JUVENILE HOME: ‘More Oversight’ Recommended

“Shocking.”  That’s how the Chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee describes the number of issues at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.

The Oversight Committee met Tuesday to question the Interim Superintendent of the home and the Director of the Department of Human Services about those “issues.”

The allegations range from youths locked in isolation rooms for months at a time, lack of education and overuse of restraints.  On Tuesday, those in charge of the Iowa Juvenile Home, Department of Human Services Director, Chuck Palmer and Interim Director, Mark Day, were questioned by legislators.

Day says there are no longer statistics to differentiation between the hours of locked and unlocked seclusion.  But prior to July, there were.

DHS statistics show that in July of last year, 43 youth at the Iowa Juvenile Home spent more than 4,906 hours in unlocked seclusion.  19 youths spent more than 91 hours in locked seclusion.

The head of the Oversight Committee, Senator Janet Petersen recently toured the facility.  She wants more oversight and wants legislators to have a better holistic view of what’s happening at the home.

“I was glad to hear that Director Palmer was open to more oversight.  I think it’s clear that we don’t have the right checks and balances in place when we have a department running all aspects of the operation.”

Currently, the Iowa Juvenile Home is not licensed and therefore, does not face the same scrutiny and inspection process as licensed facilities.

Day and Palmer say improvements are being made.  They anticipate the facility will be fully staffed in two to three months, additional staff training is now required and according to DHS statistics, the number of hours youth are place in isolation has dropped 89-percent from July 2012 to July 2013.

“We want to make sure that’s an ongoing thing,” says Petersen. “Not just while the media is paying attention.”

People will likely continue to pay attention well into next year, as lawmakers move on this matter during the next legislative session.

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