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High Level Israeli Delegation Visits to Learn About New and Innovative Models

October 29, 2012

A high level Israeli delegation, including the Directors General of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services met with YAI staff recently to learn about our service delivery models.

Gerald Huber, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Division of Person Centered Supports at the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, joined the group to provide a detailed picture of the changing landscape of the state's service delivery system. "New York State has the most robust system in the U.S.; sustainability is the key," he said, adding that some services are not as relevant today as they were 20-30 years ago. "We're going to have to deliver services differently."

The delegation raised questions about how the state could continue to provide the diverse services with less government funding. And that's where YAI officials explained that they view this as an opportunity to re-create the service system with innovative models which will empower individuals and promote more meaningful community inclusion. CEO Stephen Freeman's vision of "living, loving and working" resonated with the Israelis. "The same things all of us want -- a good place to live, good relationships and good jobs -- is what people with disabilities want," Freeman said.

During a brief visit with participants in a YAI employment program, Ricardo discussed his hopes of finding a maintenance job, so he could help support his family financially. Danny is looking for a job so he can one day afford his own apartment and have a pet since he can't have one at his family's home. One of the delegates told the group he thought they should have no trouble finding employment, while another advised "to not stop dreaming."

The group also visited preschoolers with special needs.

"We were inspired to see how the children and adults with special needs were given the best environment in which to function, be included in all activities and maintain their independence," said Dalit Stauber, Director General of the Ministry of Education. "The love and care I saw from the professional staff is no doubt part of the success."

"As an agency you’re doing tremendous work, particularly in terms of employment," said Nachum Itzkovitz, Director General of the Ministry for Social Affairs and Services. "You find a way to prepare people for the working world. I look forward to learning more from YAI, by coordinating with you and exchanging ideas."

"I'm very impressed with the state of the art programming YAI is doing and leading a major transition for the future,” said Jack Habib, Director of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. "We've learned much to take back -- especially the work you are doing with the transition from school to work."

Visits by delegations from Israel and other countries help promote better services for people with disabilities throughout the world, according to Marco Damiani, YAI's Executive Vice President for Innovation and Services. "They are also critical to YAI's future capacity to empower key stakeholders and instill a culture of innovation in our everyday work," he added.

"The importance of learning from each other transcends geographic boundaries," said Dr. Peter Blanck, a professor and Chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, and who serves on YAI's Board of Trustees. "We share a common goal of human value."