Supporters of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo are fighting to have the facility re-opened.
The Toledo facility closed on January 15th following reports that youth there were being mistreated.
Former residents and staff members were among the supporters who spoke to the Human Resources Committee this afternoon at the State Capitol.
“Iowa`s youth deserve and need the best possible staff and treatment that can be provided to them these kids are the future of our great state, please help us save their home,” says IJH Employee Todd Sprague.
Employees and former residents filled the hearing room sharing their stories of time spent at IJH.
“I received the best level of care I’ve ever received from the juvenile home, I was a kid that was going nowhere fast and was one of the most hard to reach kids. I was just stuck places by DHS because I was hard to deal with, I went from that kid to the success story I am today,” says former IJH Resident Chelsea Reasoner.
Reasoner left the home three years ago and credits her successful life to the employees who helped her out.
“I`m starting college in the fall, I work full-time and I’m a productive member of society and it`s all because of these amazing people who cared about the direction my life went and helped me see my potential,” says Reasoner.
Another former resident Amber Opdahl shared a similar story.
“They invested their time, heart and feelings into my life. I know they would not give up on me, I knew they loved me, and I know they worked hard so I could be who I am today,” says Opdahl.
Opdahl and Reasoner both defended the isolation or safe rooms saying it was their choice and had the opportunity to leave on their own terms.
“I was never forced to stay in there for months, the times I was in there were my choice as it was for every other resident that were there,” says Opdahl.
Staff members shared stories of compassion and the level of care each resident received.
“Beyond the classes youth were taught a sense of normalcy because staff were willing to share personnel stories of life lessons learned and their home life,” says IJH Employee Jamie Koster.
Echoed stories followed letting lawmakers know the Iowa Juvenile Home is worth saving.
“My family is the staff at the Iowa Juvenile Home. Help me put my family back where they belong, in my home, doing what they do best, saving kids’ lives,” says Opdahl.
A group of Democratic Lawmakers and the head of the largest state workers Union are suing the Branstad Administration to reopen the facility. The group says the Governor doesn’t have the legal authority to shut it down because the legislature has already approved funding for the facility.