By Carol Thompson
It was disappointing to learn that the governor’s office made the decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home at Toledo before consulting with the Legislature or receiving the report of the state Ombudsman’s Office. The decision is another blow to the well-being of these vulnerable children.
The children placed at the Iowa Juvenile Home, both the girls who are adjudicated delinquent and the boys and girls who are victims of abuse and neglect, will face further placements and further failures. The state removed these children from their homes because their parents were unable to provide a safe and stable environment. Since removal, most of the children have experienced repeated failures, moving from placement to placement and school to school, without finding safety or stability. The Iowa Juvenile Home has provided that much-needed stability and caring staff.
The Iowa Juvenile Home Foundation exists to support the programming at IJH. Since the foundation was formed in 1996, we have provided full support for the school library, arts programming, a traveling art show that highlights student art, and other activities such as holiday gifts and treats not covered in the state budget. We have sought private money to improve the physical facility, most recently a grant from the Roy J. Carver Foundation to build tennis/basketball courts for students. We have invested more than $600,000 in these activities.
Most of us on the foundation board are educators or child welfare professionals who have observed the excellent work done at IJH.
We support the library because we know from past experience that, in the stable environment at IJH, students have a chance to blossom. We support arts education because we believe troubled adolescents need exposure to arts and other enriching activities the state has not included in its budget.
Since 2004, we have seen almost $25 million in state money spent on IJH infrastructure. Only several of the cottages need to be replaced for this campus to be a state-of-the-art treatment facility for more than 100 troubled youth.
Meanwhile, the operating budget has dwindled until only a handful of kids are able to be admitted, and this year, admissions were closed altogether.
Children wait for months in shelters or detention facilities because community-based services are not available. It is sad, when we are so close to providing excellent treatment for these kids who have experienced so much failure in their lives, to have it all thrown away.
Submitted by Carol Thompson, past president, on behalf of the board of the Iowa Juvenile Home Foundation, a private not-for-profit formed to support the work of the Iowa Juvenile Home. Comments; email@example.com