Wait for legislative input on Juvenile Home

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 26 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 6 March 2014 | 11:01 pm in
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By Todd Sprague

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The Iowa Juvenile Home/Girls State Training School 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.

Gov. Terry Branstad recently announced that he is closing our facility and moving youth to private placements and out of state. An overwhelming majority of these youth already have 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 about three times the amount as serving them here in Iowa.

Branstad has acted outside of the powers and scope of the job we elected him to do. According to the National Governors 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.” 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 Jan. 13.

On Nov. 22, state Sen. 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 Nov. 25, stating flatly, “It’s not true,” in reference to making a closed door decision.

On Dec. 9, the governor announced the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home effective Jan. 16. This decision affects all of the youth we currently serve, most of which were to 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.

The governor was not elected to make changes to the Iowa Code without input from legislators.

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 ask the governor 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.

To register your opinion: https://governor.iowa.gov/constituent-services/register-opinion/

Todd Sprague of Waterloo and a native of Fayette is employed at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. Comments: sprague67@hotmail.com

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