Wayne Spence Head Shot By Wayne Spence, PEF President 


December 15, 2022 — It’s time to shut the door on toxic workplaces at Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) facilities across New York – and the upcoming announced departure of Commissioner Sheila Poole by the end of the year is a welcome first step. 

What do I mean by toxic workplaces?  

As a union representing more than 1,500 employees at OCFS facilities across the state, we have heard numerous stories of bullying and intimidation from our members.  

Top management has been known to degrade and humiliate staff at meetings, sometimes so badly that those staff members are brought to tears. At other locations, we have heard managers are clocking when staff enter the building, and they are disciplined for every minor infraction. Staff say they are constantly watched. Some facilities are so understaffed that everyone is working out of title and barely able to provide minimum coverage for their clients.  

Managers are allowed to continue these despicable behaviors with no consequences. Our members are forced to report to offices and work under these conditions, something that no person should have to endure. Understandably, stress is high, and morale is very low. These members took positions at OCFS facilities to help their fellow New Yorkers and with staffing so low, partially due to the treatment they are subjected to by management, they are not always able to effectively do their jobs. No one should be subjected to these conditions. 

PEF welcomes Commissioner Poole’s departure and, with it, hopes for an end to these toxic practices at OCFS. As a leader, you are only as good as those you appoint below you to manage the day-to-day operations of your agency. In this case, leadership sorely needs a shake-up. We hope the next commissioner quickly addresses the toxic work environment. 

Public service is a calling. PEF members at OCFS are professionals who dedicate their lives to serving children and families in New York. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace.