Iowa’s top human services official Tuesday said the reality of a declining number of girls to be served at the Iowa Juvenile Home precipitated the decision to phase out the operation and lay off staff members currently working at the Toledo facility.
Charles Palmer, director of the state Department of Human Services, said the population of girls served in Toledo would have shrunk to four or five once those deemed as children in need of assistance (CINA) are moved to private settings, making it impractical to continue operating the facility as it had been.
“This decision came after looking at the trajectory of the population,” Palmer said. “We believed that it was preferable and better service for them to be served in other settings.”
Palmer said he and Gov. Terry Branstad made the decision to find alternative placements for the 21 youth currently at the state-run Toledo facility and issue layoff notices after looking at the viable options and the recommendations of a five-member task force.
Ultimately, he said it was decided that private settings would be better equipped to provide the services needed by the current residents at the Toledo home, noting that the mix of youth served at Toledo — delinquent girls, and boys and girls under CINA designations — made it difficult to achieve licensure and/or accreditation of the facility and its services and programs.
Legislative Democrats and state employee union officials have criticized Monday’s decision to halt operations and “privatize” state jobs.
Palmer acknowledged the move would be a hit to the local economy in Toledo, saying “I think there’s a recognition that the loss of $10 million and 93 jobs in a community of that size does have an impact.” He said discussions are under way to find future state or private uses for the existing facilities.