In Washington State, for many years, children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) 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 I/DD 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 I/DD community now, but was the terminology used back then. The Arc does not support institutionalizing children or adults with I/DD.
The stories below are from individuals with I/DD 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 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. The second set of videos are from a variety of organizations working together to help the self-advocate to have their voices heard.
Mark's StoryMark lived at Rainier, Residential Habilitation Center (RHC), for 52 years and moved to his new home in October 2012. He is so much happier in his new home! Mark sees his sister often now. He has lots of space for socializing and enjoys greater flexibility in the meals he eats. He really likes watching his meals as they are being prepared. Mark enjoys walks, car rides, playing ball and grocery shopping. All of which are done in his local community near his home.
Nola's StoryNola lived at Rainier Residential Habilitation Center (RHC) for 40 years and moved to her new home in May 2015. She loves her new roommates, weekly swimming, going for ice cream and shopping for clothes. Nola also likes living closer to her family and is thriving.
Kathy's StoryKathy wanted to try and live in the community again after she lived in a skilled nursing facility for several years. This is a video about Kathy and her journey. She now is in a home of her own in the community and loves it.
Chuck's StoryChuck moved into Rainier RHC in 1962. In June 2019, after living at Rainier for 57 years, Chuck moved from Rainier into a home of his own in the community. Chuck's brother and sister in law, Ken and Debbie, were not supportive of Chuck leaving Rainier. With help from the Family Mentor Project, a new hope was found and options were explored. This video is about Chuck's move into the community and shows that he is doing great from it! Bonus, he now lives closer to his brother, Ken, and sister in law, Debbie, making regular visits much easier for everyone.
Greg's StoryGreg lived at Rainier RHC for over 50 years before moving into a home of his own in the community. His family was initially very resistant to any conversations having to do with Greg leaving Rainier. After a letter was received which stated Greg had to move, Family Mentoring services were explained and the Family Mentor Project stepped in and supported Greg and his family through this process. This is a very touching story that provides a rare glimpse into Greg's life and the lives of his siblings.
In 2016, KING 5 Investigative reporter Susannah Frame created a 10 part video series entitled “Last of the Institutions”: