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Charles Kantan Peters chapter 2


Chapter 1: Background and Early Career
Chapter 2: Early Involvement with the ARC, War on Poverty, MH/MR Act (you are here)
Chapter 3: Allegheny County ARC, Parent Protests, Right to Education
Chapter 4: Polk State School and Hospital, Controversial Treatments, Firing of Superintendant
Chapter 5: Peters Becomes PA Commissioner for Mental Retardation, Opens Marcy Center, Moves People to Community
Chapter 6: Peters Becomes Director of Allegheny County MH/MR and Drug and Alcohol and Homelessness
Chapter 7: Refelctions on Career, Intellectual Disability Rights Movement

transcript - entire interview

Charles Kantan Peters Interview (Word)

transcript - current chapter

Chapter 2: Early Involvement with the ARC, War on Poverty, MH/MR Act

09:52:43:21 - 09:52:58:14

Lisa: You taught until when, Chuck?

Chuck: I taught from a... '59 to '61 and then I became the director of Beaver County Retarded Children Association.

09:53:45:00 - 09:54:28:23

Lisa: Chuck, can you tell me a little bit about the parents who were members of the Beaver County ARC?

Chuck: Ah, my observation again and for Allegheny in Fayette County, which are the ones we had experience with, although later I had experience in New Hampshire with it, but anyway, most of them tended to have women who were parents of the mentally retarded who really drove the organizations, later men got involved in a big way. They differed from the Mental Health Movement for example which was driven by the professionals not the families.

09:55:22:17 - 09:56:20:28

Lisa: When you were serving as the director at the Beaver County ARC, the families who were members of ARC were the children primarily at home with them, or where some of their children in residential centers?

Chuck: Ah...president of the board who was a man, which is exception to what I was just saying, daughter was at Polk, but everybody else had their child at home.

You only had two choices in those days you're either at home or the institution, so most of them were at home, and I got to know many of the women because I did this group counseling, which at that time was built around primarily around preschool moms. And it seemed to me that the decisions were made somewhere, somehow that either the mother was going to be involved or the father was going to be involved, both couldn't and it makes no sense because somebody had to stay home and take care of the child.

09:56:22:21 - 09:57:08:11

Lisa: So, were you able to observe the impact the disability had on family relationships in your role of Beaver County ARC?

Chuck: a seemed to me and it was later brought out when I took that course a...that parents a...who had a handicapped child did not get divorced. If was like nobody wanted to leave the other one with the heavy burden, but if the child got placed in Polk or in Western Center a...very quickly and often, not always, divorce followed.

09:57:09:04 - 09:57:40:16

Lisa: Why do you think that was?

Chuck: I...I think that the handicapped mentally challenged child put such a strain on the relationship, it's not a perfect analogy, but father-in-law had Alzheimer and keeping him with us for five years... My wife and late wife we were very happily married, but at the end of those five years, which seemed like fifty, there was a lot of strain, so I can relate to that.

Lisa: Were there any community supports or services available to support parents in caring for their child with a disability at that time?

Chuck: The only...the only supports were the Association for Retarded Children ah...they were a...primarily at that point interested in preschools because kids couldn't go to school until they were eight if they were really involved.

And whether they were really involved or not a...they were squeezed out when they were sixteen.

So, the ARC was the...was the only support that they a...that they had.

09:58:27:25 - 09:59:33:14

Lisa: In 1965 I believe you became the director on the War on Poverty for Erie?

Chuck: Yes.

Lisa: What was the focus of your work there?

Chuck: Poor people...the a...the War on Poverty, Erie had the third biggest program in the state after Philadelphia and Pittsburg, so I said I was at least a colonel in the War on Poverty. involved the whole gamut, dropout rates, prenatal deaths, the whole...but, unemployment was a big issue because primarily in the Afro-American districts unemployment was three times what it was in the rest of the city.

So, that was a...a lot of community organizations, I learned a lot from that community work thing that later on served me good-stead when I came to Pittsburg.

09:59:34:00 - 10:00:08:25

Lisa: I was also going to ask if the work you've done through the Beaver County ARC Special Education informed the work you were doing on the War on Poverty?

Chuck: The work I did in Special Ed informed the War on Poverty and also, when I was hired as the northwest coordinator for originally mental health community and mental retardation study, I was the only person on the staff, Harrisburg or in the field who had any background in mental retardation, which proved to be pretty valuable, I think.

10:00:21:28 - 10:01:19:15

Lisa: When did you finish your work with War on Poverty, and what post did you moved to next, Chuck?

Chuck: Ah...I had the job on the War on Poverty from July '65 to almost July '67, and then a...moved to New Hampshire where I was the Director of the Governors Rehabilitation Study, which included services for the mentally retarded. One of the things I saw there was they had a rubella...a measles epidemic about five or six years before I got there, and all of New England not just New Hampshire, and there was a tremendous spike in the number of kids who had hearing, sight, and brain damage as a result of having the rubella; there was no inoculation at that point.

10:01:21:03 - 10:03:04:28

Lisa: So, while you were doing this a piece of legislation passed, the 1966 Mental Health/Mental Retardation Act.

Chuck: Right.

Lisa: Why was it significant?

Chuck: Well, that legislation grew out of the study that we all did, and the study did tremendous emphasis on community participation a...and it pulled people in who had never been interested in mental health, or mental retardation, or drug and alcohol.

But, this was major social legislation driven by the Federal Government they would give you a grant, and if you did, they had certain things they expected you to do with that grant.

We had to keep data on how many people where at each meeting, that sort of thing, which was positive.

But it was a major piece of social legislation, up until that time the government funding particularly in mental retardation was practically nil.

The rumor and the belief was at that time only reason MR was included in this study was because Jack Kennedy, the President had a...a had a retarded sister, I don't know if that's true or not, but that was true that MR was not in the forefront of that study, we had to fight to put that up front or get a duel recognition.

10:03:07:00 - 10:04:05:22

Lisa: You returned to Pennsylvania in, I believe, in 1969?

Chuck: 1969, correct.

Lisa: What brought you back?

Chuck: Ah...actually, I was in New Hampshire I had been offered the job running the Governor's law enforcement assistance then, and might have stayed, but the Governor made a decision that the biggest chunk of change was going to buy an armored personnel carrier for the state police, which I didn't think that was where we ought to be spending our money, so I was looking for a job.

And one of my callings from the MH/MR study a woman by the name of Roz Mervis who was active down here in school public health suggested my name to Jean Isherwood who was the President at that point. And Jean called and said would like to come in for an interview, and the answer was yes, and I did and the rest is history.

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