To the Editor:
The Iowa Juvenile Home (IJH) is a defining institution for the city of Toledo. IJH employees talk openly of their love and concern for the children they care for and the concern for these troubled children permeates the entire community. Over the past few months I’ve spoken to hundreds of people in the area about the IJH and that message comes through loud and clear each and every time, without exception. I’ve also spoken to current and past students of the IJH and these children all talk positively about the help they received at the home. After being bounced from foster home to foster home, and through numerous other private child care institutions, these children need stability, love and support. The IJH has provided this stability and the care that these children need and deserve when every other option has failed them. Unfortunately, I am now very concerned for the future of the IJH in Toledo. The loss of this institution would be devastating to the students and the entire Toledo community. I am certain that no other institution can care for these children like the staff at the IJH can.
As many of you are aware IJH has been embroiled in controversy as a result of overly negative media sensationalism directed at them. Governor Branstad appointed a task force to review the situation and make recommendations on how to improve the IJH practices and oversight. I attended all four of these task force meetings. The recommendations have been sent to the governor and are being reviewed.
One recommendation in particular that concerns me would restrict the children at the IJH to only those adjudicated Juvenile Delinquent (JD), eliminating those that are designated Children In Need of Assistance. That change could limit the IJH population to about 20 children from the historic population range of 40-55. With so few children, the efficiency of the facility comes into question. The expense of maintaining the teaching, psychology and administrative staff would be grossly out of proportion with other larger institutions. There are those in state government that make decisions based solely on financial analysis, oblivious to the human costs. This type of impersonal decision making is my biggest fear, it could result in the permanent closing of the IJH. I am convinced that for the welfare of these troubled children the IJH must continue its mission of providing a stable and loving environment. No other institution has proven to be capable of executing that mission.
Since the completion of the task force meetings, I have been discussing this issue with many of our community leaders in Toledo as well as my colleagues in the legislature. Folks in our community are as deeply concerned as I am. We must make sure the governor, his staff, and the rest of those involved in the decision making process fully understand the impact that closing the IJH would have on these children and the impact on the Toledo community. Towards that end, I am organizing a meeting between the governor and a delegation of Toledo community leaders. I am thankful that Jim Roan, Yvonne Mallory, and John Kavalier have already agreed to join this delegation. We will need the support of the entire community in this effort.
I will not rest until these children are guaranteed a home where they can receive the care and stability they need, and I believe that home is the Iowa Juvenile Home here in Toledo. For more information regarding our upcoming meeting or to share any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 641-750-3594.