Library Collections: Document: Full Text
State School Unnatural, Maltreats Children
(Because Rosewood was a Catholic Unit, and because the mentally subnormal have a special claim upon those of us who worked there for three years, we are presenting a series of articles by Gordon Zahn dealing with the problems we encountered).
Children Without Play
It is a recognized crime against morality for parents to neglect or maltreat children they have brought into the world. Yet how far greater a crime is it for Society to take these same children into its custody and then proceed to continue their neglect and, in addition, subject them to an unnatural life pattern dominated by fear and denial?
It is such a pattern we witnessed as conscientious objectors assigned to duty at the Rosewood State Training School for mentally subnormal children in Maryland. Much recent publicity has been given to the shameful conditions prevailing in many of the mental hospitals in this country; it is to be hoped that these revelations will produce a public reaction strong enough to force correction and improvements.
No Planned Recreation
It is impossible to think of Summer without visualizing children at play. Nothing could be more timely, then, than to consider the 1,200 children at Rosewood -- three-quarters of whom would be physically and mentally capable of benefiting from a planned recreational program -- for whom there is little or no opportunity for play because Rosewood provides neither the facilities nor the official interest to make play possible for them. Instead these children are doomed to days of unvarying inactivity, spending their free time sitting about in a bare "playroom" or roaming aimlessly about the immediate environs of their particular cottage. The inevitable results of this should not be too difficult to imagine.
In fact, the children, mentally sub-normal though they may be, are able to fathom this situation and have outdone the staff in that they, at least, do try to remedy it. Since baseballs or softballs are "not available," the children have developed make-shift expedients. Of course, it is not too pleasant an experience to be approached by a 13-year old active boy with the pathetic request for a ball of twine to enable him to make a baseball so the boys could play. (These "baseballs" consist of a rock with string wound around it and covered by adhesive tape or cloth straps.) After obtaining 2 softballs for a cottage of 80 adolescent boys, this same boy in thanking me hopefully pointed out, "now all we need is a bat": the broom-handle bat is standard Rosewood equipment. Nor is this all. I have seen the older boys using a rusty tin can as a football. The total athletic program at Rosewood this past winter consisted of a single basketball game with the visiting seminarians and the "team" did not even have a chance to practice for that game.
The full implication of this cannot adequately be put into words. Many of these children landed in Rosewood because of their trends toward juvenile delinquency. Roaming the streets at all hours, travelling with all sorts of company, they developed behavior patterns that ultimately led to their rejection by the community. Had they been given better guidance, had their free time been occupied by wholesome play activity, they might have been able -- in spite of subnormal mentality -- to find a place in Society as worth-while citizens. Rosewood, in name a "training school," takes such children and fails even more than did their parents in the task of giving them an opportunity to occupy their time to advantage.
"Lack of Funds"
The automatic excuse offered for this sad situation is a "lack of funds." As far as it goes, this excuse is valid; the budget allowance provided by the State for recreation is unforgiveably low. Members of our group, however, had great difficulty in accepting this as a complete explanation.
After all, thousands of dollars in salary savings were made possible by the existence there of our CPS unit. No satisfactory explanation was ever made to us as to what happened to that money! Then too, we could see that the State apparently had unlimited funds when it came to such relatively unimportant matters as remodeling the top floor of one of the cottages into a private apartment for one of the staff members -- because this individual would not be satisfied with the quarters previously occupied by one of the other doctors.
A lack of funds does exist -- but had it been the desire of the administration to do so this obstacle to a fuller recreational program could have been overcome. Concerted official pleas to public-minded individuals and groups would certainly bring some equipment, or funds to purchase equipment for the Rosewood children. (In fact, if one really sought for a potential source of charity, where better could it lie than in the family that includes two persons in the Rosewood payroll with staff ratings that furnish them a total income of around $9,000 plus full maintenance -- especially when the head of that family is always most voluble in his protestations of interest in the children and his sorrow over Rosewood's recreational lacks?)