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Trinity Services, Inc.: Focused On True North

By Michael Clausen

Navigating the complex human services field demands a substantial amount of discipline, commitment, and innovation. When you factor in an international pandemic, finding your way through it all can be even more complicated. Organizations have to rely on others for guidance, support, and encouragement to face these unprecedented challenges.

“The CQL Accreditation process is like the gradual calibration of a compass. Our Trinity compass has generally remained focused on True North.”

Thane Dykstra, President and CEO, Trinity Services, Inc.

It’s not just a one-sided relationship either. CQL ensures our compass stays calibrated through working with organizations like Trinity Services, Inc. We learn a lot from agencies that continue to lead in agency practices and programs. CQL then passes along that knowledge to other organizations around the world so that the very best in human services can be replicated.

Trinity’s Spirit Of Innovation

A spirit of innovation is embedded across Trinity Services, Inc.’s programs, systems, and people. In the last four years, the organization has learned how to support people with emerging technologies. They have been a resource to communities they serve, supporting COVID-19 vaccination clinics and facilitating mental health crisis response with local law enforcement. The organization supports people to Flourish through a strength-based person-centered planning process that is focused on what is most meaningful to each person.

Trinity Services, Inc. is constantly learning and seeking out best practices, and always moving forward. The organization is a leader in the field and always willing to be a resource to others. The accreditation team was inspired by Trinity Services Inc.’s creativity, passion, and energy, and we are excited to see what they will accomplish in the future.

Trinity Services, Inc. included the perspectives of people receiving supports, families, community partners, staff from across all services, programs and roles and from areas across the state of Illinois. Hundreds of people were included as part of this accreditation. This diversity and broad contribution was not only impressive, it ensured that all voices were heard, and all feedback was considered as the organization created Person-Centered Excellence Plans for the future.

About Trinity Services, Inc.

Trinity Services, Inc. was founded in 1950 by a group of parents, starting out as a one-room schoolhouse. Over the decades, Trinity expanded its range of services to include residential, behavioral health, employment, respite, health and well-being programs, and more. Today, Trinity provides services to approximately 3,500 adults and children with intellectual, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities in over 30 communities in the State of Illinois.

Trinity Logo 2021

The mission of Trinity is “to provide the highest quality person-directed services and supports to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental illness so that they may flourish and live full and abundant lives.” It is a nationally-recognized leader in human services – implementing best practices, providing individualized supports, and offering thought leadership across the field.

Decades of Distinction

Since 1992, Trinity Services has maintained the highest level of accreditation from CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. They have been committed to the most stringent standards in human services for nearly three decades. Just last month, Trinity continued on that journey with yet another noteworthy accomplishment.

On March 5th, 2021, Trinity Services, Inc. achieved CQL Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation, With Distinction. Along with the requirements of the other CQL Accreditation options, it builds upon those standards with additional expectations surrounding self-advocacy, utilization of data, community integration and inclusion, and the application of CQL Certification – just to list a few.

The accreditation process included planning meetings, a Basic Assurances® self-assessment, virtual reviews, Personal Outcome Measures® interviews, focus groups, a stakeholder meeting, and more. As you’ll read later, Trinity worked extremely hard to help prepare for their accreditation, not only devoting an incredible amount of time but also ensuring that people receiving services, support staff, leadership, and others all played a part in the process.

“I appreciated meeting with the people from CQL. I got to talk about my job and the way Trinity helps me.”

Rebecca, person supported by Trinity Services, Inc.

I feel honored to have been able to act as the ‘lead’ throughout this accreditation, alongside Katherine Dunbar, CQL Vice President of Services and Systems Excellence, and Quality Enhancement Specialists Jill Westring and Suzy Pelok. We want to commend everyone from Trinity Services, Inc. for this impressive accomplishment and share our gratitude for the partnership we’ve nurtured during all of these years.

Additional Perspective From Trinity Services, Inc.

In addition to our own observations about all of the great work and impressive accomplishments of Trinity, we felt it was important to gain insight from the organization. We were lucky to have Thane Dykstra, President and CEO and Trina Sieling, Director of Staff Development, Trinity Services, Inc., answer some questions about their organization, staff members, people receiving services, and their partnership with CQL.

What organizational values or practices are you most proud of?

More people are increasing their independence through assistive technology solutions that are discovered and implemented at Trinity’s TEC Lab (Technology Enhancing Capabilities Lab). The TEC Lab was established to assist people with disabilities through identifying and implementing assistive technology solutions. TEC specialists help a person find commercially-available products or create solutions for independence in any aspect of their daily life. These solutions can help increase or maintain communication skills, mobility, safety, or personal care, while maximizing personal freedom.

“I think that the CQL concepts are closely tied to Trinity’s daily activities. I feel that the value of growth mindset assists us to help set goals with the people supported.”

Jessica, Independent Living Coach, Trinity Services, Inc.

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

One of the most exciting changes over the past few years is the development and use of the Flourish Plan. The Flourish Plan is designed based on three bodies of knowledge:

  1. Principles of person-centered thinking and planning
  2. Personal Outcome Measures®
  3. Six elements of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, achievement and health

Plans are concise but sufficient to guide supports, and easy to update and modify. Plans truly reflect the wants, needs, and hopes of the person and are therefore valued by them. In other words, people like their plans and frequently talk about them with others.

How have the Personal Outcome Measures® affected person-centeredness at your organization?

The Personal Outcome Measures® have been a key part of person-centered planning efforts at Trinity Services since 1990. The organization conducts interviews for each person who receives services, and then uses the interview findings to inform the development of a Flourish Plan. Aggregate data from outcome interviews is used to assess organizational progress and help set strategic goals for improvement.

Every employee, from the first day of training onward, is familiar with the 21 Personal Outcome Measures® and aware of the organization’s goal to help people achieve outcomes. Key staff also learn how to conduct interviews from the organization’s Certified Interviewers and Trainers and are supported to collect accurate data and to prioritize each person’s most important outcomes during plan development.

Man wearing helmet and vest standing with his bicycle

How did you prepare for your CQL Accreditation?

Eighteen months prior to our accreditation we created Basic Assurances® Factor committees. Staff from all levels of the organization, as well as people supported, participated in the Factor committees that met at least monthly.

“I enjoy getting ready for the CQL accreditation. It is a refresher on the big picture of what we do, how we do it, and why.”

Laura, Program Coordinator, Trinity Services, Inc.

Focus was placed on using our strengths to advance Factor-based goals. A specific example of this is our focus on enhancing individual rights and advocacy efforts. Recognizing the virtual format, we worked with people supported, families, and staff at all levels of the organization to teach skills necessary to participate in virtual meetings.

What is the impact of accreditation on your organization?

The CQL Accreditation process is like the gradual calibration of a compass. Organizational compasses cannot be rapidly calibrated or recalibrated. By constantly looking at data and initiatives targeting personal outcomes, Basic Assurances®, and Shared Values, our Trinity compass has generally remained focused on True North, helping people flourish and live full and abundant lives.

All organizations can stray a few degrees from True North due to a variety of issues including staffing shortages, funding problems, and changes in leadership – to name a few. I think that’s where the importance and value of the formal CQL Accreditation really comes into play – a thorough calibration based on external resources and perspectives.

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.