There’s an interesting article up at CNN today regarding families who have “lost” loved ones in mental institutions over the years. One in particular is making a movie about the little sister he thought was gone.
One day in 1957, when Jeff Daly was 6 years old, his little sister, Molly, disappeared.
Jeff Daly’s efforts to find his sister, Molly, led to a new Oregon law about records for institutions for the disabled.
Every night at dinner, he would ask his parents the same question, “Where’s Molly?”
Every night, he says, he received the same answer: “Stop asking about Molly.”
Decades later, Daly learned that his parents had sent Molly to a state institution nine days before her third birthday. Nearly 50 years later, Daly found his sister and made a documentary about his search.
“Since the movie, literally hundreds of people have come up to us and said, ‘I had a [relative] that I remember my family talking about that was sent away. Do you know how we can find out about that person?'” says Daly.
In response, ARC, an advocate group for developmentally disabled people, has created a national registry to search for family in the system (the FindFamily Registry.) People searching for info will be screened to prevent abuse.
In the article I was blown away by the statistic that, in the last century about 100,000 children have been housed in an estimated 162 institutions. Reasons for institutionalization ranged from Downs syndrome to being wheelchair-bound to being able-bodied but the family was unable to support them financially. The conditions sounded just awful:
Residents were sometimes restrained in leather cuffs or straitjackets, overly sedated, isolated for long periods of time, and in many cases, sterilized. Many had little or no contact with their families.
Luckily a series of lawsuits in the 1970s pushed for more patient rights and an overhaul of the systems.