Child Welfare News And Notes

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

Child Welfare News and Notes

 Mobile Child Advocacy Centers Debut in New York State With More to Follow

Hamilton and St. Lawrence counties joined Delaware County in July as being among the first counties in New York State to receive a mobile child advocacy center (CAC), as part of a $4.45 million investment by the state to improve services for children who are victims of physical or sexual abuse.

The first unit was unveiled in Delaware on Monday, June 24, when OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole joined Office of Victim Services (OVS) Director Elizabeth Cronin and other social services and law enforcement leaders for a grand opening event that highlighted the mobile unit. Local media covered the event and it was shared on social media as well.

“These mobile child advocacy centers will go far in lessening trauma for survivors of abuse and provide the services they need to heal,” said Deputy OCFS Commissioner Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu. “The spectacular work done by Bernadette Johnson, Melaney Szklenka, Adam Berry, Darci Primeau, Jaclyn Nemetz and the staff in our child welfare division has been critical in rolling out this important resource.”

Left: Adam Berry and Melanie Szklenka, of the OCFS Child and Family Safety Unit, and Bernadette Johnson, director of the Bureau of Program and Community Development

New York State announced the funding – available through a partnership between the Office of Victim Services and Office of Children and Family Services – late last year. CACs bring child protective services, law enforcement, medical providers, advocacy and therapeutic resources together to investigate allegations of child abuse or maltreatment, making that process less traumatic for children. The mobile unit is a CAC on wheels, allowing counties that are in geographically larger and rural communities to have access to resources and services.

CACs are child-focused centers that coordinate the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse while helping abused children heal. CACs bring professionals and agencies together as a multidisciplinary team. In 2018, New York State CACs served thousands of children who were victims of abuse.
CACs help to hold offenders accountable by utilizing a coordinated approach in prosecuting child abuse perpetrators. CACs help child victims heal by offering specialized medical exams, trauma-focused mental health services, and ongoing advocacy services to all child victims and to non-offending caregivers. They are an effective and positive response to child abuse.

                                       Child Fatality Review Team 2019 Annual Conference


This year’s CFRT conference highlighted the efforts OCFS is making to reduce the number of child fatalities attributed to unsafe sleeping practices, including its role in fulfilling New York State's “Infant Safe Sleep Month” initiative in May.

On July 23, Michael Miller (pictured right, with Michele Maye, director of the NYC Administration for Children’s Services Infant Safe Sleep Initiative) a child and family services specialist in the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services, encouraged the audience to share and retweet posts from the OCFS Facebook and Twitter pages related to safe sleep, and spoke of the visibility of his team’s work through videos seen playing at rest stops along the New York State Thruway and in DMV offices across the state. The conference included presentations from Noel Hengelbrook, a key developer of a review process in Tennessee that was the first of its kind to take into account human factors in the review of critical incidents by child welfare agencies. He has worked with several state agencies in the U.S. to improve their review processes.

Paula O’Brien, the director of the state’s Division of Consumer Protection also presented on the safety of children, and Anthony DeVincenzo, a training specialist at the Northeastern Regional Children’s Advocacy Center shared his experiences investigating crimes against children during a long career in law enforcement, which included a stint as supervisor of a sex crimes/child endangerment unit.

Above and below: Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey-Ogundimu
welcome review team members to the conference.












FAR Peer Case Conference Brings Districts Together
to Share Practice Insights


For two full days in the spring, social services providers from Suffolk and Nassau County came together for a Family Assessment Response Peer Case Conference. The event included caseworkers, supervisors, and administrators from each district’s CPS FAR program.

This development opportunity is available to all FAR districts on a voluntary basis, and allows protected time for small-group, guided peer learning, during which participants have a chance to network with other FAR districts and learn about their practice while evaluating their own. FAR Coach Gina Newlin and FAR Program Manager Amy Papandrea led technical assistance sessions participants had previously requested.

“Any time we can come together to network and learn about emerging family engagement practices, we build on our success and continue to grow as caseworkers, supervisors, and administrators,” said Ms. Papandrea. “This event created an opportunity for child welfare staff to celebrate their good work, and created a space for open discussion on challenges and solutions we face in effective family engagement.”

The conference included a packed agenda that featured an examination of important FAR-related data points, a policy/practice comparison session, and a FAR case screening activity. Participants also practiced with the FAR ongoing monitoring assessment tool, conducted a FAR Group Case Consultation, and piloted a new coaching tool aimed at improving documentation during FAR cases.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive: “The peer support strategies were very useful. It was a good networking opportunity and helpful for building on our strengths.”
“Thank you for the coaching tool…It was amazing to see a tool that we can use as an example!”
If you are interested in participating in this type of conference, reach out to your county lead, or email FAR program management at for more information.
Human Services Call Center Continues to Excel
The Human Services Call Center (HSCC) was recently recognized as a Times Union Top Workplace for 2019. It was the fourth consecutive year that the HSCC received this award. The annual award is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey.

As one of only two state agencies nominated, OCFS was honored to receive this accolade. With a team of dedicated leaders and staff, the HSCC builds a supportive environment using open communication, recognition awards and other morale building exercises. The HSCC perpetuates an openness to ideas and change.

Regional Permanency Resource Center Conference

On June 13, 2019, the OCFS Bureau of Permanency Services held the third annual Regional Permanency Resource Center (PRC) conference at the OCFS home office. There are 16 PRCs throughout New York State providing statewide coverage. PRCs provide intensive case management services to families who present in crisis, and/or to families seeking supportive services, after they have either finalized an adoption or have been granted an order of guardianship. Services are available to any family who has adopted a child whether through foster care, international adoption or agency or private adoption. A main component of PRCs is the monthly visits to participant families’ homes.

Two guest speakers presented material covering interracial adoptions and the impact of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Staff from the PRCs shared their successes with one another during the conference. At one PRC, staff members bring “goodie bags” of sunscreen and first aid supplies to home visits, and families have been receptive. Another program discussed having helped families advocate for adoption subsidy increases. Others shared information about their monthly youth and adult support groups. Several other agencies described their successful use of respite services and therapeutic trainings that they have provided for families.

Statewide Central Register News and Notes

The SCR’s Quality Assurance (QA) team has expanded, with Laurie Smith being promoted as the quality assurance manager, and the additions of Sophia Davis, Julie Moessner and Mark Walden. The SCR has also completed implementation of the new QA software package called NICE, which combines QA and workforce management components for a thorough view of quality performance indicators and quality trends. The QA team works with new staff to develop their skills, coaches experienced staff on new procedures, uses call recordings to analyze call flows and finds economies of scale with procedures to improve quality and productivity.
The SCR’s expanded team is developing programs outside the traditional intake work to enhance the quality of data and operations management. Through ongoing auditing and monitoring, the team is completing special projects that target key performance areas and create trend-reporting data that can improve efficiency. The SCR is researching and combining state-of-the-art aspects of various OCFS programs to broaden the scope of its quality measures.
Electronic Court-Ordered Investigations
A Local Commissioners Memorandum issued in May 2019 instructed local departments of social services (LDSS) to begin submitting court-ordered investigations (COI) to the SCR electronically. This streamlines the process, and by June 3, 2019 the entire state was submitting COIs electronically. The SCR is now processing more than 80 COIs a week. LDSS and SCR staff have found this quite helpful.
Using Metrics and Software to Improve Business Flow
The SCR has continued to explore opportunities to improve the efficiency of operations over the past quarter. Examples include using software to automate manual supervisory tasks and using key performance measures to inform staffing decisions. As a result, supervisory staff now have more time to devote to their other responsibilities. The number of overtime hours has been decreased for all staff and the remaining overtime hours have been shifted to the areas of greatest need.