All involved in the debate over the future of girls formerly housed at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo say their No. 1 concern is the welfare of children. They will have a chance to prove that in the coming weeks.
A bill expected to be considered by a Senate committee this week is a way to create safe shelter for troubled girls who otherwise could fall through the cracks as a result of Gov. Terry Branstad’s abrupt closing of the Toledo home.
The draft proposal should at the very least serve as a place to begin discussions between legislators and the governor. All parties should put aside partisan rancor and keep their minds open to what is best for these girls.
The draft legislation approved by a Senate human resources subcommittee last week would create a secure facility for girls adjudicated as delinquent by a judge and assigned to a state training school. It would not accept juvenile girls who are under court jurisdiction as a child in need of assistance, meaning the facility would house only 20 to 25 girls.
The facility would be operated by the state rather than by a private provider. It would have to be accredited by the American Corrections Association and inspected by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.
State-certified classes would be provided through a local school district. The state would continue to provide a continuum of services after girls emerge from the training school when they reach age 18.
“I think this is a great solution,” said Jerry Foxhoven, a Drake University law professor and expert in juvenile law. Foxhoven chaired the task force the governor created last year to study the Juvenile Home. “It solves the problem,” he said of the Senate proposal.
That problem is the challenge the state now faces in placing juvenile delinquent girls following Gov. Branstad’s order closing the Juvenile Home in December.