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The Keystone Times Fall 2008

Keystone Human Services International (KHSI) supports Moldova in protecting rights of children and adults with disabilities

The government of the Republic of Moldova recently joined with KHSI and other mental health and child advocacy groups to pave the way to end an era of isolating children and adults experiencing mental disabilities in institutions.

Keystone Human Services International has recently joined with the Government of Moldova in signing the “Memorandum of Understanding for Deinstitutionalization and Community Living for People with Mental Disabilities.” Others joining with the Ministry of Social Protection, Family and Child were The Open Society Mental Health Initiatives; Soros Foundation – Moldova; Hope and Homes for Children.

By signing the memorandum, the Ministry and these four NGOs committed to a four-year collaboration dedicated to ending further institutionalization of children with mental disabilities and establishing models for community-based services that will replace institutions in the long run.

This initiative focuses on the relocation of residents from the Home for Boys with Disabilities in Orhei, Moldova into family-type living arrangements in the community. It also develops a wide range of comprehensive support services to assure their health, welfare and successful integration into society.

“We are honored to be part of such an important initiative focused on creating a future of societal integration for children and adults with disabilities in Moldova,” said KHS President, Dennis Felty. “In 2000, we had an opportunity to visit the institution at Orhei for the first time. Keystone made a long-term commitment to provide services and supports for vulnerable children and adults with disabilities in Moldova in June 2004 when we registered our Moldovan NGO, KHSI Moldova Association. Now, 8 ½ years after that first visit to Orhei, we are thrilled to be working with such world renowned partners to support these children and young adults in the community and to prevent future generations from being isolated due to their disabilities.”

Moldova, which has a large number of people with disabilities in residential institutions and a lack of alternative services, recently signed the United Nations Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities. The partnership established by the above memorandum will assist Moldova in making the provisions of the UN Convention a reality. “This project is the materialization in practice of Moldova's policies regarding families, friends and colleagues, and puts Moldova in a position to prepare for ratification of the Convention,” said Galina Balmos, Minister of Social Protection, Family and Child.”

Judith Klein, Director of the Open Society Mental Health Initiative, points out, “People with mental disabilities across Central and Eastern Europe are faced with stigma and discrimination which prevent them and their families from participating in society as equal citizens. We hope the example of Moldova will spur other governments to stop locking people away in large institutions and ensure their access to services at all levels in the community.”

On a final note, Charles Hooker III, CEO of KHSI, adds “We believe that Keystone's quest to “Advance the Human Spirit” must transcend boundaries, but it is especially pressing when it comes to the rights of children. As such, we are deeply gratified that the government of Moldova and its NGO partners have seen clear to collaborate with such conviction and vision in support of children, and ultimately all people with disabilities. Indeed, Moldova's bold actions should serve as poetic reminder to other evolving nations … that closing antiquated institutions and implementing full community integration is essential to affirming the most basic human rights, not only in emerging societies in Eastern Europe, but throughout the civilized world.”

To support the work of Keystone Human Services International (KHSI) or for more information, visit www.keystonehumanservices.org/keystone-human-services-international/ or contact Charles Hooker III, CEO of KHSI at (717) 232-7509.

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