Former Resident: Don't close the Iowa Juvenile Home - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Former Resident: Don't close the Iowa Juvenile Home

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TOLEDO (KWWL) -

Allison Cortez was a bit of a wild child.

"I wasn't making good choices at school," she said. "I was running away from home, stealing from my parents, just being a delinquent."

Her parents pressed charges for the theft, and a judge sent her to the Iowa Juvenile Home (IJH) in Toledo.

She was 15, and she didn't want to be there. But she said the staff and students at the Home quickly became her family.

"They changed my life," Cortez said. "Honestly, I think I would have ended up in jail if it weren't for a lot of them."

The facility has been the subject of a lot of controversy lately, for the use of isolation cells, and alleged abuse by the staff

This month, Governor Branstad ordered that all 21 girls be transferred out of the Home.

But Cortez said she thinks it's not fair to characterize the home by the negative attention. She said in her experience, the community there is so much more.

"It made me have a much closer relationship with my parents, which was very helpful," she said. "Sorry, I'm about to cry. I think the staff really helped make me a better person ... and it's just helped me build a lot of positive relationships, with I needed ... I think they're making a really bad choice by shutting it down."

There's currently a Facebook group called "Keep IJH Open," with more than 5000 members.

Cortez said she's now married, has two children, and work at a daycare as a teaching assistant. She said the worst part of the closure will be the loss of stability for the current residents.

The girls will all be transferred out in the next few weeks, and the 93 employee layoffs are slated for January 16.

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