Both State Representative Dean Fisher R-Garwin) and State Senator Steve Sodders (D-State Center) admitted in comments sought by The News-Herald on Tuesday, the Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls in Toledo would remain shuttered for at least the foreseeable future. This is barring any court order or last minute deal.
Iowa House and Senate committees have reportedly agreed upon as Health and Human Services appropriation bill which includes $500,000 to maintain the IJH campus buildings and 27 acres of grounds
But the bill does nothing to reopen it to serve delinquent girls or children in need of assistance as had been its latest role in its 94-year history in Toledo.
Orange traffic cones continued to pose a symbolic barrier to vehicle entries to the Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls campus in Toledo on Tuesday morning, April 29. The 27-acre campus was ordered closed on Jan. 15 and prospects for reopening soon appear dim now.
When ordered closed by Governor Terry Branstad and the Department of Human Services on Jan. 15, the remaining students on the campus had all been sent to alternative settings or entered into treatment programs state officials said. The governor at the item said he was responding ot a Disability rights Iowa investigation which alleged mistreatment of osem students and sub-standard educational programs being offered at Toledo.
On Tuesday, Jimmy Centers, media spokesperson for Branstad, issued this statement when asked by The News-Herald about the building maintenance appropriation - "Gov. Branstad is focused on ensuring the children have high-quality care and believes they're being well-served in alternative placements."
Centers did not respond to a request for comment on a Toledo Chronicle story published last week which reported charles Palmer, director of the Department of Human Services had not contacted local officials concerning the future of the IJH campus.
The Governor's office said on Jan. 30 Branstad had asked Palmer to do so.
Palmer's office told The Chronicle he was awaiting possible legislative and court action before doing os and that he had "met with former staff and students."
Four Democratic senators including Sodders and Danny Homan, AFSCME head, sued the Governor and Palmer charging IJH could not be closed because the legislature had appropriated money for the current fiscal year for its operation.
A Polk county judge ruled in their favor but the decision is now on appeal to the Iowa supreme Court.
"I had hoped we could reach a resolution on the Iowa Juvenile Home and the re-instatement of the Girls State Training School this session. In the end, the likelihood of a veto of the policy and funding led the Health and Human Services Appropriation conference committee to conclude that the funds designated for the IJH could be used elsewhere.
"The Senate plan called for a maximum of 20 beds and 54 employees, a lower capacity and a higher cost per bed than the IJH had before the closure. It is clear to me that trying to simply recreate a fraction of what was there before is not going to be a viable plan.
"As I have been saying for some time, there are many needs in Iowa for treatment services for children and adults alike, and the Toledo facility is large enough to provide a wider array of services like the Cherokee Mental Health Institute. I also doubt that resolution can be achieved until after the lawsuit is settled which is likely to be this fall.
"I will continue to work with my colleagues in the legislature, the governors' office and the Department of Human Services in formulating a plan to fully utilize this facility. I will focus on opportunities for maintaining it as a child care, mental health, medical, and education-oriented facility."
"This session, I worked with a majority of the Senate to do everything possible to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home.
"After thorough and exhaustive hearings, the Senate passed legislation that would have provided effective, equitable care for troubled Iowa girls and boys. The Iowa Juvenile Home would have obviously been part of the solution.
"The House Republican majority promised me time and time again they would do something for these kids. They had several opportunities, but when it counted, they did nothing. Because of that failure by House, Iowa judges now have no appropriate placement for the most troubled girls in our state. "That is a shame and a disgrace.
"The approach I helped develop this session requires accredited treatment programs and educational services. It emphasizes contemporary, evidence-based approaches to treatment and staff training. It improves transition planning for youth turning age 18 while ensuring they are eligible for wrap around services, and it increases accountability for guardians ad litem and attorneys who advocate on the youth's behalf.
"That approach will be available when and if a new Iowa House of Representatives and a new Iowa Governor is ready to do the right thing for Iowa kids who desperately need our help."