OPEN IT: Lawmakers Push To Re-Open Troubled Home

The Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo has sat empty for the past several weeks after Governor Terry Branstad ordered it closed.

The facility, which cares for girls with behavioral or learning issues, had been plagued with numerous complaints about improper treatment and education of the center’s residents.

Thursday, state House Democrats announced a plan to re-open the center, while also announcing intentions to improve the facility.

They couldn’t say how much additional money they would need for improvements on top of the nearly $8 million series of renovations the home had a few years ago. But they say they want money to better train staff and better supervise and educate residents.

Since the facility closed, some girls were moved to other facilities, while others returned to their homes.

House Minority Leader Mark Smith, a Marshalltown Democrat, said moving the girls from place to place is difficult on them and acknowledged re-opening the Toledo center would mean yet another move.

Smith said, “The more times that a child is placed out of the home environment and goes through these types of things, it’s simply not good for them. And that’s why this decision to close the facility before we had time to work out the placement these children need. That decision was done backward from how it should have been done.”

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Hiawatha Republican, didn’t immediately dismiss the idea of re-opening the home. He said, “I have no doubt we will have a robust conversation and then make the decision that serves Iowa’s kids best.”

A spokesman for Governor Branstad said the governor stood by his original decision.

Jimmy Centers said in a statement, “Governor Branstad’s utmost concern is the health, education and safety of the children who resided at the Iowa Juvenile Home.  The governor believes the children can be best served, treated and receive the education they deserve through alternative placement.”