The director of the Department of Human Services announced Monday that the Iowa Juvenile Home and Girls State Training School in Toledo will be shut down in January. DHS spokesperson, Amy McCoy says director Charles Palmer made the decision based on the recommendations of the task force on the home appointed by Governor Terry Branstad.
“After careful evaluation of the Iowa Juvenile Home Protection Task Force recommendations, the director of the Department of Human Services has decided the delinquent and CINA (children in need of assistance) girls will be placed in alternate settings that will be appropriate for their needs,” McCoy says.
She says the task force asked them to explore alternative placements for the girls and the director determined “these alternative placements can very well meet the high needs of these children.” The task force was created after if was learned last December that some girls were being held in seclusion cells for months at a time and weren’t keeping up with their schooling.
McCoy said the department determined the girls will be sent to other state facilities and community-based, private providers. “It was important to the governor and to his task force that these children be served in licensed and accredited settings,” McCoy said. “That was a challenge on the Toledo campus with the mix of students that were there that included delinquent girls, and boys and girls who were Children in Need of Assistance.”
There are currently 21 girls on the campus served by 93 employees. McCoy said Monday that Palmer went to Toledo to meet with the employees and tell them the decision.
“Layoffs are scheduled to happen on January 16th. It was important for the director to go and talk with the staff today to unsure that they had some certainty moving forward,” McCoy said. She said the department will do what it can to help the employees who will be laid off. “The state’s employee assistance program will be on campus this week to help them find other job possibilities. And there will be increased capacity likely at the Independence Mental Health Institute,” McCoy said.
Toledo mayor, Dave Svoboda, said a community delegation met with Governor Terry Branstad to urge him to retain keep the home open. Svoboda says the closing surprises him and hurts the community’s economy. “I was told that about half of the employees there are from the Tama-Toledo community. Gonna put a lot of people out of work, gonna be a big building sitting empty in Toledo. And as far as everybody here is concerned, there was no wrong going on over there,” Svoboda said.
He felt the workers at the facility were doing a good job. “The girls that are being put out of there, a lot of them go on to get good jobs. So, this is something that just kind of got started for some reason and blown out of proportion,” he said. Svoboda said town leaders had no advance word of today’s announcement that the State Juvenile Home is closing.
State Senator, Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines who is running for governor in 2014 released the following statement about Governor Branstad’s decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo:
“I’m very disappointed and angry at the Governor’s decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home and privatize more than 100 good state jobs for human services professionals who oversee children for whom the State of Iowa has responsibility and guardianship.
What a blow this will be for the community. Governor Branstad needs to accept responsibility for practices used at the Juvenile Home and work to fix them, not use the problems as an excuse to privatize the entire enterprise. He’s pressed blame onto the workers when he should be looking in the mirror. What the Governor has done is the opposite of leadership – its managing by crisis and without forethought.”
Hatch said the Governor “acted irresponsibly” by accepting the recommendations of a task force that recommended closing the facility, but without meeting with or taking input from legislators, as Sen. Steve Sodders of Marshalltown had proposed. Hatch commended Sen. Sodders on his hard work to oppose closure of the facility and said he will join Sodders in any legislative effort to reverse the decision.
Additionally, Hatch raised the issue of whether children who are placed in the guardianship of the state can all receive appropriate care in a PMIC (psyhciatric care) placement. “My sense is this decision could increase the danger of harm to the children and others,” Hatch said.
Statement from House Democratic Leader Mark Smith on Closing of Toledo Juvenile Home
“I am gravely disappointed that Governor Branstad is closing the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. While changes are necessary at the facility, the task force did not recommend closing the facility nor did it recommend sending young girls to facilities out of state far away from family. The Governor should continue to enact the reforms of the task force at the Juvenile Home and wait for the Legislature to convene to decide on a future course of action for the Juvenile Home. The Governor’s mismanagement of the facility should not result in a hasty, unilateral decision that is not in the best interest of the girls who need critical services.”
Response to Governor Branstad’s decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo from Senator Steve Sodders of State Center
“Our worst fears have been realized. Governor Branstad has done exactly what we asked him not to do. Closing the Iowa Juvenile Home and the State Training School for Girls at Toledo is not in the best interests of the children, the staff, and the Toledo community.”