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Governor suggests privatizing care provided at Iowa Juvenile Home

(Radio Iowa) – Governor Terry Branstad is suggesting the state should consider having a private organization take over the management of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo. The home’s superintendent quit earlier this year after members of a group called Disability Rights Iowa visited the facility and found three young women being held in isolation cells, one for nearly a year.

Branstad, a Republican, says a nonprofit organization might do a better job running the home. “I want to look at all options and see what would make the most sense…to basically provide the best care,” Branstad said.

The Iowa Juvenile Home provides housing, treatment and schooling for up to 57 kids with behavioral problems. “We know these are troubled children who have many problems and we want to make sure that we’re doing the best…and we need to change the culture, we need to prevent child abuse, and we need to prevent a lot of the problems that have occurred,” Branstad said.

The home is run by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Senator Jack Hatch, chair of the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, believes the DHS should remain in charge of the home. “The problem is the management of the juvenile home, not the workers who are providing the direct services,” Hatch said. “It’s the oversight of the home, it’s the treatment facilities, and the treatment modality that has to be established first. You don’t contract that out.”

Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, is exploring a run for governor. He says public employees are in the best position to provide the best care for children at the Iowa Juvenile Home. “We know we can do that with state employees. They’ve done it elsewhere, they’ve done it effectively, and we have more accountability,” Hatch said.

Hatch is also criticizing Branstad over the fact that a new superintendent for the home has yet to be hired. “The problem is the governor is making a decision he wants to privatize it without even knowing the problems,” Hatch said. “He refuses to accept responsibility that the problem is with his administration and the management of (the home).”

Branstad said earlier this week that he would set up a meeting with members of Disability Rights Iowa, a federally funded group that’s been investigating allegations about the home’s treatment of children. The Iowa Ombudsman is also investigating the home’s operations.