History of Developmental Services

1971

Walter Williston was asked by the Ministry of Health to undertake a review of the care provided to people with a developmental disability, and prepared a report entitled "Present Arrangements for the Care and Supervision of Mentally Retarded People in Ontario, A Report for the Minister of Health".

Williston reported that the Ontario Hospital School system (i.e. the Ontario-operated institutions for people with a developmental disability):

  • was isolated from mainstream health, education, social and family services, and
  • could not adequately establish and administer services that responded to community needs.

He recommended that:

  • institutions be phased out, and
  • residential supports be provided in the community and integrated with educational, recreational and commercial facilities.

The report advocated the newly emerging concept of normalization in which people with a developmental disability would have a better life if they were given opportunities to enhance their growth and development, and were enabled to develop relationships with other community members.

1972

Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger, who wrote "The Principle of Normalization in Human Services" (1972), introduced the concept of normalization (i.e. providing ongoing opportunities for growth and development in order to enable an increasingly positive perception of people with a developmental disability) to North America.

Wolfensberger believed that in order for people with a developmental disability to be seen more positively by society, we needed to make sure they had the same kinds of opportunities as other people.

He recommended that people with a developmental disability should:

  • live in environments typical of the general population
  • have opportunities for growth and development
  • be included in ordinary activities with the general population, and
  • develop relationships with others in their communities.

Wolfensberger suggested that these strategies would enable people with a developmental disability to improve their valued roles within society, and help to improve overall societal attitudes about individuals with disabilities.

1973

The Honourable Robert Welch, the Provincial Secretary for Social Development, published "Community Living for the Mentally Retarded in Ontario: A New Policy Focus".

The report set a new policy focus for the delivery of services based on the concept of community living.

The Welch report made four recommendations to increase community-based supports:

  1. Guardianship and protective services should be developed in the community.
  2. Residential care resources should be reallocated from institutions to the community.
  3. Policies should be developed to integrate employment opportunities for individuals with a developmental disability within mainstream society.
  4. Coordinating mechanisms should be established at both local and provincial levels so that a wide range of services would be available.

1974

With favourable public response, the government passed the Developmental Services Act and established a new approach to services for individuals with a developmental disability.

The act also transferred responsibility for developmental services from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. At that time, approximately 8,000 residents were living in Ontario's institutions (or facilities, as they came to be called).

1975

The Ministry of Community and Social Services developed facility program care standards, including the requirement that each resident have an individually tailored program plan to meet his/her developmental needs.

1976

Ontario directly operated 16 institutions (Schedule 1 facilities).

1977

The Ministry of Community and Social Services implemented its first five-year plan to provide community living opportunities for individuals with a developmental disability living in provincially-operated facilities.

The ministry developed planning principles for moving residents out of institutions. These principles centred on:

  • seeking and respecting individual preferences
  • moving individuals closer to their families
  • taking into consideration friendships and other key relationships, and
  • tailoring services to individual needs as determined by individually developed profiles.

Under this initiative, the ministry:

  • closed the Nipissing Regional Centre in North Bay in 1977/78, and
  • reduced the number of residents living in other institutions.

 

Learn more

The evolution of government policy and legislation:

About the Nipissing Regional Centre

"Present Arrangements for the Care and Supervision of Mentally Retarded People in Ontario, A Report for the Minister of Health": Walter Willistin

"Community Living for the Mentally Retarded in Ontario: A New Policy Focus": The Honourable Robert Welch, the Provincial Secretary for Social Development