"Inside the Iowa Juvenile Home / Girls State Training School" might be the title of the meeting held there on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The five-member Iowa Juvenile Home Protection Task Force appointed by Governor Terry Branstad on Aug. 20 was on the Toledo campus for their first public meeting.
The facility provides education, housing and treatment for Iowa youth primarily who are at what was called "the last stop." Students placed at IJH have had an average of six-10 placements in other settings before arriving in Toledo.
The Task Force was created by executive order of the governor after findings of Disability Rights Iowa were widely reported in the media. The non-profit law firm, which is funded by the federal government, disclosed that its investigation into practices at the Juvenile Home in November, 2012, found three female students had been kept in seclusion rooms and not afforded education, one for about one year.
Interim IJH - Girls Training School Superintendent Mark Day (partially visible at right) with Task Force members (l-r) Jerry Foxhoven, Mark Peltan and Ron Steele in a Quiet Room in Bryant Cottage on the IJH campus on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Chronicle photos/John Speer
Since then, staff training, treatment and care and education programs have come under scrutiny.
Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, told The Chronicle her firm went to The Des Moines Register newspaper with the findings of its investigation.
The Task Force is charged with making recommendations for changes at the institution. Their report to the Governor is due on Oct. 15.
Members are Prof. Jerry Foxhoven, Executive Director, Drake Legal Clinic; Charles Palmer, Director, Iowa Department of Human Services; Mary Stevens, Director of Special Education, Area Education Agency 267; Mark R. Peltan, Chairman, Council on Human Services; and Ron Steele, former Executive Director, Youth Homes of Mid-America.
On Wednesday, Mark Day, the interim IJH superintendent, detailed staff training, treatment and educational programs under way.
The Task Force and some of the more than 40 persons attending the meeting toured both a girls' cottage and the school and treatment unit.
They also heard impassioned endorsements of the staff and help a former student said she received while spending most of her life from age 12-18 at IJH.
"I am successful," Amber told the Task Force. She credits her time which ended 12 years ago at IJH for her life today.
She said not only is she married and the parent of a nine-year-old, but is an LPN, will soon be an RN and will be attending school to achieve her doctorate in nursing.
"I love the people here. I owe them my life," Amber said.
Day, the superintendent, outlined extensive staff training which has been undergone since he took over in February.
He assured the Task Force big changes had been made in the time seclusion rooms are used and said an acceptable level of less than 500 hours monthly is now in effect.
Task Force members said they would look at the blend of students at the Juvenile Home with the mix of children in need of assistance and those adjudicated delinquent and the presence of both boys and girls on campus.
In a news release issued following the Wednesday memeting, Foxhoven said, "We must make sure all kids with needs are served. We are pleased with the work the staff has been doing over the past couple of years to more positively manage challenging and disruptive behavior. We have already seen significant results."
Locations for Task Force meetings scheduled for Sept. 24 and 30 were not announced.