Checklists, standards, systems, policies and paperwork. In 1987, those words played a major role in the evaluation of human services, and assessment was centered on compliance. In 1987, CHI Friendship sought out a different approach to evaluation and assessment, through an accreditation process with CQL, The Council on Quality and Leadership. In 2015, the number ‘87’ represents something completely different.
Now, ‘87’ represents the percentage of people employed in the community through services by CHI Friendship, which provides individualized comprehensive supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to allow for full community participation and inclusion in the state of North Dakota.
For 28 years, through a partnership with CQL and a commitment to its core values of Reverence, Integrity, Compassion and Excellence, CHI Friendship has strengthened its focus on a person-centered approach. “CQL wants to be on the cutting edge of supports and that’s something we embrace too,” says Jeff Pederson, former President of CHI Friendship, adding “it was just a wonderful blend of shared values.” That person-centered approach starts with CQL’s Personal Outcome Measures®, a tool focused on identifying individualized outcomes. The information gathered through the tool helps organizations deliver quality services that are defined by the people they support. “CQL asks us to raise that bar for each person,” states Dori Leslie, President of CHI Friendship, explaining “I think that’s what we’ve always done throughout history, raise the bar.”
The pursuit of person-centered excellence can be seen in the individual success stories at CHI Friendship. Whether it’s Lynn lighting his church’s candles for the 500th time, Brian receiving another Taekwondo belt, or Gerald reuniting with his long-lost sisters after 62 years, people are achieving their goals and dreams every day. “We’re just so proud to partner with organizations that put people first, and it’s making a tremendous difference in individual quality of life,” says Cathy Ficker Terrill, former CEO of CQL. CHI Friendship even expanded beyond the traditional 21 outcomes within Personal Outcome Measures®, by adding a 22nd outcome centered on the spirituality of people they support. “Not only do we look at spirituality from a faith-based or religious perspective, but we say spirituality is what brings life to us,” states Pederson.
This person-centered approach and commitment to core values culminated in CHI Friendship achieving Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation in March 2015. “It’s an amazing accomplishment. They went through an intense process of evaluations, assessments and interviews involving CQL’s Basic Assurances®, Shared Values and Personal Outcome Measures®,” says Becky Hansen, (former) Chief Services Officer for CQL. Over the course of the accreditation, CQL worked with CHI Friendship to identify strengths and apply those to areas of improvement through the Appreciative Inquiry process. “All three surveyors cared. They didn’t come to just re-accredit us,” explains Leslie, “if there was an area where we were struggling, all three had options and leads for us to get better.”
CHI Friendship turned this official accreditation into a four day celebration, bringing together almost a hundred stakeholders including people supported, family members, direct support professionals, board members and others to reflect on their accomplishments. A special VIP event was held, honoring self-advocates with a recognition certificate and a token of appreciation. The self-advocates then took the stage to speak passionately about their own lives. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. It was just amazing!” says Leslie.
This latest accreditation is only another stepping stone for CHI Friendship. “We know that quality is a continuous journey, it’s not a destination,” states Pederson. This ideal is built into their very foundation, as they have inverted the traditional organizational chart so that people supported are at the top of the hierarchical structure. In addition to this innovative approach, they are also in the process of having four staff members undergo interviewer and trainer certification for Personal Outcome Measures®. Their commitment to a continuous journey towards quality is also evident in their plans for the future. “Our goal four years from now is to go for Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation, With Distinction,” explains Leslie.
The partnership between CQL and CHI Friendship has been growing for nearly three decades, and this most recent milestone makes it clear that the connection won’t end. “When CQL leaves, it doesn’t stop. We’ve built lifelong friendships,” concludes Pederson.