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As the institutions grew in size, superintendents became more concerned about how economical they could make their facilities and less concerned about helping residents return to the community. The superintendents of these institutions worked toward self-sufficiency , to reduce their interaction with and dependence upon government support. Many institutions had their own power plants, laundries, and farms.




Inmates with mild disabilities (the "high-grades") were used as free labor to help care for others. When superintendents discovered their successful "pupils" were not welcomed back in their communities, they focused their training on skills that would make them productive workers in the institution. Therefore, the institutions could demonstrate they were relieving society of a burden.

Howe and Seguin saw what was happening, but it was too late. In 1866, Howe was asked to give a keynote address for the groundbreaking of a new institution for people who were blind in Batavia, New York. Howe pleaded with them not to open the institution, stating that the idea was misguided.