youth the opportunity for socialization and access to critical services they may not otherwise receive. Research shows that children who participate in quality afterschool programs have higher school attendance, academic achievement, and are less likely to be involved in risky behaviors during the afterschool hours. The expansion bolsters programs that guide students toward the path to success and ensure all New York students have the opportunity to thrive. It is an investment in the youngest New Yorkers and the future of New York State.
Awardees will receive five-year grants of $1,600 per student.

New York City School District (Queens District 27)
Children of Promise, NYC (Bronx District 09)
The Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation, Inc. (Queens District 30)
New York Center for Interpersonal Development, Inc. (Staten Island District 31)
New York City School District (Manhattan District 05)
East Side House, Inc. (Bronx District 07)
CareerVisions - NY, (Bronx District 11)
Maspeth Town Hall, Inc. (Queens District 24)
Sunnyside Community Services, Inc. (Queens District 24)
Schenectady School District
Oswego County Opportunities Inc. (Fulton)
Yonkers City School District
YWCA of Western New York (Lackawanna)
Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of St. Lawrence County (Parishville-Hopkinton)
Mount Vernon City School District


Workforce Development Demonstration Project Expected To Serve At-Risk Youth

OCFS issued a request for proposals in November seeking not-for-profit and charitable organizations to use $5.5 million in targeted areas of the state to provide education and employment services to help at-risk youth avoid the dangers of criminal and gang activity.

The Workforce Development Demonstration Project is funded through the New York State Pay for Success Initiative. It targets low-income youth who have few job prospects and little education. Funded programs will engage youth who urgently need access to jobs, school, entrepreneurship, and other opportunities that will lead to productive and promising futures.

One million dollars of the funding will be reserved for Nassau and Suffolk Counties, two parts of the state that have been especially affected by MS-13 gang violence. The remaining $4.5 million will be available to charitable or not-for-profit organizations in cities throughout the state. The two-year project will serve vulnerable youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24.

Acting Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, “Young people are looking for opportunities. This initiative provides positive alternatives through job training, job placement and skills development. This program will offer teens and young adults better choices than criminal activity – choices that will enrich them and lift up our communities.”

These programs are designed to provide teens and young adults in underserved communities with education and job training programs. This access to the resources they need to avoid criminal activity will offer them an opportunity to thrive. OCFS expects to announce the awards in January of 2019. The project is anticipated to begin in May of 2019. This demonstration project will be closely evaluated for successful implementation, and contingent upon its performance, will be expanded in the future to serve more youth and more areas of the state.

•         Albany (Albany County)

•         Syracuse (Onondaga County)
•         Binghamton (Broome County)
•         Newburgh/Middletown (Orange County)
•         Jamestown (Chautauqua County)
•         Troy (Rensselaer County)
•         Poughkeepsie (Dutchess County)
•         Spring Valley (Rockland County)
•         Buffalo (Erie County)
•         Schenectady (Schenectady County)
•         Rochester (Monroe County)
•         Kingston (Ulster County)
•         Niagara Falls (Niagara County)
•         Yonkers/Mt. Vernon (Westchester County)

•         Utica (Oneida County) 

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