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New Star Is Changing Lives In Illinois and Indiana

By Michael Clausen, CQL Quality Enhancement Specialist

For the last few months, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to work with New Star – a human services provider based in Illinois and Indiana – as they have been going through the process to pursue CQL Accreditation. New Star provides supports and services for more than 650 children and adults with disabilities living in and around the Chicagoland area and in Northwest Indiana.

“Person-centeredness was always a goal of New Star. CQL’s outcomes-based approach to quality is at the heart of why we do what we do.”

Kristen Salkas, New Star Quality Improvement Director

Along with my colleagues, CQL Quality Enhancement Specialists Tricia Visker and Suzy Pelok, we’ve supported New Star in their journey to build upon the quality services they provide to people with disabilities. The preparation process for their accreditation has included planning meetings, various phone calls, assessments, consultation, and more. The organization was found to be extremely well-prepared, and worked hard to include a wide variety of perspectives throughout the organization.

New Star Lives Out Their Mission

Over the course of this partnership, I’ve been able to witness first-hand how they live out their mission which is “to provide choices and opportunities for persons with disabilities and their families through a culture of innovation and caring to enrich their lives and maximize their independence.”

On November 6th 2020, New Star officially received CQL Quality Assurances Accreditation following their accreditation virtual visit. Throughout that week, we conducted a number of our standard accreditation activities, yet adapted using online platforms to be responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic:

CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership congratulates everyone from New Star for this noteworthy accomplishment!

New Star Logo

New Star & Their Partnership With CQL

To learn more about New Star and their experiences with CQL Accreditation we turned to Kristen Salkas, New Star’s Quality Improvement Director. She offered some excellent perspective about their organization’s values, goals, and partnership with CQL. Here are Kristen’s responses to some questions we asked about their agency and its ongoing journey.

What are some changes your organization has experienced over the last several years?

New Star resulted from the 2016 merger between two life-changing organizations – SouthSTAR Services and New Hope Center – both with decades of history and commitment to serving this population. Each were championed by courageous parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities who were seeking better educational opportunities for their children.

Today, we have 70 years of providing services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities that reside throughout the South Suburbs of Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Our programs are driven by our passion for creating life-changing vocational, educational, therapeutic, and residential opportunities for those we serve.

What are your organizational goals?

We envision a community where New Star will be the leading services solution provider to minimize discrimination and waiting lists while maximizing access to the services and supports that empower people in order to assume their rightful roles in society as productive, valued citizens.

“The CQL Accreditation process will help us target the best practices of supporting people.”

Kristen Salkas, New Star Quality Improvement Director

Why did you pursue CQL Accreditation?

In New Star’s mission of providing opportunities to maximize an individual’s independence, our executive team made the united decision to direct the agency’s resources to a more person-centered philosophy. This commitment to the people we serve required the agency and staff to redirect our efforts from a policy driven to a more person-centered focus.

After research and discussion, both the leadership team and the Board of Directors agreed that the best pursuit for the agency to go forward would be to complete the CQL Accreditation.

In addition, CQL more closely aligns with our organizational goals of developing a more person-centered philosophy, fostering a culture of empowerment, and becoming more data-driven which will, in the end, help us develop effective programs and strategies.

CQL’s outcomes-based approach to quality is at the heart of why we do what we do – to improve the quality of services that we provide. The CQL Accreditation process will help us target the best practices of supporting people and how we can positively impact their day-to-day lives while providing them with their rightful independence.

How did you prepare for your accreditation?

In order to prepare for CQL Accreditation, New Star developed a CQL committee. We created teams to focus on validating each of the Basic Assurances® factors. Each team met for several weeks prior to the accreditation to discuss each factor. The meetings generated great discussions on ways we could improve our current system and practices. Each individual factor team completed the Basic Assurances® self-assessment and was present in each factor meeting during the CQL review. Overall, we felt very prepared for discussions with CQL during the accreditation week.

How are the Personal Outcome Measures® affecting person-centeredness?

Person-centeredness was always a goal of New Star. Before CQL Accreditation, each department was committed to this goal. However, each had a different idea or perception of the meaning of “person-centeredness.” As we went through the CQL Accreditation, the definitions, meaning, and impact this “concept” would have on the people we serve became clearer. That clarity put each department on the same page and will help us clearly define the steps each department needs to take to become closer to that goal.

While person-centeredness is an ever-developing aspiration for us, we now know what it takes to be truly person-centered and can develop our policies and practices from that goal.

What organizational values or practices are you most proud of?

At New Star, we really pride ourselves on being innovative. Especially during the challenges of 2020, we feel we have used innovation to develop creative solutions to problems precipitated by the global pandemic.

We have also had to be quick on our feet and flexible in response to new, emerging issues. Innovation and flexibility are values that attract us to the CQL Accreditation process. We feel CQL also shares these values and helps us foster them rather than encouraging us to fit into a “checkbox,” as many accreditation processes do. We utilize innovation and flexibility as our assets as we continue to face new challenges and grow our organization.

How do you envision the future of your partnership with CQL?

We envision our partnership with CQL evolving over time. Our first accreditation process with CQL uncovered a lot of strengths and opportunities, and CQL was very willing to work with us through each challenge. With their guidance, we have uncovered barriers to our growth as a leading service provider. We envision CQL being our ally as they push us towards greatness.

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Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.