Cristi’s Outreach Foundation is a branch of the Brent Woodall Foundation for Exceptional Children and runs as a therapeutic center in the town of Barlad, Romania. The program was founded in July 2001 by Tracy Pierce Bender to serve families of children with Autism, Down Syndrome, and other developmental disabilities. The Foundation has since served children in the community of Barlad and surrounding villages, as well as children from orphanages and foster care in the area.
Cristi’s Outreach Foundation offers education and language evaluation, one-to-one Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, social group activities, and individualized speech therapy to children between ages 18 months to six years. Therapeutic intervention addresses a wide variety of skills in all developmental areas, including cognitive, language, social, and daily living skills, with a focus on functional skills. The Foundation also offers individualized parent training to show parents how to work with their own children so that parents can themselves address their children’s skills at home and the community.
Cristi’s is made up of a small group of dedicated staff members with several years of experience working with children. The program’s director, Nicoleta Ababi-Caravelea, has been with the foundation from its inception and has led the center through the last decade.
While Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) intervention is supported by a large body of research as the most effective intervention for children with autism and developmental disabilities, these services are still widely unavailable to Romanian families affected by these disorders. Several of the families that Cristi’s Outreach supports have had to move to the town of Barlad to access the intensive ABA therapy their children need and cannot be found elsewhere. Many of the children, who access the services provided by Cristi’s Outreach, are able to integrate into regular schools in their community, and their families continue to support them through the skills and knowledge received from the Cristi’s Outreach staff.
Cristi’s Outreach has helped hundreds of children and families lead more independent and richer lives. The Romanian program continues to develop with the support offered by the Brent Woodall Foundation for Exceptional Children. The next step is to develop a consultation and workshop program in order to empower more Romanian families affected by developmental disabilities.