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1500-011 1 of 2

DELAWARE COMMISSION FOR THE FEEBLE MINDED

The Delaware Commission for the Feeble Minded was created in March 1917 to establish a home for the care and training of the feeble-minded of Delaware, and to provide for the legal commitment of feeble-minded persons.1

Originally, the Governor was to appoint nine persons, three of whom could be women. In 1947 the membership was further restricted so that no more than two members were to be attorneys at law, two were to be selected from each county and the remaining three were to be selected at large.2 At the same time the Governor was to divide the appointments in half between the two chief political parties.3 Originally all appointments were for a four year term,4 but in 1947 the terms were extended to six years.5 The Commission was to organize by selecting from its members a chairman, secretary, treasurer, and any other officers necessary.6

The Commission was authorized to select and purchase a suitable location for the establishment of a home; to provide for and supervise the erection of the necessary buildings; and to appoint a Superintendent, who would be experience3d in the care and training of the feeble-minded.7

The Superintendent would have authority, subject to the general supervision of the Commission, to make all necessary rules and regulations for hte government and management of the home.8 The Commission would have the power to make rules, regulating the admission of inmates to the home for the feeble-minded.9

Whenever a person arrested in this state was thought to be feeble-minded, any relative of the person, or any reputable citizen of the state, at any time before the final disposition of the case, could present to the court a petition saying that the person was feeble-minded and should not be charged. The petition would be verified, filed, and then a rule issued against the parent or guardian of the person. Upon the return of the rule the judge would hear the witnesses in support of the rule, one of whom would be a psychologist or an expert on feeble-mindedness, and would also hear any witnesses in opposition to the rule. If the judge agreed that the person arrested was indeed feeble-minded, he could direct that they be arrested in the custody of the Delaware Commission for the Feeble-Minded.10

The Commission would enter into an agreement with the parents or guardians of any feeble-minded person to commit the person to the custody of the Delaware Commission for the Feeble-Minded, and require the parents or guardians, if financially able to do so, to pay for the custody, care and training of the feeble-minded person.11

On June 30, 1955 the Delaware Commission for the Feeble Minded was abolished and all the persons under its care became the responsibility of the State Board of Trustees of the Delaware State Hospital (1520). All facilities and property belonging to the State of Delaware and used by the Commission were transferred to the State Board of Trustees of the Delaware State Hospital at Farnhurst.12

This same 1955 act established the Delaware Colony for the Feeble-Minded at Stockley as the primary state facility for the treatment and maintenance of the feeble-minded. This facility had formerly been the Sussex County Insane Department, also under the control of the Farnhurst administration (see RG 1520). In effect, the 1955 act served to channel the feeble-minded (mentally retarded) to the Stockley facility and the insane (mentally ill) to the Farnhurst facility, keeping a centralized administration for both.13

As of 1988, the Stockley Center is within the Division of Mental Retardation, Department of Health and Social Services. The Delaware State Hospital is within the Division of Alcohlism, Drug Abuse and Mental Health, Department of Health and Social Services.

1500-011 2 of 2

DELAWARE COMMISSION FOR THE FEEBLE MINDED

1 29 DL, ch. 172.

2 46 DL, ch. 228.

3 Ibid.

4 29 DL, ch. 172.

5 46 DL, ch. 228.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 50 DL, ch. 364, part 1.

13 Ibid.

clf/June 3, 1988; July 26, 1988; January 3, 1989