Governor Terry Branstad says he’s “disappointed” with Wednesday’s decision from a district court judge who ruled Branstad overstepped his authority in closing the Iowa Juvenile Home.
“I’m the chief executive of the state,” Branstad told reporters today. “I feel an obligation for these children and we should be looking out for the interest of these children, not protecting the institution.”
The judge ruled that the home should be reopened.
“We’re presently consulting with the attorney general’s office to decide what the appropriate next step should be,” Branstad said.
A key Democrat in the legislature is suggesting that rather than continue the court battle, the governor and his staff should work with legislators to come up with a new plan for caring for teenage girls in the juvenile court system who would have been sent to the Juvenile Home. Branstad says his concern is the health, well-being and education of the state’s most troubled children and he accuses Democrats in the legislature of “playing politics.”
“Too many people are focused on protecting the institution,” Branstad told reporters today, “but it’s the children who we have a responsibility to.”
Branstad said he wants to make sure troubled teenage girls who wind up in the juvenile court system are sent to “licensed, accredited facilities.” Even though the Juvenile Home was operated by the Iowa Department of Human Services, it was not subjected to regular, formal licensing inspections.
“When I hear all of the abuse that’s taken place over the long period of time: the denial of education that the Department of Education determined to be the facts, the fact that children were held sometimes days at a time in an isolation room — this is not how the children of Iowa should be treated,” Branstad said.
The facility housed two different types of girls: the most troubled teens in Iowa who would have been sent on to adult court if not for placement in the Iowa Juvenile Home as well as children who a court had declared were in need of assistance because of abuse or neglect from their biological or foster parents.