Congregate Care

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OCFS website information for Voluntary Agencies interested in seeking initial authority to provide congregate care programs in New York State.

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) welcomes your interest in becoming approved as a New York State authorized Voluntary Agency to provide Congregate Care services to youth in New York State.

NYS and OCFS Incorporation Information

A certificate of incorporation defines the nature and existence of a corporation by setting forth its purposes, powers, status, and type. In the past, some corporations were created by special act of the Legislature; in such cases, the law creating the corporation constituted the certificate of the incorporation. Presently, child caring corporations (not-for-profit corporations) are most commonly created by filing a certificate of incorporation or an amendment of a certificate of incorporation with the Secretary of State.

A certificate of incorporation (or amendment) being filed with the Secretary of State must be accompanied by a formal notice of approval of the incorporation issued by OCFS where the certificate includes any of the corporate purposes referenced in this manual.

The term “certificate of incorporation” technically includes all of the various certificates that might alter or affect the nature of a corporation.

These include certificates of:

OCFS is statutorily vested with the power to approve proposed certificates of incorporation for:

The requirement to obtain OCFS approval is found in section 460-a of the SSL and in section 404(b) of the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law. The format and contents of the various certificates are set forth in the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law.

For a new incorporation of an agency providing residential care for children, a five-year limit is placed on the initial duration of corporate authority.

For a new incorporation of an agency authorized to board out or place out children, a two-year limit is placed upon the initial duration of corporate authority.

OCFS has the authority to limit the duration of any extension of corporate authority, if so desired or required.

Once Incorporation approval is given by OCFS, The Approval document is mailed to the applicant agency (or counsel) with a cover letter instructing the agency to file the incorporation document together with the accompanying OCFS approval document with the Secretary of State of New York State. The OCFS certificate of incorporation or the certificate of amendment is not effective until filing with the Secretary of State and it is requested that the agency forward a copy of the filing receipt issued by the Secretary of State to the appropriate OCFS Regional Office.

OCFS is statutorily responsible for the regulation, supervision and approval of congregate care programs in New York State. OCFS looks forward to working with your new agency to provide quality services to youth and families in New York State. In New York, Voluntary Agencies are required to possess a valid operating certificate issued by OCFS. Voluntary Agencies must first become authorized to operate by being approved by OCFS through the incorporation process. Approval is for a limited period of time, as specified by OCFS, and extensions require prior approval by OCFS.

What are the steps to approval as a provider in New York State?

  1. Educate yourself on NYS statutes, regulations and policies which provide the legal and policy standards you will be obligated to follow in regard to the operation of congregate care programs. (See Laws/Regulations/Policies below). Determine which type of program(s) you will develop such as Institution, Group Residence, Group Home or Agency Operated Boarding Homes. Only agencies that are also approved to operate congregate care programs can provide residential services to children in foster care within New York State.
  2. Educate yourself on the incorporation process in NYS. Refer to the NYS Department of State (DOS) website at dos.ny.gov/corps/nfpcorp.html#certinc or contact DOS by phone at (518) 473-2492. Consult private legal counsel regarding the incorporation process, if necessary.
  3. Based on the location of your proposed office, contact the appropriate OCFS Regional Office (RO) and ask to speak to the Voluntary Agency Program Specialist to electronically send a Congregate Care Program Proposal application packet. OCFS RO listings can be found at ocfs.ny.gov/programs/fostercare/congragate-care/region.php
  4. Complete the application packet and business plan and gather all supplemental information. The application will have to demonstrate how the agency will comply with applicable legal and program standards involved in the operation of an adoption program,
  5. Submit the complete application, business plan and all supplemental information to the OCFS RO Program Specialist.
  6. A site visit will be scheduled by the OCFS RO Program Specialist. The site visit will include a full review of the proposed agency program including, but not limited to; policy, practice, record storage, security (what type of security), and if available, agency case records. 
  7. An applicant nearing the final phase of the program approval will be required to submit to OCFS Counsel’s office for review and approval, as applicable, a proposed certificate of incorporation or certificate of amendment for New York corporations or a proposed Application for Authority for Authority for out of state corporations that gives the agency the authority to place out children for the purpose of adoption. Refer to the NYS Department of State (DOS) website at dos.ny.gov/corps/nfpcorp.html#certinc or contact DOS by phone at 518-473-2492 for additional information regarding corporate certificates and filing.
  8. Your agency must file this approval along with your original certificate or application for authority with the Department of State. It is the act of filing of the certificate or application for authority and approval that results in your assumption of the legal authority to operate an Voluntary Agency program in New York.

Upon submission of the filing receipt to OCFS, your agency will be added to the list of New York State authorized Voluntary Agencies.

Policy Directives

The following OCFS Policy Directives can be found at: ocfs.ny.gov/main/policies/external/

Program Description

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) welcomes your interest in becoming approved as a New York State authorized Voluntary Agency to provide Congregate Care services to youth in New York State.

Congregate (residential) care programs are defined as:

OCFS is statutorily responsible for the regulation, supervision and approval of congregate care programs in New York State. OCFS looks forward to working with your new agency to provide quality services to youth and families in New York State. In New York, Voluntary Agencies are required to possess a valid operating certificate issued by OCFS. Voluntary Agencies must first become authorized to operate by being approved by OCFS through the incorporation process. Approval is for a limited period of time, as specified by OCFS, and extensions require prior approval by OCFS.

Application Package

An important first step in this process is a thorough needs assessment to verify not only the need for the type of program that you propose to operate, but the commitment of local departments of social services to place children in your care, and to pay the rate established for such services.

Enclosed are three application documents:

  1. Application for NYS OCFS Approval of Proposed Certificate of Incorporation (OCFS-4722)
  2. Application Cover Sheet for Operating Certificate Request (OCFS-2981)
  3. NYS OCFS Congregate Care Proposal Submission (OCFS-2158)

Regulations related to the type of program you wish to operate are also enclosed. OCFS regulations governing the care of children in foster care indicate specific circumstances under which a child may be placed in foster care, the circumstances determining the type of care, as well as the frequency of contacts a social worker must have with each child and family. OCFS regulations also state that each child must have a specific plan for achieving permanency in their lives, either through return to their family, adoption or another planned living arrangement (APLA), and the time period and circumstances governing these plans.

It is important to review the regulations so you will know the kinds of services you must provide, the circumstances that determine actions and decisions, and some of the types of record keeping and reporting that are required. OCFS will monitor your compliance with applicable statutes and regulations on an ongoing basis through the application processes and beyond.

Document 1: NYS OCFS Approval of Proposed Certificate of Incorporation (OCFS-4722)

The first step to operating in New York State is submission of the Application for NYS OCFS Approval of Proposed Certificate of Incorporation to our office. OCFS completes comprehensive reviews in three primary areas before granting its approval for an agency to incorporate to provide child care services. Your primary contact throughout this process will be the Voluntary Agency program lead from the appropriate OCFS Regional Office. The OCFS program lead will coordinate and track your submission of various components of your proposed operation and will work closely with you to achieve compliance with relevant statutes and regulations.

Counsel's Office Issuance of the OCFS Approval Document Authorizing Agency Filing of Certificate of Incorporation with the Secretary of State:

Counsel’s Office of OCFS will review your proposed certificate of incorporation (or amendment) document for content and format. Once Counsel’s Office has received a Program Plan Compliance Statement from the OCFS Regional Office, and the Fiscal Viability verification from Rate Setting, and the proposed certificate of incorporation or amendment is in proper form, an approval document will be issued. The OCFS approval document and your proposed certificate of incorporation document must then be filed with the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will issue a filing receipt. It is your responsibility to provide a copy of the filing receipt and a certified copy of the filed documents with the Secretary of State to Counsel’s Office of OCFS as proof that the incorporation process has been completed.

Please see OCFS website information for Voluntary Agencies interested in seeking initial authority to provide congregate care programs in New York State.

Document 2: Cover Sheet for Operating Certificate Request (OCFS-2981)

The process for submission of the Application Cover Sheet for Operating Certificate Request (OCFS-2981) parallels that of the approval of incorporation process but will be site or facility specific in its focus. An operating certificate is issued to an authorized agency to provide specific services at a specific site. Again, the first step is submission of the Application for Operating Certificate to the appropriate OCFS Regional Office. Again, OCFS will complete reviews of your program in the same three broad areas. Much of the programmatic and fiscal material provided by your agency during the OCFS approval of proposed certificate of incorporation process is relevant to, and forms the foundation for, issuance of an operating certificate:

Time frames for completion of the application process will vary. Also, some of the steps in the processes described above may be completed concurrently.

Document 3: NYS OCFS Congregate Care Proposal (OCFS-2158)

Program Plan (Program Plan Proposal attached)

After your Agency completes and submits the Congregate Care Program Proposal, the appropriate OCFS Regional Office will review all components of an agency’s proposed Program Plan. The Program Proposal is a comprehensive and detailed accounting of the policies and procedures by which your proposed agency will operate. The Program Plan includes, but is not limited to, a description of the foster care population to be served, a description of the presenting problems of children to be served, intake criteria, organizational structure and staffing, and the services to be provided to children and their families including medical, educational, and clinical services. OCFS will issue a Program Plan Compliance Statement when it is satisfied that all elements of your proposed program, as submitted and reviewed, are in full compliance with relevant statutes and regulations.

After review of the program plan, agencies will be required to undergo a Fiscal Viability review.

Fiscal Viability

The State Aid Rates Unit of OCFS will confirm the fiscal viability of an agency. They also make decisions and recommendations regarding the establishment of rates to be paid for services provided by your agency. There are five elements required for the fiscal review:

The Rate Setting Unit will issue a statement of fiscal viability when it has completed its review.

If you have questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact your OCFS Regional Office.

Enclosures

Application for NYS OCFS Approval of Proposed Certificate of Incorporation (OCFS-4722)

Application Cover Sheet for Operating Certificate Request (OCFS-2981)

NYS OCFS Congregate Care Proposal (OCFS-2158)

The following 18NYCRR Codes Rules and Regulations pertaining to your request can be found on dos.ny.gov/info/nycrr.html