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Juvenile Home / Girls Training School to close

Toledo's Largest Employer, Institution Here Since 1920

December 13, 2013
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Despite some earlier assurances, the Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls in Toledo will apparently be shuttered on Jan. 16, 2014. What has served for 93 years in roles as an orphanage, home for troubled youth and girls found delinquent by the court will see the remaining youth transferred to other care settings, the Iowa Department of Human Services announced Monday afternoon, Dec. 9.

The decision caught some by surprise including Toledo City Council members, State Rep Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) and State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center) who represent the area in the Iowa Legislature.

Briefly commenting at Monday night's council meeting, member Elmer "Skip" Wilson said, "It's kind of stupid close it after putting $30 million in." Calling for some repercussions for those in charge in Des Moines, Wilson, a U. S. Navy veteran said,?"The captain of the ship' is responsible when the ship goes down."

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Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls campus in Toledo on Monday, Dec. 9.
News-Herald/John Speer

Council member Travis Mullen said, "It's shocking to close (the institution) when they put that much money in."

Fisher issued the following statement Monday after the Iowa Department of Human Services' announcement on the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home:

"I am very disappointed to learn that DHS has indicated they will close IJH. It has always been my hope that the Legislature, those elected by Iowans, would have the opportunity to weigh in on the status of the home. While the governor appropriately convened a task force on the issue, the Legislature has not had the opportunity to review the task force's recommendations or hold hearings of their own to determine the best course for the future of IJH. It would have been more appropriate to allow the Legislature to convene and determine the direction of the IJH instead."

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Sodders had this reaction: "Our worst fears have been realized. Governor Branstad has done exactly what we asked him not to do. Closing the Iowa Juvenile Home and the State Training School for Girls at Toledo is not in the best interests of the children, the staff, and the Toledo community.

"We need to remain focused on the well-being of the kids sent by the courts to receive care at IJH. We should be thinking about what is the best way to help them and immediately closing the home is not in their best interest."

The institution has been under fire after a federally funded, non-profit group of attorneys, Disability Rights Iowa, began releasing their findings of an investigation into the operations of the facility.

This led to the appointment of a Task Force by Governor Terry Branstad which issued recommendations in October. The Task Force paid a visit to the campus once and then met in Des Moines to formulate the recommendations.

DHS Director Charles Palmer said in the press release, "This was a difficult decision. After a thorough examination of the task force recommendations, we believe finding appropriate alternative placements is in the best interest of the youth," Palmer said. "Serving these children in licensed and/or accredited settings was an important goal set by the Governor and his task force, and we are moving quickly to ensure it is achieved."

Here's the complete text of the DHS news release announcing the decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls:

DHS To Find Alternative Placements

for Iowa Juvenile Home Youth

The Iowa Department of Human Services is finding alternative placements for 21 youth currently served by the Iowa Juvenile Home and Girls State Training School in Toledo.

Director Charles M. Palmer announced the decision on Monday based on recommendations from the Iowa Juvenile Home Protection Task Force. Guidance from the task force, appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad in August, included defining the mission of the home, and exploring other options for care.

"This was a difficult decision. After a thorough examination of the task force recommendations, we believe finding appropriate alternative placements is in the best interest of the youth," Palmer said. "Serving these children in licensed and/or accredited settings was an important goal set by the Governor and his task force, and we are moving quickly to ensure it is achieved."

In its report, the task force noted that the mixed population of youth served at Toledo - delinquent girls, and boys and girls who are Children In Need of Assistance (CINA) - made it difficult to achieve licensure and/or accreditation of the facility and its services and programs. The task force recommended that the boys be moved from campus, and that DHS explore alternative placements for the girls.

The Department determined that other state facilities and community-based, private providers can suit the treatment needs for both CINA and delinquent girls. This will be done in settings which can receive matching federal funds to assist in providing services.

At full capacity, the Iowa Juvenile Home could serve 57 youth ages 12 to 18, by employing a staff of 114. Its $10.5 million SFY14 budget came almost entirely from the state general fund. Currently, there are 21 girls on the campus - 9 CINA and 11 delinquent, 1 evaluation served by 93 employees.

With approval from the courts, many of the delinquent girls will likely be served in a high level of care at the state's psychiatric medical institutes for children (PMIC). A handful of others will find treatment through community-based providers. Palmer noted that, for years, the majority of Iowa children adjudicated delinquent have been served by private providers who have demonstrated the capacity and ability to successfully offer treatment.

"We will work with our state facilities and community-based providers who can offer a variety of services and supports which would not be available on the Toledo campus if it were serving only a very small number of delinquent girls," he said.

Joint treatment planning teams have been formed to evaluate the mental health and behavioral needs of each youth, and ensure the most appropriate placement for their individual needs. These teams can include social workers or juvenile court officers, private providers, contractors, parents and/or guardians ad litem.

Court approval must be obtained to move any child to a new level of care, and the majority of youth will be served in-state. An out-of-state placement could be appropriate in a small number of cases.

The Iowa Juvenile Home's use of seclusion and restraint as emergency measures for children with severe aggressive, self-injurious, combative or destructive behavior has been under examination. New methods of de-escalating behavior through relationship building, behavior analysis and trauma-informed care resulted in a 93 percent reduction in the use of seclusion measures from October 2012 to October 2013.

"While the Iowa Juvenile Home staff worked to address the serious mental and behavioral health needs of these youth, we believe that these children will be served most successfully through court-approved alternative placements," Palmer said.

Layoffs will be effective January 16, 2014. The state's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will be available to staff, and officials will work with them to pursue other job opportunities.

DHS social workers, juvenile court officers and licensing and accreditation agencies are responsible with ensuring that the youth continue to receive the services they need at their new placements.

"We will work with state facilities and community-based providers to ensure each youth is given the safe, quality care they deserve within licensed and/or accredited settings," Palmer said.



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