As expected, Governor Branstad is appealing Wednesday’s ruling from a district court judge who ordered the re-opening of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.
The judge ruled Branstad overstepped his authority in closing the facility, since the legislature passed a two-year spending plan for the Juvenile Home last spring — and Branstad approved it last year. The governor is asking the Iowa Supreme Court “to review and overturn” the district court order to reopen the Juvenile Home.
In a document filed with the court, Branstad’s lawyers in the state attorney general’s office argued the district court made an “extraordinary and unprecedented order” that countered the governor’s decision to protect children who had been “subjected to over 47,000 hours of isolation, denied the education they deserve and mistreated by staff” at the Juvenile Home.
Branstad argues children who had been in the Juvenile Home are now in “licensed and accredited facilities where they are being better served.”
The chairman of the task force Governor Terry Branstad asked to review the Iowa Juvenile Home’s operations last year says the facility is “unsafe” and should not be reopened without significant renovations. Jerry Foxhoven says the living conditions on that Toledo campus are “terrible.”
“The cottages are old, old, old,” Foxhoven says.
According to Foxhoven, the state would refuse to license any privately-run facility that had the same kind of living conditions.
“The place where the girls, or the children and youth would live would be up on the second floor which virtually nobody would say in today’s world that kids who are self-harming (themselves) ought to have a stairway,” Foxhoven says. “…There is conduit hanging from the ceiling that they could hang themselves from.”
Former Congressman Dave Nagle, a Toledo native who has volunteered to be an advocate for reopening the home, questions why Governor Branstad hadn’t asked legislators to provide money to fix the facilities.
“I’m, you know, shocked to find out today that we’ve discovered that this facility is unsafe,” Nagle says, “and I would only ask what the Branstad Administration and others have been doing for 30 years, allowing those kids to be in there, if it’s so unsafe.”
Nagle and Foxhoven made their comments during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that airs tonight at 7:30 on Iowa Public Television.
(This story was updated at 4:01 p.m. with additional information)