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The New York Foundling Pursues Quality With Purpose

By Michael Clausen

I’ve been a part of accreditations all over the USA and in Canada throughout my career at CQL. Over that time, I’ve partnered with a lot of organizations and have gained a lot of insight into why agencies find value in their accreditation. During a recent accreditation at The New York Foundling, it was obvious that they didn’t just view it as ‘passing a test.’ It was so much more than that.

In advance of the review and throughout my time at the agency, The New York Foundling demonstrated that they were ‘in it’ for the right reasons, treating accreditation as a time to reflect, celebrate, and plan out their journey to strengthen the quality of their services and help improve the lives of people they support. They identified a tag line of sorts attached to their accreditation – “Highlight our strengths. Build on our progress.” – which really captures the concept of Appreciative Inquiry and acknowledges that the pursuit of quality is an ongoing journey.

As you learn more about The New York Foundling, you realize that the success of all their efforts isn’t an accident. They’re very intentional in their approach to supports and services. Of course one significant factor contributing to that is their forward-thinking practices in the present. But you also can’t disregard their storied experiences that built their foundation in the past.

About The New York Foundling

In 1869, three Sisters of Charity established The New York Foundling to help children who were abandoned on New York streets. Over the course of its first 50 years, more than 70,000 babies and 16,000 mothers were assisted by the organization. As The New York Foundling continued to grow over time, the agency expanded in the early 1980s to offer residential services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Organizational logo for The New York Foundling

After more than 150 years since its inception, The New York Foundling now serves more than 30,000 people each year through program areas involving child welfare, developmental disabilities, education, health and behavioral health, and juvenile and criminal justice. Guided by values of compassion, dignity, family and community, diversity, and excellence, the organization is well-positioned to pursue its mission to “help children, youth, adults, and families in need through services, supports, and advocacy that strengthen family and community and help each individual reach their full potential.”

The New York Foundling Achieves Quality Assurances Accreditation

The New York Foundling clearly didn’t view accreditation as singular ‘event’ that took place only over the course of the week-long review. They put a significant amount of time and energy into planning and preparation, embracing the idea of holistic transformation.

Group of men play basketball in a large gymnasium

The organization developed posters, videos, educational materials, and more to ensure all stakeholders across the agency were informed, invested, and active in the accreditation process – especially people receiving services. In addition, the agency held weekly conversations where they covered a specific topic related to accreditation.

These efforts continued as CQL staff, including myself, Anne Buechner, Amy Price, and Katherine Dunbar, conducted the accreditation review. People supported led a lot of the organization’s opening presentation for accreditation. Designated experts facilitated tours where services are provided. A broad cross-section of stakeholders were involved in activities such as the focus groups.

Their hard work really paid off! On June 10, 2022, we were honored to award The New York Foundling with Quality Assurances Accreditation. They are all so deserving of this accomplishment, and we are so lucky to have them as a partner.

Insights Straight From The New York Foundling

It’s not enough to just read about our experiences with The New York Foundling. It’s essential to learn about their organization directly from them. To gather that insight, we connected with Leonore Soltz, Director, Quality Assurance, Performance and Compliance at The New York Foundling. Leonore was gracious enough take some time and answer a number of questions we had about the organization, their perspectives on improving quality, and the role that accreditation plays in it all.

What organizational values or practices are you most proud of?

Since our inception in 1869, The New York Foundling has grown into one of the largest human service organizations in the New York metro area, providing an effective and interrelated set of services that help our neighbors – including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities – along their own paths to stability, strength, and independence.

One of the ways we have continued to grow and improve is by always keeping our mission and values as the focal point of our work. Each year, our Mission Awards celebrate our core values of compassion, dignity, family and community, diversity, and excellence. Our mission and values are evident in many of our policies and procedures, ensuring that individual needs are the focal point of our everyday practice.

In the Developmental Disabilities Division, we celebrate the people we support and staff through a number of annual events, including a summer basketball tournament and a family and friends barbeque each fall. Recently, a number of people we support participated in an art show which showcased their talent and creativity.

What are your goals as an organization?

As an organization, The New York Foundling strives to provide services, supports, and advocacy so that children, adults, and families – including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – can reach their full potential. We provide excellence in service across all of our divisions, keeping person-centered practices at the heart of all we do. We would like to further develop our current analytical and reporting capacity, in order to enhance data-driven decision-making that will lead to quality outcomes for the people we support.

Specific to our Developmental Disabilities Division, our primary goals are to build out additional capacity to ensure the people we support have more opportunities to choose meaningful personal goals, as well as the ability to provide input on all levels of service provisions provided by the agency.

“I can do everything independently and I am getting ready to graduate and move into my own ISS apartment.”

David, person receiving supports from New York Foundling

Why did you decide to pursue CQL Accreditation?

The New York Foundling’s Developmental Disabilities Division has undergone a number of exciting changes over the last five years, including assuming programs previously operated by another provider agency, which doubled the number of people we support. While these changes have enriched the agency, this quick growth has given us many more moving parts to manage.

In order to provide the best quality of care for those we support, we wanted to take a step back and undertake an independent self-assessment of our services, allowing us to dig deeper into our standards of practice.

“Thanks to this assessment, we’re positioned to improve our services and programs even further.”

Mel Hartzog, President and CEO of New York Foundling

We wanted to highlight excellence in our staff, quality of care, and the accomplishments of people we support. It was also very important for us to build on our strengths, highlighting ways to implement enhanced systems for the services provided to people we support, as well as staff.

How did you prepare for your CQL Accreditation?

As an agency, we had so much fun getting ready for CQL Accreditation! Our preparation started with 30 staff attending the CQL Basic Assurances® Intensive Workshop. Foundling staff also attended Personal Outcome Measures® (POM) Workshops, and one of our staff members is now a Certified POM Trainer.

In addition to numerous formal and informal internal staff trainings, we created a video featuring each of the Basic Assurances®, highlighting accomplishments of people we support. We organized ‘focus of the week’ staff engagement events, which featured each of the Basic Assurances®. This provided opportunities for staff and people we support to learn and participate in the preparation for accreditation.

Finally, we had around 25 CQL champions to help with staff engagement and training activities. The Champions attended meetings, participated in trainings, and helped all staff and people we support prepare for accreditation. Preparing for CQL really helped our whole organization connect, as we moved toward a common goal, and prompted us to begin thinking outside of the box on creative ways to support each person.

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

CQL Accreditation has been THE highlight of 2022! We truly look forward to our partnership with CQL, and the opportunity to continue learning new and innovative approaches to supporting people. In addition to implementing our Basic Assurances® plan, we are excited to utilize CQL’s PORTAL Data System to access data, providing a benchmark for analyzing our internal data and setting measurable goals as we implement our plan.

“This CQL Accreditation process has offered us an opportunity to assess our practices – to highlight our areas of strengths and identify opportunities for growth.”

Mel Hartzog, President and CEO of New York Foundling

Have questions about CQL Accreditation?

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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.