I was a Willowbrook youth worker

One of my first adult jobs after leaving the US Army was at the notorious Willowbrook State School on Staten Island. It was an institution for people with developmental disabilities. If you google Willowbrook you will find that it had been exposed by Geraldo Rivera when he was a reporter. On television and in a a book he tore the lid off a pattern of neglect and mistreatment. We need to protect vulnerable people like those who were at Willowbrook so that they can feel safe and secure that their needs are being met.

They need to believe that the caregivers in and out of institutions have their best interests at heart. We need to understand that as workers we are putting their needs uppermost in our minds. In the idealistic days of my youth, i believed that social change was possible. We baby boomers could get into the institutions like Willowbrook and make a difference.

It was only summer but the things I learned while on that job stayed with me as I began to work in the mental health field. It is hardly surprising that I work in a hospital much like my mother. It was her influence working with developmentally delayed adults in our home that led me to apply at Willowbrook. I still think it is possible to change the system, otherwise I would have quit long ago. I am looking forward to America fulfilling the promise that was made regarding deinstitutionalization. Recovery is possible.right here


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