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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Commissioner
January 2019 — Vol. 4, No. 1

Message from The Commissioner

Happy 2019! I wish you and your family a wonderful new year of health, happiness, peace and joy. The start of a new year is a great opportunity to set goals and make a commitment to reaching them. Refocusing our energies can be a significant step in making a change for the better, or achieving the work-oriented goals we have set for ourselves.

This month, we’re highlighting our work in providing services to human trafficking victims, and preventing trafficking from happening at all, part of the critical work we do every day.

During Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we have the opportunity to shine a light on the signs of human trafficking and raise awareness of the supports available to help survivors recover and thrive. OCFS’s handbook for child-serving professionals and our blueprint for responding to trafficked and exploited youth serve as effective guides for service providers.

I know you’ll join me as we dive into 2019 with positive energy and our eyes on new horizons. Every day, the work you do here at OCFS inspires. I’m proud to work with such dedicated and talented staff as together we strive to promote safety and well-being of our fellow New Yorkers.


OCFS Staff Delivers Holiday Gifts for Families and Older Adults

OCFS staff came through again this year with hundreds of holiday gifts for families and older adults in need during the holidays. These Adopt-A-Family and Adopt-A-Senior efforts go far in brightening the holidays and enriching the lives of our neighbors. Local departments of social services near OCFS’s home office identified families who might not otherwise have a chance to enjoy the tradition of exchanging gifts. Several carts loaded with toys, blankets, and supplies rolled out of the North Building December 19. Staff who donated them had placed the presents under “giving trees” at the home office, the Statewide Central Register and the Human Services Call Center. The Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families, and the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services picked up the unwrapped gifts and distributed them to nine families and 20 seniors during the week before Christmas. Families also received wrapping paper so they could enjoy wrapping the gifts themselves.

 Below, L-R: Albany County workers pick up donated presents at OCFS; “Giving trees” at the SCR, Division of Child Care Services and the HSCC.


Best of OCFS Highlights Second Round of Nominees

Recognizing how the meaningful work done by OCFS staff makes a difference in the lives of the people we serve, The Best of OCFS spotlights those nominated for their exceptional commitment and dedication. On Monday, December 10, those recognized included the Bureau of Adult Services (BAS), the Human Services Call Center (HSCC) and the New York State Commission on National and Community Service (NYSCNCS).

This event highlighted BAS’s work to educate and train social services and financial professionals about financial exploitation of older and vulnerable adults. BAS worked with Washington County’s adult protective services unit after receiving a referral about suspected financial exploitation of an elderly woman who was blind and disabled, whose family member was stealing her Social Security benefit and thousands of dollars in cash from the safe in her home. The woman was isolated and emotionally abused.

Jodie Smith (left), PSA/home care supervisor in the Washington County Aging and Disability Resource Center; Heather Jett, APS caseworker

Caseworker Heather Jett was assigned to the case and worked doggedly to make contact with the victim so she could assess her needs, and then notified law enforcement. Eventually, the woman’s abusive family member was brought to justice and she received restitution through the Office of Victims Services. 

NYSCNCS’s Executive Director Linda Cohen addressed the audience and invited some AmeriCorps workers to also speak about the value of volunteerism and how meaningful it can be to those who are served. A good example is the commission’s work with television and film crews, described elsewhere in this month’s newsletter. NYSCNCS’s work during the AmeriCorps kick-off event each year is an inspiring and energizing force that helps volunteers be ready to change people’s lives.

Above: NYSCNCS Linda Cohen speaks about AmeriCorps and Volunteerism. 

The HSCC was recognized for creating a positive work culture that results in excellent customer service. The Call Center (also highlighted in a separate article below) team stepped up during the “Best of OCFS” event with a recreation of its weekly “stand up” meetings with call center representatives – gatherings that present agency news updates relevant to the team’s mission, recognition of outstanding customer service and fires up the team spirit the division is known for. The call center’s customer-focused staff is committed to providing consistency and high-quality service to all who call.

Below: HSCC staff volunteers during a recent “Outreach Night.”



Child Care Availability Task Force To Focus On Making Quality, Affordable Child Care More Accessible

On December 12, 2018, the first day a new task force met to begin improving access to child care, task force co-chair and acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole described a pioneering approach that looks beyond state and federal funding. “This work requires us to consider groundbreaking partnerships with businesses and community organizations,” said the commissioner. “We need to be innovative in thinking about child care because child care is foundational to economic growth."

The task force was announced as part of New York State's 2018 Women's Agenda. It assembles a group of experts focused on developing innovative solutions that will improve access to quality, affordable child care. As the governor pointed out, affordable and high-quality child care is vital for working families and is essential to strengthening the state's economy by continuing to create opportunities for parents to succeed in both work and family life.

As a mother, I know how important it is to have access to quality child care to help balance responsibilities at work and at home," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, co-chair of the task force. "By promoting and investing in child care, we know it can improve women's participation in the workforce and narrow the gender wage gap. The Child Care Availability Task Force will explore and support innovative approaches to providing quality child care across the state."

The task force is comprised of representatives from the child care provider community, the advocacy community, representatives of the business community, unions that represent child care providers, representatives from several state agencies and local departments of social services. It is expected to present its initial recommendations with next year and finalize its report by the end of 2020.

Call Center Passes the 4,000,000 Call Mark

A major milestone was reached on Friday, December 14, 2018 when the OCFS Human Services Call Center answered its 4 millionth call. Kayla Auleta, a call center representative, took the call on behalf of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board Claims line. Kayla was recognized for this significant call and received a gift card donated by management, a balloon and a cupcake. The HSCC started taking calls in May of 2013 with five representatives answering calls for the Organ Donor Registry on behalf of the Department of Health. Today, more than 100 representatives take calls for 40 lines of business representing 10 state agencies. Daily call volume has increased to more than 5,000 calls a day.

Above, L-R: Call center managers Kyle Daggett and Bill Lather, Kayla Auleta, and Lisa Sweet, call center representative 4.

HSCC milestones to date:

  • 500,000th call in May 2015
  • 1 millionth call in February 2016
  • 2 millionth call in February 2017
  • 3 millionth call in January 2018
  • 4 millionth call in December 2018

The statewide Call Center Consolidation (CCC) project is an initiatives aimed at improving the consistency and quality of information and customer service provided to all New Yorkers by state agency call centers. The call center is a customer-focused operation committed to providing consistent and high-quality services to all statewide callers. HSCC business analysts work with the program units within each agency to define calls for transition to the HSCC and to build a statewide knowledge base with clear and consistent content. The relationship with the agencies’ program units continues after the transition with weekly, monthly and quarterly reports and status update meetings. The HSCC has outperformed the goal of answering 85 percent of all calls within five minutes, and responses from the customer agencies confirm the HSCC is providing excellent service while allowing the customer agency staff to focus on its core mission.

YAB Shares Its Views at 2018 Permanency Summit


Four members of the OCFS Youth Advisory Board were part of the New York State Permanency Summit December 4-5 at the Albany Convention Center. They presented their dreams and hopes for the system with an eye toward positive impacts for permanency and well-being. 

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. The board is comprised of up to 15 members who provide feedback on their experience in foster care and help shape state policies and initiatives. They are young adults from all around New York State who advise and collaborate with OCFS on policy topics related to foster care as they shape their transition to independence. YAB members have been speakers at venues such as the OCFS Homefinders Summit, the New York Public Welfare Association’s annual conferences, and various speak-out events around the state.

NYSCNCS Joins Governor's Office for Motion Picture and Television Development On 27th Film Good/Do Good Project

Teamwork among the Governor's Office for Motion Picture and Television Development (GOMPTD), the New York State Commission on National and Community Service (NYSCNCS), and the production company EPIX Productions has led to another successful “Film Good/Do Good” project, the 27th since the program began in 2016. The beneficiary this time was the New York Common Pantry in New York City. That organization, along with New York Cares, Inc., a leading volunteer services agency, gave food and other goods to those in need in East Harlem.

The “Film Good/Do Good” program is a joint initiative of GOMPTD and NYSCNCS that promotes volunteerism among film companies. During Film Good/Do Good events, members of the film and TV industries give back to the communities where they film. Their volunteer service is meaningful to organizations like the New York Common Pantry that provides assistance to local residents in need.

Linda J. Cohen, executive director of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service said, “We are delighted to recognize EPIX volunteers from Godfather of Harlem who, through their service, will help New York families in need. The support from the film community for Film Good/Do Good this holiday season will help New Yorkers by providing them with turkeys, hams, and other food to enjoy, and will assist New York Common Pantry in its mission to fight hunger and serve those in need.”
EPIX Productions is filming the first season of the story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson. After a decade in prison, Johnson returned to Harlem in the early 1960s and with help from Malcolm X, tried to take back control of East Harlem from the Genovese crime family. The show is expected to premiere in 2019.

Brookwood's "We The People" 2018

A debate team member speaks


Youth from Columbia Girls Secure Center, Goshen Secure Center and Brookwood Secure Center squared off against students from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in this year’s “We the People Student Congressional Hearing” at Brookwood, a debate that has been held each year since 2008.

Brookwood considers itself the model for teaching incarcerated youth in New York State. The work done there has been recognized for its excellence, including the prestigious Howard A. Levine Award for Excellence in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare that was presented to Jim LeCain, founder of the James J. LeCain School of Liberal Arts at Brookwood (formerly the Brookwood College Program).

LeCain started the college program in 2009 and had it fully operational by autumn 2010. The Brookwood satellite campus of Columbia-Greene Community College has offered 37 courses. Nine students have earned A.A. degrees.A service worker hugs a debate team member

Coming Next Month: OCFS Lean Team Announces New Empire Belts

The Office of Agency Performance Improvement has seven new Empire Belts. These belts may assist in at least one Lean project a year. Details coming next month!
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