100,000 children with intellectual and developmental disabilities were housed in 162 state facilities—some say as many as 200—-across the US in 1967. This was the “height of institutionalization,” notes today’ s CNN.com. The CNN.com story, Families get help finding loved ones lost in institutions, focuses on the efforts of some families seeking to reconnect with relatives who were sent to institutions many, many years ago.
The ARC The Arc (formerly the “ARC,” which stood for Association for Retarded Citizens—see comment below) has created the Find Family Registry to help families find relatives who were thought lost and to reconnect.
Jeff Daly, who last saw his sister, Molly, when he was six years old in 1957, has made a film about his efforts to reconnect with his sibling, Where’s Molly?. Molly, born with a club foot and a lazy eye, was three when she was sent away to live at Fairview; the CNN.com story notes that
“When she was around 2, records show, doctors amended her diagnosis to “profoundly retarded,” a characterization that Daly doubts but has no proof to contradict.”
After the death of his parents in 2004, Daly found the records his father had kept and called the group home that Molly now lives in.
Among those 100,000 children living in institutions in 1967 was playwright Arthur Miller’s son, Daniel, who was born with Down Syndrome in 1962 and immediately placed in the Southbery Training School in Connecticut. Miller did not mention Daniel in his autobiography, nor did he publicly acknowledge him, and he visited his son “seldom or never.”
Among those 100,000 children was Jim’s first cousin, JP, who I have always been told is so “severely mentally retarded” that he cannot talk or walk or sit up or feed himself. He was the closet to Jim in age and Jim has often told me of how his aunt would dress JP up in a bow tie and sit him up during holiday parties. As a teenager, Jim went with his uncle to visit JP after he had been institutionalized—-Jim describes him to me as “just lying there, in a crib kind of bed, with a net over him.” JP’s father passed away years ago, and his mother visits him—-and I have told Jim repeatedly, that I would like to meet JP, who lives in the same institution, not at all far from where we used to live. “So depressing,” has been one response when we have mentioned our wanting to visit JP.
I hope we can visit soon. It’s been too long already, for JP and for how many others.