RHC or Community?

In Washington State, for many years, children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) were put in state institutions that are called Residential Habilitation Centers (RHC). They began as “schools”, places where children age birth to 21 could go to learn skills that could be used in the community when they went back home. Society did not want to see these people they then called “feeble-minded” and “idiots”, so soon parents whose child was born with IDD were told by their doctors to put their child in an RHC and just go on with their life. A video filmed of Rainier School in Buckley, WA when it opened, shows what parents thought they were placing their child into. Unfortunately, real life in these “schools” became filled with abuse and neglect.


Please be aware that the video, made in 1950, contains language that is offensive to the IDD community now, but was the terminology used back then. The Arc does not support institutionalizing children or adults with IDD.



Short video clips below are from individuals with IDD who once lived in an RHC and now live in a community setting. These stories relay the heartfelt feelings that these self-advocates and their families want to share so that we can learn from the past and not make the mistake of again thinking institutional settings are where people should live.


The first set of videos to watch are newer ones from the the Family Mentor Project (FMP), a resource to support families and guardians through the process of moving a family member to the community from a RHC operated by the Developmental Disabilities Administration of Washington (DDA) or from a skilled nursing facility. These videos can be viewed at https://www.familymentorproject.info/success-stories.


Other videos are from a variety of organizations working together to help the self-advocates to have their voices heard. Watch the YouTube playlist:



In 2016, KING 5 Investigative reporter Susannah Frame created a 10 part video series entitled “Last of the Institutions”:


Last of the Institutions

Experts say Washington is decades behind the times when it comes to its treatment of some of its most vulnerable citizens — people with developmental disabilities. In Washington, more people with these disabilities — conditions like autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome — are institutionalized than in most other states. That bucks a decades-long trend to stop the segregation of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The series by reporter Susannah Frame looks at the personal, financial, legal and public policy implications of the continued segregation of this population: