Global Leadership in Human Services

Mar 24, 2016 3:00 PM ET

By Charles Hooker III, President and CEO of Keystone Human Services International

Keystone Human Services recently developed a five year Strategic Plan to guide the organization forward. The Plan reaffirms our vision and values with a solid focus on global leadership in human services and a life-span perspective for the services and supports we offer.

Within this vision, we strive to make our mission real within diverse communities, lead change within human services through innovation and best practices, and help shape public policy.

Keystone Human Services International is proud to be moving KHS’s strategy forward by developing a global presence for the organization. Since 2003, we have provided services in the Republic of Moldova. Starting with a vision of children and family centers based on the Head Start program, Keystone Moldova soon grew to become a leading expert on deinstitutionalization and the development of sustainable community-based services. To date, Keystone Moldova has supported 130 young people with disabilities to leave the Orhei and Hincesti institutions. They have either rejoined their families or moved into new community-based services. Development of community based services, such as mobile teams, respite services, and personal assistants, has helped and will continue to help prevent children with intellectual disabilities from being admitted to institutions in Moldova and facilitates integration into the community. To date, 50 children slated to be sent to Orhei institution have been prevented from being institutionalized due to Keystone Moldova’s efforts, in addition to the countless others that benefit from these newly developed community-based supports and services.

Keystone Moldova has just completed a complex assessment of the Hincesti residential institution which serves girls and young women with intellectual disabilities, and Badiceni, a psychiatric institution for adults. These assessments resulted in the development of a strategy to develop additional community based services to support people who will ultimately be leaving these institutions.

We are deeply involved as consultants to the government of Moldova. To create sustainable services, it’s crucial to have governmental support. Keystone Moldova has played an important role in the development of Moldova’s community-based system of supports. We have worked closely with the government to create the legal framework for each new service, and we continue to provide support and expertise to the Local Public Authorities and the government of Moldova for the maintenance of those services.

Recently, Keystone Moldova began providing support to the Ministry of Labor, Social Protection, and Family for the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The Convention details the rights of individuals with disabilities, and sets out a code of implementation, including the right to life on an equal basis to others, equal legal protection, and the abolishment of discriminatory practices. The Republic of Moldova signed the UNCRPD in 2007, ratified it in 2010, and is now working hard to implement it. Over the next five years, Keystone Moldova will continue to support the Ministry as they develop and implement an action plan.

In 2015, Keystone Moldova was engaged in a number of projects, including local collaboration for the social inclusion of people with disabilities in Anenii-Noi and Ialoveni districts, funded by FHI 360 through a grant with United States Agency for International Development (USAID); advocacy and self-advocacy activities, funded by the Swedish Organization for Individual Relief (SOIR-Moldova); social entrepreneurship development, funded by East Europe Foundation; the use of storytelling to dispel discrimination, funded by the Soros Foundation-Moldova; inclusive education in preschool, funded by the Open Society Early Childhood Program; and media and communication for an inclusive society, funded by the Open Society Foundations Health Media Initiative.

We have renovated a new, fully accessible conference and learning center in Moldova, which will be the staging ground for training, seminars, and meetings that will shape the next generation of Moldovan professionals, policymakers families, and advocates. This space will make it possible to increase the capacity of human services professionals and governmental authorities to support people with disabilities, while making such educational events available and accessible to people with physical disabilities. This training center is a visible sign of our continued promise to provide services and support to the government and people with disabilities in Moldova, which moves away from segregation and toward inclusion for all Moldovan people.

In addition to our work in Moldova, Keystone Human Service International and Keystone Moldova recently finished providing support to the Ministry of Health and Social Development of Kazakhstan through a 12-month grant from UNICEF. The project created a long term roadmap for service development based on existing data on the profiles of children in infant homes and medical social facilities for children with disabilities, as well as the needs of the communities. The consultancy also focused on supporting the regional authorities in the development of detailed re-training, monitoring and evaluation, and sustainability plans for their modernization processes. The analysis of the current state of children ages 0-7 who are at risk of being abandoned or without parental care included children with disabilities and the profile of children in those residential institutions slated to be transformed. The final central and regional roadmap for the development of modernized services, along with comments to the draft statute and standards on the infant homes and medical social facilities for children with disabilities with the proposed vision of the transformation, was presented to the Ministry.

In India, Keystone Institute India is helping to strengthen the fabric of an Indian society where people with intellectual disabilities, autism, and psychosocial disabilities are welcomed into community life. Partnering with The Hans Foundation, Keystone is building relationships with other non-governmental organizations dedicated to supporting families, advocates, and individuals with disabilities. These partnerships and relationships are strengthening our collective vision of a truly inclusive society.

In these early months of the initiative in India, we are learning much about discovering what people truly need and how those needs can be met. It’s very easy to hand people a set of tools and claim that using those tools will lead to inclusion. The truth is, however, that those tools are only useful if they actually meet people’s needs. We are spending as much time listening and learning as we are sharing our own knowledge and expertise.

This amazing work is a team effort. Ludmila Malcoci and her team at Keystone Moldova have been the driving force of the significant outcomes to Keystone’s involvement in Moldova. This, coupled with Keystone Human Services’ commitment and the active involvement with our partners, have paved the way for substantial change in Moldova. In India, Betsy Neuville heads up our activities. In conjunction with our partners, The Hans Foundation and the Rural India Supporting Trust, we have embarked on a journey in India that we expect will develop significant change in Indian society consistent with Keystone’s vision of creating a world where all people, regardless of background and ability, can grow, make choices, and be valued and contributing members of our community.

Although the culture, environment, mechanisms, and structures are different in each country, the basis of providing community-based services is the same. Ultimately, we look to our mission and values and strive to make them real in the community, so that people with disabilities can enjoy the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

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Ann Moffitt
Keystone Human Services
+1 (717) 232-7509ext. 133