Calling the situation critical, Gov. Terry Branstad has ordered the Iowa Juvenile Home to meet higher standards and end practices he believes have led to inappropriate care and abuse of juvenile girls there.
Responding to concerns he heard from young residents at the Toledo home and a November 2012 report based on a visit to the home by the advocacy group Disability Rights Iowa.
Branstad signed an executive order Tuesday designed to immediately hold the facility to the same standards for restraint or seclusion as a private comprehensive residential facility. His intent is for the higher standards of care to lead to greater safety, transparency and oversight in treatment of children at the residential facility.
“We’ve listened to the concerns we’ve heard from the children who are being treated there and the Disability Rights Iowa people,” Branstad said after his town hall meeting in Manchester Aug. 20. “So I have issued an executive order designed to prevent some of what I would consider inappropriate treatment” including reports of juveniles being held in solitary confinement for weeks at a time.
The home serves girls between 12 and 18 years old, who have been determined by the juvenile justice system to require specialized structured program care, evaluation, and treatment due to disruptive behavior.
The executive order mandates trauma-informed care training for staff at the Iowa Juvenile Home and establishes a five-member task force to formulate new recommendations for the juvenile home and assist in their implementation.
“The task force will look at how we can comply with what private, non-profit providers already to do and prevent the fact that children are being denied opportunities for education and, in some cases, actually abused by some of the employees,” the governor said. “We want to make sure that the kids in this facility are treated in an appropriate manner.”
The task force members are to:
Task force members appointed by the governor include: Professor Jerry Foxhoven, executive director of the Drake Legal Clinic, who will lead the panel; Charles Palmer, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services; Dr. Mary Stevens, director of Special Education for the Area Education Agency 267; Dr. Mark Peltan, chairman of the Iowa Council on Human Services; and Ron Steele, former executive director for Youth Homes of Mid-America.
He gave the task force an Oct. 15 deadline for its recommendations, but Branstad said he won’t wait to make changes.
“We’re already moving forward with significant changes there,” Branstad said without elaborating other than to say he wants to stop “excessive use” of solitary confinement rooms
“We’re trying to respond to a number of concerns that have been expressed by Disability Rights Iowa and others and trying to move as quickly as we can,” Branstad said.
A state senator has asked for a legislative oversight committee to look into the juvenile home’s policies and rules for the use of physical restraints and isolation rooms.
However, Branstad said the changes can’t wait until the Legislature reconvenes in January.
Comments: (319 398-8375; firstname.lastname@example.org