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Iowa Juvenile Home employee reacts to closing

January 3, 2014
By Todd Sprague , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

My name is Todd Sprague, I was born and raised in Fayette, Iowa. I graduated from North Fayette High School in 2002. In November of 2005, I started my career in human services at the Iowa Juvenile Home/Girls State Training School. The IJH/GSTS at Toledo provides a specialized structured setting to evaluate and treat youth between 12 and 18 years of age, who have been determined by the juvenile justice system to require specialized structured program care, evaluation, and/or treatment due to numerous out-of-home placements, disruptive behavior, and extensive involvement in the system. Males and females who have been adjudicated Children in Need of Assistance by the Iowa court system are admitted to the Iowa Juvenile Home. Females who have been adjudicated Delinquent are admitted to the State Training School for Girls.

As many of you are aware, Governor Branstad has announced that he is closing our facility and moving youth to private placements and out of state. An overwhelming majority of these youth have already been to the placements they are being sent back to, and were not successful. Out of state placement takes the youth far away from family, and costs the state approximate 3 times the amount as serving them here in Iowa.

As our highest elected government official, Governor Branstad has acted outside of the powers and scope of the job we elected him to do. According to the National Governor's Association website, "Governors interact with their legislatures to help ensure that their priorities, goals, and accomplishments are accurately presented and positively received during oversight hearings and other legislative activities that address and evaluate executive branch implementation of legislatively mandated programs and services."

Article Photos

Todd Sprague is recognized at the beginning of a SAVE?THE?IJH?meeting at South Tama High School on Thursday, Dec. 19. Sprague was credited as a primary organizer for the event. Chronicle/John Speer

The Iowa Juvenile Home is referenced in the Code of Iowa, Section 233B.2. It states, "The Iowa juvenile home shall be maintained for the purpose of providing care, custody, and education of the children committed to the home." Instead of allowing the legislators to have an open and honest debate about this issue, the Governor instead decided to shut it down, allowing virtually no time for debate. The 2014 Iowa Legislative session is slated to begin January 13.

On November 22, 2013, State Senator Steve Sodders recommended the following, "A decision about the future of the Toledo facility should include employee and policymakers from across the state, not just officials in the Governor's office. The Governor was quoted in the Des Moines Register on November 25th, 2013 stating flatly, 'It's not true," in reference to making a closed door decision. On December 9th, 2013, The Governor went against this promise and announced the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home effective January 16th. This decision affects all of the youth we currently serve, most of which will be moved to a shelter or different facility right before Christmas. This is NOT what is best for these kids, as the Governor has attempted to suggest.

Governor Branstad was not elected to make changes to the Iowa Code without input from legislators. Please, write him your thoughts and remind him of this. It is the duty of our legislators to do this through a process of open debate and conversation. This was a calculated and hurtful move to reduce the number of state employees and privatize this entire side of youth services. The governor's personal privatization agenda should not get in the way of giving these youth the care they need to be successful. Also, with closing this facility, it will drastically cut services to females in the state. This is not fair to them, as there is a State Training School for boys in Eldora. Please write the governor and ask him to do what is right, wait for the legislative session to decide what is best for the future of the home and future of the youth we serve, we owe it to the kids.

Please visit this site to register your opinion.



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