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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Acting Commissioner
June 2023 — Vol. 7, No. 1

A Message from Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu

Deputy Commissioner Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu

Spring – the season where the earth awakens from the sleepy hibernation of winter, when the days grow longer and brighter – a time for new beginnings and renewed hope. So, it is fitting then, that this spring edition of the Division of Child Welfare and Community Services (CWCS) newsletter contains articles with messages of new beginnings and hope.

First, there is our new mandated reporter training, a collaborative effort involving several stakeholders including Prevent Child Abuse New York with feedback from several sister state agencies, including the New York State Education Department, Department of Health, Office of Mental Health, Office of Addiction Supports and Services, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. This collaboration with a far-reaching and diverse group of stakeholders helped to shift the focus of mandated reporter training, which has historically messaged, “When in doubt, call the Statewide Central Register (SCR).” These calls resulted in a huge influx of reports where concerns about children could have been better addressed through concrete supports and community services instead of CPS intervention.

The overarching theme for the new training is, “You don’t have to report a family to support a family” and contains a component helping mandated reporters recognize and reduce the potential for implicit bias in the decision-making process of whether to call in a report to the SCR. This is vitally important as New York State data show a disproportionate number of Black and Hispanic/Latinx children were reported to the SCR.

Another new beginning is our partnership with Families Together New York to create family peer advisor (FPAs) positions in every regional office, incorporating the voices of parents impacted by the child welfare system at the state level.

I hope you will take the time to read about and get to know our FPAs. I was recently invited to participate in a virtual town hall hosted by Families Together in New York State as part of Family Empowerment Month 2023. I was joined on the panel by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and Senator Jabari Brisport, and together, we listened to several parents and a youth speak of their experiences with the child welfare system – one mother reached out for help for her substance use disorder, only to have her children removed; another was a domestic violence survivor and told of survivors having expectations placed on them to leave and/or keep the children safe, placing the responsibility solely on the victim; and a youth placed in congregate care spoke about feeling unsafe in his placement and “aging out” without support.

Their stories were difficult to hear but affirm the trajectory of our work and give us hope that – through a better understanding of how the decisions we make impact children, families and communities – we can begin to make the necessary changes needed to create a family and child well-being system, one that builds trust in our commitment to this transformation by first and foremost including them in the decisions, policies and practices that impact their lives. Our FPAs are integral to this shared vision.

We have come to understand the intersection between poverty and child welfare and have strengthened our commitment to creating avenues to provide economic and concrete supports to families so that children can remain home safely. We have secured a two-year contract with CarePortal, a technology platform that connects children and families to resources in their local communities and are planning to implement a statewide rollout this spring. Spring is also the time we will begin our direct cash transfer (DCT) pilot. Soon, 150 households will receive $500 per month, unconditionally, over a one-year period. Our hope is this additional economic support will not only improve the overall health and well-being of recipients but will also keep children safely at home. Our goal is for this research to demonstrate the positive impacts of a DCT and influence policy change that will improve the lives of our children and families.

The poet Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal … ” So let us move forward together, in hope, with a renewed motivation and commitment – to our work, to the children and families we serve, to ourselves and to all we hold dear.

This Month's News

Download the June 2023 Newsletter

  • Why We Do This Work: Success Stories of Children and Families
  • OCFS Celebrates Social Work Appreciation Month
  • Recognizing One of Our Own: CWCS Social Worker Candi Griffin-Jenkins
  • Child Welfare Reimagined: Social Service Providers Discuss Strategies at New York State Prevention Summit
  • Family Policy Advisors Offer Parent Perspective to CWCS
  • Family Opportunity Centers and Healthy Families New York Enhance Voluntary Prevention Services
  • Healthy Families New York
  • OCFS Launches New Mandated Reporter Training to Address Implicit Bias in Child Welfare System
  • New Baby Café Opens in Albany to Support Breastfeeding
  • Tina Cook Named New Director of Regional Operations
  • Bureau of Adult Services Partners with Alzheimer’s Association to Promote Dementia Training
  • OCFS and OASAS Collaborate to Tackle Substance Use Disorders
  • CWCS Presents on Workforce Recruitment and Retention Strategies at NYPWA’s Winter Conference
  • National Child Abuse Prevention Month = Family Strengthening and Support Activities
  • Women’s History Month Honors Women for Their Talents and Contributions
  • Women Breaking Down Barriers
  • Black History Month Event Honors Buffalo Victims