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The 1960s: Family, Improved Institution,
Smaller Institutions or Community Residence

In the 1960s, institutions began to be seen as dehumanizing places of custodial care. In 1962, The President's Panel on Mental Retardation redefined the role of institutions and supported the concept of community residential alternatives.

Exposés on the conditions in institutions raised the consciousness of many professionals and community members. In 1966, Burton Blatt and Fred Kaplan published Christmas in Purgatory. In 1968, NBC10 aired Bill Baldini's exposé on Pennhurst.

The tide began to turn to deinstitutionalization and the development of community alternatives. The direction of change was in two directions – improve the quality of services in institutions and stimulate the development of community alternatives.

The President's Panel on Mental Retardation
Photo courtesy PCMR publication
On October 11, 1961, the president issued this statement regarding the establishment of the President's Panel on Mental Retardation.