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Kathy Hochul, Governor
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Acting Commissioner
December 2023 — Vol. 9, No. 1

A Message from Acting Deputy Commissioner Gail Geohagen-Pratt

Acting Deputy Commissioner Gail Geohagen-Pratt

This is a special time of year for many, and I so appreciate the magic of the season and witnessing people of all backgrounds, cultures and beliefs spreading goodwill. No matter what holidays you celebrate, I hope they are filled with peace, joy and precious time with loved ones. In the spirit of the season and the mission of our work, I hope we can all take some time to, in some way, make the holidays a little brighter for those around us.

These are challenging times, and random acts of kindness can help counter random acts of hate. Through kindness and respect for one another, we can appreciate and learn from our differences and celebrate and build on our similarities. I truly appreciate the beauty of the diversity in our great state of New York, and I would like to recognize and celebrate our diversity by acknowledging some of the special holidays of this season:

  • Bodhi Day, Dec. 8: A Buddhist celebration of when the Buddha realized enlightenment.
  • Christmas, Dec. 25: The celebration of Jesus’ birth. For Eastern Orthodox Christians, January 7.
  • Diwali, Nov. 10-14: A five-day Hindu celebration of the Festival of Lights. Say: “Happy Diwali,” or “Wishing you a Diwali that brings happiness, prosperity, and joy to you and all your family.”
  • Eid al-Fitr: The Muslim celebration of Ramadan’s end. The Muslim calendar has shifting dates, and this holiday sometimes falls in December. In 2024, it will fall in April. Say: “Eid Mubarak.”
  • Festivus, Dec. 23: A secular holiday that became popular after a Seinfeld episode. Yes, folks do celebrate this playful holiday! Say, “Happy Festivus.” Slogan: “A Festivus for the rest of us!”
  • Hanukkah, Dec. 7-15: The eight-day Jewish celebration of the Festival of Lights. Say: “Happy Hanukkah.” Pro tip: “Chag Sameach” is Hebrew for “Happy Holiday” and fits most Jewish holidays (excluding the Sabbath and most fast days).
  • HumanLight, Dec. 23: A Humanist holiday that celebrates compassion, humanity and hope.
  • Kwanzaa, Dec. 26 – Jan. 1: A weeklong secular holiday honoring African American heritage. Say, “Joyous Kwanzaa.” Or ask, “Habari gani?” In Swahili, that means, “What’s the news?” The answer is whatever day of Kwanzaa it is (“Umoja,” “Kujichagulia,” etc.).
  • Lunar New Year, Feb. 10, 2024: The most important holiday in several East Asian countries, marking the start of the Chinese lunar calendar. It is known as Spring Festival in China, Seollal in South Korea, and Tet in Vietnam.
  • Winter Solstice, Dec. 21: The shortest day of the year.
  • Yule: A pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice
  • New Year’s Day, Jan. 1: First day of the new year on the Gregorian calendar, celebrated with religious, cultural and social observances around the world.

As the year comes to a close, I would like to express my immense gratitude for your hard work and dedication this past year. CWCS underwent many changes in 2023, including its leadership, staffing, policies and procedures. Even with all these changes, we have managed to make significant progress toward our mutual goal of transforming the child welfare system to that of a child and family well-being system. Together, we can move forward to achieve even greater outcomes for those we serve in the coming year!

Wishing you all the best in this joyous season and may you all experience the magic and miracles of the season!!!

This Month's News

Download the December 2023 Newsletter

  • CWCS Accomplishments of 2023
  • Stories of Success: Surviving Domestic Violence
  • OCFS Hosts Adoption Awareness Month Event Featuring Broadway Artist Ta’Nika Gibson
  • Erie County Department of Social Services Honored with National Adoption Excellence Award
  • Acting Commissioner Discusses Link Between Domestic Violence and Child Welfare
  • OCFS Celebrates Native American Heritage Month
  • OCFS Joins With NYC Partners to Promote Updated Mandated Reporter Training
  • Healthy Families NY Graduates 19 Queens Families
  • Healthy Families New York Program in Brooklyn Serves as Model for Singapore Hospital
  • Human Services Call Center Handles Nine Millionth Call
  • Next Grand Rounds to Focus on Cultural Sensitivity
  • OCFS Leaders Host Directors of Services Forum
  • Poughkeepsie Children’s Home Opens New FOC
  • Adult Services Holds Annual Adult Abuse Training Institute
  • My Bag Project Serves More Than 3,500 Children!
  • Parent Advisory Board Holds First In-Person Meeting