Judge orders Iowa Juvenile Home reopened; state responds - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Judge orders Iowa Juvenile Home reopened; state responds

DES MOINES (KWWL) - A Polk County District Court judge has ordered the state reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo on Wednesday.

Polk County District Court Judge Scott D. Rosenberg ruled Wednesday for a preliminary injunction in Homan et al. v. Branstad, clearing the way for the facility to reopen.

The facility closed after a report last year criticized the use of isolation rooms.

Supporters of the facility had filed a lawsuit to keep the home open.

The online court filing said the state's motion to dismiss was denied, and a preliminary injunction to reopen the facility was sustained.

The reopening of the facility is not immediate, as an appeal is expected.

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan, the plaintiff in the case, praised the judge's ruling in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

"We are pleased that the court has sided with the plaintiffs by opening the Iowa Juvenile Home," Homan said in a statement. "Iowa’s young girls are the real winners in this decision. For the sake of the safety of Iowa’s children, the governor should immediately comply with this court order and reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home as instructed by the District Court."

Branstad's office said the governor still believes closing the facility and moving the children to alternate placements was the right thing to do.

"The governor’s utmost concern is the health, safety and education of the children who did not receive adequate care at the Iowa Juvenile Home," said Jimmy Centers, Branstad's communications director, in a statement Wednesday. "Because the children weren’t receiving the education they deserve and their safety and treatment were being compromised, Gov. Branstad believed seeking alternative court-ordered placements in licensed and accredited facilities – or in their own homes – was in the best interest of the children.

"The children were moved to alternative placements in their best interests," Centers continued. "The decision to seek alternative placement for the youth was a decision the governor didn’t make lightly and was made only after the governor met with Disability Rights Iowa and appointed and received recommendations of the independent Iowa Juvenile Home Protection Task Force.

"An investigation found that children had been subjected to over 47,000 hours of solitary isolation and mistreated in a facility that was intended to serve and protect them. Additionally, the Iowa Department of Education ruled the children had been denied the education they deserve.

"Because of the troubling findings by Disability Rights Iowa, the independent Iowa Juvenile Home Protection Task Force and the Department of Education, the governor believes alternative placements are best suited to provide the children the treatment, care and education they deserve."

Senate Democrats were pleased with the judge's decision.

"This is great news for Iowa’s troubled children, their families and their communities," said Sen. Steve Sodders of State Center in a written statement Wednesday afternoon. "Governor Branstad’s hasty, behind-closed-doors decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home disrupted their lives.

"Today, I ask the Governor to end his unilateral decision-making and to join our bipartisan efforts to ensure that struggling Iowa girls to have the best chance possible to succeed," Sodders added. "I am thankful for the support that juvenile court officers, state and local officials, former Juvenile Home staffers, and the Toledo community have shown the campaign to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home."

Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines, who is running against Gov. Branstad, agreed.

“Iowans never wanted to abandon these children," Hatch said in a written statement. "We want instead to improve their conditions and their futures. The Senate has already begun work on legislation that will fundamentally reform how Iowa helps all troubled Iowa children, especially girls.

"Governor Branstad should join the conversation about how to implement a new, more effective, and more accountable statewide approach to helping Iowa boys and girls who need serious help," Hatch added.

Click here for Iowa law regarding the Iowa Juvenile Home
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