In September 2014, AHRC New York City received accreditation from the Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) demonstrating our commitment to providing the highest quality of services and support for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Four years later, AHRC NYC is working toward reaccreditation.
As a part of the accreditation process, AHRC NYC held five meetings in five boroughs to facilitate conversations between all stakeholders, including people receiving support, family members, employees from across multiple departments, board members, and more.
“We want to create opportunities to have conversations about what’s going well at AHRC, what’s not going so well, and what direction we are going into the future,” said Andrew Pfadt-Trilling, Director of Quality Improvement for Day Services, at the outset of a meeting at the Institute for Basic Research in Staten Island.
At Joseph T. Weingold Day Services in Woodside, Queens, Laura Cucinotta, Quality Improvement Officer, said that meetings were structured using the Art of Hosting’s Open Space model.
Ten volunteers each picked a topic where they would lead the discussion and record suggestions from people who visited their station. Those not leading the discussions could choose to stay in one area and discuss a single issue or bounce around to hit all 10 topics.
“We are parents that have a daughter at an AHRC residence,” said Peter and Sue Cheung. “She’s been there for over 11 years. These sounded like interesting ideas for a meeting. We like this forum to be able to listen to and share with other like-minded people. It’s our first time being introduced to the concept of CQL.”
Topics were presented in the form of questions such as “How can we create and sustain powerful community partnerships?” and “How can AHRC develop and recognize leaders at all levels?” At the end of the discussion period, hosts selected three suggestions from their discussion question that they felt were most interesting, followed by everyone voting on which three suggestions from all ten topics stuck most with them.
Francesca Nuccio wanted to know “What does it take for us to communicate, share, and connect in 2018?” and engaged anyone who came to her at the Staten Island meeting. “I have way too many friends who are not being interactive with each other. That’s why I chose this topic,” she said.
Vlora Senturk works for Hudson River Services at the Staten Island Ferry and an FDNY firehouse. She was seeking suggestions for how AHRC NYC can develop leaders at all levels. “I like to think it’s about recognizing someone with talent and helping them go above and beyond with it. It’s not just for staff, it’s for us too,” said Vlora.
In responding to the topic of self-determination and choice, Board Member, Edith Niedert said that parents must often weigh difficult decisions while factoring in their children’s preferences. “The biggest decisions you have to make are about health, especially as they get older. Even if they do not like the change you have to be firm if it will harm them,” she said.
Ryan Ford was intrigued by the question “How do we provide opportunities and means for people to achieve their dreams?” He led a discussion about it at the Staten Island meeting. “There’s no such thing as skepticism if you’re going to be someone in life,” Ryan said. “Believe in yourself. I have a dream that I want to be in broadcast journalism. I want to talk about topics in a way that is fun and neutral.”
Esteban Gonzalez, Higher Education Support Professional, said to Ryan that access to personal career choices is a great way for people to achieve their dreams.
In Queens, a group of parents and siblings discussed their concerns about civil rights for people with disabilities. “I’ve sort of taken civil rights for granted. Things up until recently have been pretty good,” parent John Liebmann said. “I think there is some value in being reminded as to what our rights are. They are being challenged now.”
Next Steps Toward Accreditation
After the borough meetings, the group that facilitated the discussions look for the main themes that developed across all five sessions. Sandra Moody, AHRC NYC’s Chief Quality Officer, explained that these themes and suggestions will be used as a backdrop for future changes and will inform important decisions made by the agency going forward.
On Thursday, October 18th, a day-long session involving AHRC NYC stakeholders and representatives from CQL will be held to establish goals that can be implemented over the next four years (the length of CQL’s accreditation period). “Establishing forward-thinking goals is one of the important ways CQL asks organizations to keep growing and challenging themselves to become more person-centric and successful in providing the quality of life for people receiving services,” Sandra said.