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In this Issue: 
+ Family First Readiness Kick-Off
+ New RHF Grants
RHF & OCFS Host Family First Readiness
Kick-Off Convening in Albany
The Redlich Horwitz Foundation (RHF) and the New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) hosted the Family First Readiness Kick-Off Convening on July 23rd and 24th in Albany to launch RHF’s six-month planning and technical assistance effort with 19 New York counties. The Family First Readiness initiative provides each county with one-on-one consultation from a child welfare expert to assist in assessing their current placement data and practices and designing family-centered system improvements. 

The Family First Readiness initiative is designed to support achievement of the State’s goals of lowering the use of congregate care to 12 percent or fewer and increasing the use of licensed kinship care to 30 percent or greater, as portions of New York’s total foster care placements. 

“Redlich Horwitz is pleased to partner with OCFS to kick off this important work for children and families, and to provide you with the technical assistance that’s so valuable as you align your systems to be Family First ready,” Sarah Kroon Chiles, executive director of the Redlich Horwitz Foundation, told the counties gathered at the kick-off convening. “Our priorities for New York are perfectly aligned with the values and philosophy of the Family First Act, and that is why supporting counties, foster care provider agencies and the state as a whole to become Family First ready is our top priority.”

The Family First Readiness initiative complements the passage of the Family First Transition Fund, a public-private partnership among the State, RHF, and Casey Family Programs to provide funding to New York districts in their implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act. During the convening, RHF also released a draft report that provides options for counties to invest their Transition Fund allocations in ways that seed sustainable system reform.

“Our goals align with what we have already been doing and messaging: ‘The right intervention, for the right amount of time, at the right intensity, to the right youth,’” said OCFS Commissioner Sheila Poole about the Transition Fund. “We recognize the value in coming together and talking about the best ways to create change and optimize success.” 

During the two-day convening, counties heard from Dr. Jerry Milner, federal Administration for Children and Families commissioner, and they heard from other national and state experts to learn practical skills and gain inspiration for their work ahead. County teams also met with their consultants to review their placement data and begin their planning efforts.

“I strongly believe that Family First is an opportunity to help reorient our child welfare system toward prevention and family stabilization to keep families safely together whenever possible,” said Jessie Rothkuo, senior program manager at RHF, who is leading this effort for the Foundation. 

With the addition of these 19 counties, the Foundation is currently working with 28 districts across the state to increase family-based care. The design of this new initiative is based on successful RHF engagements in Onondaga, Dutchess and Westchester counties that have helped to reduce their reliance on congregate care and increase their use of licensed kinship care. In one year, Onondaga increased certified kinship from 1 percent to 12.5 percent and reduced congregate care by 25 percent. In Dutchess, congregate care was reduced from 35 percent to 27 percent, while Westchester reduced the number placed in congregate care by 44 percent and reduced overall entries to care by 17 percent. 
Newest Foundation Grants
CHAMPS-NY – Led by Schuyler Center & Families Together
We are pleased to renew a two-year grant of $360,000 to CHAMPS-NY to continue critical state-policy advocacy to expand family-based care and ensure kinship and foster parents are well-supported. 

Graham Windham, Therapeutic Family Foster Care Model & Family Success Initiative
RHF is continuing its support of Graham Windham by providing $300,000 over two years for its Parent Peer Support program and for an initiative to develop a new family-based model that will serve high-needs teens. 

Onondaga County, Older Youth Permanency Initiative 
Building on momentum from Onondaga's initial reform efforts to reduce congregate care placements, this $200,000 grant will support strategies to move older and high-needs youth into home-based care over two years.

SCO Family of Services & Building Bridges Initiative, Inc. (BBI)
RHF’s grant of $150,000 will provide two years of technical assistance from BBI to SCO Family of Services to support their transformation into a family-centered and permanency-driven agency across all its foster care programs.
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