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Dutchess County Recognized for State-Leading Foster Care Placement Enhancements
2019 Budget continues to support youth and families with two new initiatives

Published: 10/26/2018

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Colleen Pillus

Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro announced the Redlich Horwitz Foundation (RHF) has showcased Dutchess as one of three counties in New York State whose efforts are increasing foster-family and kinship placements, with the goal of reducing children in congregate care placement rate to the national average of 15 percent.   The Dutchess County Department of Community & Family Services has undertaken several initiatives to improve outcomes for children, with County Executive Molinaro announcing new initiatives as 2019 Dutchess County Budget, to be presented on Monday, October 29th. 

County Executive Molinaro said, “Strong families provide a firm, dependable support system on which children, the future of Dutchess County, can rely. Every child deserves a strong family to which they can turn for support and nurturing, and strengthening families is our community’s shared responsibility. Dutchess County’s efforts are setting an example for counties throughout the state. We thank the Redlich Horwitz Foundation for their support as we continue our efforts to find permanent, stable families for children in foster care.”

The Redlich Horwitz Foundation (RHF) highlights Dutchess County Community & Family Services efforts to prepare for the new federal law, Family First Prevention Services Act, which is expected to take effect in New York in 2021.   The law is designed to ensure more children in foster care are placed with kinship and foster families than in congregate care, which research has demonstrated provides better well-being and permanency outcomes for children and is less costly for counties.   In its latest report, “How Three New York Counties are Right-Sizing Congregate Care and Prioritizing Family-Based Care,” RHF details the Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services’ (DCFS) foster-care successes, including:

  • Number of foster care children in congregate care dropped from 111 in 2017 to 66 in 2018, a 40-percent change;
  • Percentage of children placed in congregate care dropped from 35 percent to 27 percent from 2017 to 2018;
  • Dutchess County has decreased the amount of time children spend in congregate care significantly since 2016, between 17  and 46 percent, depending on the placement type and entry year.

DCFS has achieved this success through a stakeholder workgroup that reviews progress toward goals on a monthly basis; restructuring that reduced the supervisor-to staff-ratio by nearly half, from 10-to-1 to 6-to-1; and development of an internal quality assurance team to continuously analyze progress and report back to the stakeholder group.      

The full case study report and other information on the Family First Act, can be found on

In the proposed 2019 Executive Budget, County Executive Molinaro has included two new initiatives focused on strengthening family stability: recruitment and training of volunteers to mentor youth in foster care, and the establishment of a parent coaching model of supervised visitation for families in the child welfare system. 

DCFS’s “Fostering Connections” initiative to recruit and train community volunteers who will mentor youth in foster care by connecting these young people to a healthy support system with caring, consistent adult guidance. The mentors will commit to a minimum of four hours each month for at least one full academic year and meet with youth with supervision and support of a trained site coordinator. DCFS will partner with youth service providers to become mentoring sites.

The parenting coaching will train volunteers who will provide strength-based coaching to parents/caregivers and help guide families through visiting their child by helping them cope with their own feelings, respond to the unique needs of their children, and build on the strengths in each family. This program will increase the opportunities for children in foster care to visit with and maintain a connection to their biological parents, to achieve reunification, and/or for parents to participate in planning for a permanent home for their child. 

DCFS Commissioner Sabrina Jaar Marzouka said, “By strengthening families, we can create a community where children thrive and are resilient in their environment.   Failure is not an option.   This is truly some of our most rewarding work because of the positive impact it has on families.”

County Executive Molinaro will present his 2019 Executive Budget on Monday, October 29th at 10 a.m. in the Legislature Chambers, ahead of the required November 1st deadline established by the Dutchess County Administrative Code. The County Executive’s Budget Address can be viewed live on the County’s website, where all budget documents will also be available for review. On October 29th at 6:30 p.m., County Executive Molinaro will host a countywide tele-town hall forum, during which residents will have the opportunity to participate in a live conversation about the 2019 county budget, learn key details, ask questions and share feedback. Additionally, there will be town hall forum events about the 2019 Executive Budget held throughout the county in the month of November.