ORLANDO, Florida – According to the U.N., The Dominican Republic today is recognized as a high-middle-income country, now being recognized by The World Bank as one of the “fastest growing economies” in the Latin-American and Caribbean region. Cooperation between European countries and many others has aided in pushing innovative projects focusing on the improvement of social, public and health services in order to promote the country’s development. Even so, the impact of this growth has yet to address the high level of inequity and social cohesion for persons with disabilities in the country as there remain obstacles to capacity development and lessened inclusion.
Current Cerebral Palsy Support
In particular, the population diagnosed with cerebral palsy remains vulnerable at large as families struggle to find enough support systems. However, hope has not remained elusive as a foundation called Nido para Ángeles has been providing comprehensive care for cerebral palsy awareness in the Dominican Republic since 2007, an organization that is vital to supporting poor families with healthcare services.
While the legal rights of persons with disabilities are recognized in the Dominican Republic, these individuals experience stigma throughout employment, education and social settings, only infringing their economic stability even more. For those who live in poverty and are based in more rural regions, the effects of limited accessibility remain high as their requirement for assistance may be filtered out. The relationship between poverty and cerebral palsy can be noted in a study conducted in Taiwan by Sung-Hui Tseng and others in which the prevalence of cerebral palsy is higher in lower-income families and rural residencies, highlighting a correlation between socioeconomic status and cerebral palsy.
Nido para Ángeles
The families who are supported and cared for by the foundation Nido para Ángeles are those in vulnerable economic conditions as the foundation recognizes that only high-income populations have the option to receive the timely treatments and diagnosis needed. On its website, the foundation states the Dominican Republic “did not have an offer of services for this population” during the formation of Nido para Ángeles in 2007.
While there is a high inequality of economic distribution in the Dominican Republic, poverty rates are recorded to be at more than 30% of the population, according to USAID. Additionally, The U.S. Department of State reported that established government care centers for children with disabilities ultimately leave families on “lengthy waiting lists.” The achievement of economic inclusion is integral to Nido para Ángeles as cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood yet there seems to remain a wide barrier for low-income families who cannot afford treatment and accessible accommodative options.
Nido para Ángeles considers its mission to be that of “education, love, emotional support and therapy” to improve the lives of child and youth populations with cerebral palsy. According to the foundation’s website, the frequency of cerebral palsy ranges around 2.4 cases per 1,000 births while premature children experience a higher frequency of 40-100 cases per 1,000 births. Presently, there is little data that provides the rates of premature births in the Dominican Republic however rates of neonatal mortality in the Dominican Republic are 23 cases per 1,000 births, according to data provided by UNICEF. A study by Agustín Díaz-Rodríguez and others published in 2021 states that cerebral palsy is just one of the neurodevelopmental disabilities that can become a common effect of preterm births surviving neonatal infections.
The programs that are currently provided by Nido para Ángeles include 3 different areas of support; education, psychology and rehabilitation. Each stage is adapted to the needs of the individual through the guiding of “curricular adaptations” pertaining to their stages of development. The rehabilitative area provides support in various ways such as physical, respiratory and language therapy. This type of care and education for special needs youth and children is not very common in the Dominican Republic within the sector of public school or for families with limited economic resources. Most of the time, children who are considered highly challenged and do not have the financing to receive proper care are encouraged to not enroll in public school, limiting their development and inclusion into society.
Changes within the political and social context of the Dominican Republic are visible since the start of Nido para Ángeles’ work. Alliances with different local organizations including the Dominican Rehabilitation Association and the Catalin de San Augustín Specialized Center have allowed for more attention and specialized care programs for families and individuals in need. By 2011, influential institutions and individuals recognized the work of Nido para Ángeles, which allowed the foundation to receive more resources to start a new specialized program called Comprehensive Development for Boys, Girls and Youth, including ages from birth to 18 years old. As of 2019, a further expansion in agreement with the Ministry of Education in The Dominican Republic celebrated the new headquarters of Nido Para Ángeles where the capacity, funds and resourcing of the foundation have created a bigger outreach for vulnerable families.
– Lucy Cosme Vera