Branstad’s spokesman, Jimmy Centers said in an email statement that the governor’s concern was the children “who did not receive adequate care at the Iowa Juvenile Home.” He said placing them in their own homes or other accredited facilities was in their best interest.
“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,” he said. “Additionally, the Iowa Department of Education ruled the children had been denied the education they deserve.”
As for the court ruling, he said: “Our office is reviewing the ruling and working with the Attorney General’s office to explore all options.”
House Democratic Leader Mark Smith said it was a terrible mistake for the governor to close the home.
“It’s time for the governor to work with us on the bipartisan bill offered in the Legislature that will not only improve our statewide assessment system for both boys and girls, but also create an accredited treatment center for females at the Iowa Juvenile Home location,” he said.
Sen. Jack Hatch, a Des Moines Democrat and candidate for governor, said the Senate has begun working on a bill that will reform how the state helps troubled children.
“Iowans never wanted to abandon these children. We want instead to improve their conditions and their futures,” he said. “Gov. 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.”
The home housed some of Iowa’s most troubled girls. The treatment of children at the center in Toledo came to light after an investigation by the advocacy group Disability Rights Iowa and stories by The Des Moines Register. They reported that physical restraints were used on children and that staffers relied on isolation cells.