THE SHIP OF FOOLS
Some persons with disabilities, particularly those considered unproductive dependents, were "shipped off" to other lands. Some communities paid sailors to take such individuals away so they would no longer pose a burden.
This practice led to the "Ships of Fools," the boats that would sail from port to port, charging admission to view their strange human cargo. Eventually, the ships would abandon their "passengers" at another port, forcing them to fend for themselves.
THE BEGINNING OF FAMILY AND FOSTER CARE
The shrine at Gheel, Belgium founded in 1215 and dedicated to St. Dymphna, patron of the mentally afflicted, is considered the beginning of family care and foster care. People with disabilities were brought here because of the belief that madness could be cured at the shrine.
However, the motivation was mainly religious ("if we take care of these people and treat them as family members, we will be rewarded in the hereafter.")