Nebraska Institution for Feeble-minded Youth

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Nebraska Institution for Feeble-minded Youth
Established 1885
Opened 1887
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Beatrice, NE
Peak Patient Population 2,200 in 1966
Alternate Names
  • Institution for Feeble Minded Youth Farm
  • Beatrice State Home
  • Beatrice State Developmental Center


Beatrice State Home was founded as the State Institution for the Feeble Minded Youth on March 5, 1885. The State Institution for the Feeble Minded Youth was founded as the Nebraska Institution for Feeble-minded Youth in 1885 in Beatrice, Nebraska for the purpose of:

"providing special means of improvement for that unfortunate portion of the community who were born, or by disease have become, imbecile or feeble-minded."[1].

In 1921, the name was changed to the Nebraska Institution for the Feeble-minded along with a new mission statement, which aimed to provide "custodial care and human treatment for those who are feeble-minded, to segregate them from society, to study to improve their condition, to classify them, and to furnish such training in industrial mechanics, agriculture, and academic subjects as fitted to acquire".

By 1935, in order to assure complete separation from society, NIFM resident’s graves were no longer marked with family names, but with numbers; families desired to disassociate themselves from their “defective” relatives by dehumanizing them. The institution changed its name again in 1942 to the Beatrice State Home, a friendlier title. Sterilizations were confined solely to the Beatrice State Home in 1957.

By the mid-1960's the Center had reached its peak census of over 2,200. Since it had neither the physical plant nor the staff to provide even minimally adequate custodial care, several hundred of its residents were temporarily transferred to the Norfolk Regional Center and the former Kearney Tuberculosis Hospital. While that effort did little to improve conditions for the majority of the residents who remained, it signified an executive commitment to end an eighty year reliance on the facility as Nebraska's only solely state supported and operated residential/training program exclusively for mentally retarded Nebraskans of all ages.

According to a 1976 report from Carl Botsford, from the Nebraska Institute of Engineering;

"The Beatrice State Home was established in response to a parent association for the school for the deaf. Many parents of retarded children were asking to get their child admitted but the school for the deaf was not equipped to meet the retarded child's needs. Therefore, the Institution for Feeble Minded Youths was established by legislative action and was opened and received the first patients in May of 1887." The legislature in 1945 renamed it the Beatrice State Home. Now in 1976 we've named it the Beatrice State Developmental Center. (None of these name changes help switch board operators.) "In 1943 the biennial report stated that "During the first 56 year period, 4,348 patients have been admitted and taken care of in the Institution. At the close of the present biennium the patient population consisted of 1,480 patients present at the Institution and 163 patients living away from the Institution, on parole. It is interesting to note that there is still present the second patient to be admitted to the institution and he has been there continuously for the 56 years." [2]

Through the 1960s, three perspectives governed the asylum: education, asylum, and social control. By 1966, 752 residents at the Beatrice facility had been sterilized. Then, on July 1st, 1975, the Beatrice State Home became the Beatrice State Developmental Center, the name that it holds today. The Center specializes in the treatment of children and adults with behavioral and developmental disabilities. In 2009, the center lost its federal funding after being cited for inadequate medical care. The facility has rebounded in recent years, and the number of residents has declined from 370 a decade ago. However, concerns about the high cost of care at Beatrice, and its shrinking population, prompted state lawmakers in 2016 to order a study of its future.


Main Image Gallery: Nebraska Institution for Feeble-minded Youth


  1. History of BSDC, State of Nebraska,, Accessed Dec 08 2014.
  2. HISTORY OF NEBRASKA INSTITUT. 1S. Carl Botsford, D.P.I. Engineering at D.P.I Management Institute, Nov 3rd 1976. Accessed Dec 08 2014.