In my previous column I talked about a meeting between a delegation from Toledo and the governor's office regarding the Iowa Juvenile Home (IJH). That meeting occurred the afternoon of Friday, November 15 at the capitol. The delegation included attorney Jim Roan, President of the State Bank of Toledo John Kavalier, past IJH teacher Yvonne Mallory, South Tama school Superintendent Kerri Nelson, county attorney Brent Heeren, Mike Husak, former Representative Lance Horbach, Toledo mayor Dave Svoboda and me. Tama mayor Dan Zimmerman was not able to join us due to personal commitments. I want to thank the IJH staff and the entire Tama-Toledo community, it was their enthusiastic support for IJH and the IJH children that drove this high-level meeting to save the Toledo facility.
Governor Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds both met with us, along with Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Charles Palmer and members of the governor's staff. Our goal was to assure the governor that the entire Toledo and Tama community supports the IJH and its mission and want the IJH to remain in Toledo. We also wanted to show that the entire community is willing to work with the governor's office and legislature as we move forward.
What came through loud and clear in this meeting is that the governor will be focused on doing what is best for the children involved in the juvenile care network. I am proud to say that our community and the staff at the IJH overwhelmingly share that goal with the governor. The children the IJH serves are deserving of the best care possible so that they can heal from the trauma they have suffered and so they can achieve the education and life skills they need to succeed in life. I believe that the IJH is ideally suited to continue to be a critical part of that care network for these children.
I am now more confident that the IJH will continue in Toledo. However, that doesn't mean that there won't be more changes at the IJH as called for in the report from the governor's task force. DHS is already actively working on moving the boys out of the IJH, making it a girls-only facility. The governor's office, DHS and the Toledo delegation all agreed that this change makes sense for the good of the children. These troubled children do not need the added distraction that a mixed-sex population creates.
Beyond that decision about the boys, the direction has not yet been determined, there are many other recommendations in the task force report to yet be considered, and those recommendations are much more complex than the boys issue. The issues of accreditation, funding, program content, education oversight and statewide capacity for troubled teens all interact in ways that can sometimes be contradictory. I expect that the governor's office will make a recommendation by the time the legislature convenes in mid-January, kicking off much discussion during the session.
This meeting was a positive step forward in what will be a long process. I know the past many months of controversy have been hard on the employees at the IJH, I hope they can bear with us for a few more months as this issue moves to the legislature for discussion and action.
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