Child Welfare News And Notes

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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Suzanne Miles-Gustave, Esq., Acting Commissioner
May 2019 — Vol. 3, No. 2

Child Welfare News and Notes

Child Abuse Prevention Month Observances Point Out Need for Everyone’s Involvement
In recognition of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, OCFS hosted its annual pinwheel planting ceremony in Rensselaer, just outside of the home office. Employees and local partners joined together in the city’s Huyck Memorial Park, many of them wearing blue to show support for child abuse prevention efforts.

In the weeks leading up to this event, OCFS employees organized a collection of baby items to donate to the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center, a community organization that supports families. This year’s donation included diapers, wipes, toiletries, clothing, and Safe Sleep kits. The kits include a “Follow the ABCs of Safe Sleep” tote bag, doorhanger, magnet, brochure, window cling, and the book, Sleep Baby - Safe and Snug, and a sleep sack. The New York State Council on Children and Families generously donated the parent guide, Starting Life Together, to include in the kit. The guide shows parents how to nurture a positive relationship with their children using key parenting behaviors. It helps parents discover how much they already know and introduces new information and skills to add to their parent toolkit.

After the annual pinwheel planting, participants gathered at a “baby shower” where representatives from the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Center were thrilled to accept the donations. The health center provides a variety of services including health care services and a WIC-related supplemental nutrition program. The donated items will help the health center provide its services to families that need them. 

Human Services Training Center Grand Opening Highlights Enhanced Services

OCFS's grand opening of its Human Services Training Center (HSTC) in East Greenbush on April 18, gave New Yorkers a look at a facility that sets the standard for the integration of technology and training. The HSTC provides centralized, standardized, state-of-the-art training for human services professionals from across the state: state and county caseworkers, child welfare supervisors, voluntary agency staff, juvenile justice professionals, child care licensors and child abuse specialists. More than 20,000 professionals will be trained here in its first year. The HSTC covers 97,000 square-feet at the former site of a K-Mart, and includes more than the traditional classrooms and computer laboratories. Simulation rooms are used for hands-on training in lifelike environments that replicate the atmosphere of an apartment, day care programs, and a juvenile justice facility.

“This is a way to lift up the challenging work of the human services workforce and recognize that they are so deserving of this investment in their training and development as professionals,” said acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole. “The work done here will make a real difference in the lives of children and families throughout New York State.” The HSTC will help counties and not-for-profit agencies statewide by better preparing employees for work in the field, training them with industry best practices, and hopefully positively impacting employee retention.

Joining the commissioner were East Greenbush Supervisor Jack Conway, Michael McMahon, commissioner of the Montgomery County Department of Social Services, Theresa Beaudoin, commissioner of the Rensselaer County Department of Social Services, Gail Geohagen-Pratt, commissioner of the Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families, and Beth McCarthy, OCFS’s director of training. The event attracted the attention of several media outlets including television stations WTEN and Spectrum News, and the Times Union.







Training director Beth McCarthy leads WTEN on a tour of the HSTC. 

Safe Sleep Partnerships Aim To Save Lives

New York State has designated May as Infant Safe Sleep Month to raise awareness about safe sleep and preventable deaths in unsafe sleep environments. Building on existing efforts, OCFS and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) will launch a new public awareness campaign that will include radio, television, and social media, as well as postings on public transit and in major transportation hubs. The state will also conduct a statewide media campaign to educate parents, grandparents, and caregivers about best practices in safe sleep. In collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, DOH will also expand outreach to medical providers, including pediatricians and obstetricians.

OCFS and DOH have long worked collaboratively to educate the public about the risks related to unsafe sleeping conditions for infants and young children. As a result of these efforts, New York State has seen a sharp decrease in infant mortality over the past decade; a 26 percent decrease between 2002 and 2016, compared to a 15 percent decrease nationally. Despite the state’s efforts and the continued reduction in infant mortality, nearly half of infant deaths in New York State are attributable to unsafe sleeping practices.

NYS Kinship Navigator Federal Grant Promises Expanded Service

OCFS has been awarded a $637,000 federal grant that will support the development, enhancement and evaluation of kinship navigator programs. The ultimate goal of the effort is to help kinship care families establish or maintain greater self-sufficiency and long-term stability so they can keep their children at home and in their care. The New York State Kinship Navigator program will use the funds to enhance the existing program so that the system will qualify as an evidence-based model pursuant to the requirements of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).

New York’s system of care also includes 22 Kinship Caregiver programs and other sources of support for kinship families. The goal is to provide comprehensive services to as many families as possible to promote stable and permanent homes for the more than 200,000 children in kinship care in the state. Each component of the system provides unique services to families.
The NYS KN federal project’s overarching goal is to produce an evaluation of kinship services that meet the criteria of the FFPSA for evidenced-based services. This will include the evaluation of selected enhanced services in local kinship program services and evaluation of enhanced NYS KN services in selected counties. Meeting these requirements will make those services and their replication eligible for federal matching funds and lead to expanded kinship services in every county.


OCFS Applying Lean Principles to the Performance Improvement Plan Process

                               Christopher Bruno, from the regional office in Rochester, confers with Jillian Williams
                          of the New York City office on part of the PIP process.

The OCFS Division of Child Welfare and Community Services (CWCS) is working on many exciting enhancements to its continuing quality improvement/oversight and monitoring practice. In January, the OCFS Office of Quality Improvement convened an enthusiastic group from CWCS’s home and regional offices to design a streamlined process for creating, monitoring, and supporting local departments of social services’ and voluntary agency’s program improvement plans (PIP). This two-day meeting resulted in a strong foundational plan focused on the development of a web-based computer system that will provide a consistent, systematic approach to performance improvement and will lend itself to the evaluation of statewide bright spots and challenges. We are looking forward to continued work in this area! 


You and Your Family Can Benefit From New York's Paid Family Leave
Adoptive and foster parents play an essential role in providing safe, nurturing homes to children whose birth parents are unable to care for them. With this role may also come the many challenges families face in finding time to bond with newly adopted or fostered children as they transition to new environments and routines.

Thankfully, New York State now has support for families during this critical period. Millions of working New Yorkers may be eligible for job protected, paid time off to care for their families under New York Paid Family Leave, a state law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Parents can take Paid Family Leave to bond with a new child within the first 12 months of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster placement. Parents need to complete the necessary request forms for bonding under Paid Family Leave, and attach supporting documentation:

• For foster care, a copy of the letter issued by the county, city department of social services or voluntary foster care agency is required
• For adoption, a copy of the court document finalizing adoption, documentation in furtherance or court order finalizing adoption is needed.
• If the parent is not named in these documents, the parent will also need additional proof verifying the relationship to the parent named in the document (i.e. a marriage certificate, civil union documents, or domestic partnership documents).

Adoptive or foster parents may also be able to take Paid Family Leave before the actual adoption or foster placement of a child if an absence from work is required for placement to proceed. This may include, for example, attending counseling sessions, appearing in court, or consulting with an attorney.
Qualifying Events
In addition to bonding, there are two other qualifying events for which eligible employees can take Paid Family Leave:
Family Care – Eligible employees can take leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition – one that requires inpatient care or continuing supervision of a health care provider. If you yourself have a serious health condition and need care, an eligible family member of yours may be able to take Paid Family Leave to care for you.
Military Deployment – Eligible employees can also take Paid Family Leave to assist family for certain situations that arise when your spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child is deployed abroad on active military service.
Strong Benefits and Protections
Paid Family Leave benefits are phasing in over a four-year period that began in 2018. This year, eligible employees can take up to 10 weeks of leave and receive 55% of their average weekly wage, up to a cap of 55% of the statewide average weekly wage ($746.41 per week). By 2021, eligible employees will be able to take up to 12 weeks off at 67% of their average weekly wage, up to a cap of 67% of the statewide average weekly wage.
In addition to wage and time off benefits, Paid Family Leave has strong protections to ensure that employees do not lose their job if they take it and that they can continue their health insurance while on leave, on the same terms as if they had continued working. The law also says employers can’t discriminate or retaliate against employees for requesting or taking Paid Family Leave.

Paid Family Leave is insurance that is funded by employees through a small payroll deduction. Most employees who work for private employers in New York State are covered, and public employees may be covered if their employer has opted in to provide the benefit. Union-represented public employees may be covered if the benefit has been negotiated through collective bargaining.

New Foster Care Webinar and Other Resources

In honor of National Foster Care Month, the NYS Workers' Compensation Board is hosting a new webinar on using Paid Family Leave to bond with a newly fostered child. The webinar is free and open to the public, and will be held on Tuesday, May 7, from noon - 1 p.m.

Complete details on Paid Family Leave are available at, including fact sheets and request forms in multiple languages, and information on how to apply. Additionally, the Paid Family Leave Helpline at (844) 337-6303 can answer questions, in any language, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Whether you’ve welcomed a new child or have a family member who requires support, research shows time with loved ones can make a positive difference. New York Paid Family Leave is now here to help make that difference for when you need your family or when they need you.

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