The Iowa Juvenile Home closed Wednesday a day earlier than expected.
The sight brings Sandee McKee to tears. She thinks of all the children she's helped over the years, children she still calls her kids.
"They were very special. When you work with somebody that long and they touch your heart, not only did we help them change but they change us too,” former employee McKee said.
For 36-years, McKee worked at the facility in Toledo - first as a cottage mother, then as a teacher. She adds always as a friend even long after the kids left.
"They call back and they call back well into their 20's and 30's sometimes to celebrate successes and sometimes to ask for help."
“It is just so sad. Years and years invested here and, you know, obviously first of all it's the kids. They were just yanked out of here and placed who knows where. Some of them went back to placements they've failed in," McKee said.
Governor Branstad decided to close the 27-acre facility founded in 1920 after officials admitted to locking up teens in long term isolation cells and failing to provide proper educational services.
In all, 93-employees have been laid off.
Former employees plan to meet with state legislators next week to discuss the closure. A lawsuit has been filed by four lawmakers and the state's public employees union challenging the shutdown.
The closure comes the same day as Governor Branstad announced his intention to seek a sixth term in office.