As the sister of a mentally retarded adult, I found the description of Forest Haven (“Bleak House,” by Murray Waas, April 3) appalling, especially as it served as a “haven” for no one.
It amazes me how innocent members of our society are still so grossly mistreated. While the behavior of a wide range of people in this story--from federal district Judge John Pratt to the physicians and staff of Forest Haven--should be chastised, I found it equally upsetting to read in later newspaper accounts that the six families of the Forest Haven residents who died will receive a total of $1.075 million from the city of Washington D.C. Certainly the city was negligent for turning its back on these people, but I found it equally despicable that their families did so as well.
The mothers of Arkie Harris and Joy Evans witnessed their children being fed while lying down and found cuts and bruises on their children’s bodies. Yet both left their children to live in what one described as a “snake pit.”
I will never understand how a family member could be indifferent to the pure, unadulterated love these children offer. All mentally retarded adults are not Lenny from “Of Mice and Men.” I suggest that the million dollars should instead go to an organization that is truly dedicated to the care and love of the mentally disabled.
How chilling was the story of Forest Haven. The mentally retarded and the physically disabled seem forever banished to homes where they languish, lacking love and caring. Do the judges and the government agencies know this world of neglect, filth and loneliness? Of course not. If only Judge Pratt were made to live this sort of life for even a short time.
The parents of the patients at Forest Haven should never have put their children into such a place, but since they did choose to institutionalize them, why did they continue to let them stay on after seeing such horrific treatment?
I understand that some did complain--weakly, I might add--but why don’t more people care for their relatives at home? I have two retarded brothers who have lived with me since 1979. They are 53 and 51 years old. I would never dream of putting them in a place such as Forest Haven, and I believe that the parents of Joseph Hardy Jr. and Arkie Harris should have removed their children at the first sign of maltreatment.
I have a sister living at a facility for the disabled that is partly run by the state of California. Born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, Kathy was raised at home until the age of 21. When my aging parents could no longer care for her she was “sent away to school.” When she returns to “school” after visits home, she cries, “No school! No school!” It’s heart-wrenching.
My sister is 40 now, and over the past 19 years she, too, like Arkie Harris, has had personal belongings disappear, including a portable TV. She has always been tiny and thin but she lost lots of weight, too.
As far as I know the facility is a good one. But after reading the article by Murray Waas, I now wonder if her tears are not only because she misses home. I plan to investigate. Thank you for the insights.
LIZABETH A. BOWLES