JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday that he stands by his decision to close the Iowa Juvenile Home despite criticism from legislators.
Speaking on the public television program “Iowa Press,” Branstad argued that there has been too much emphasis on protecting the home when the focus should be on what's best for the children.
“The terrible mistakes made in the past should not be made again,” he said after the taping.
Branstad closed the facility in Toledo on Jan. 15 after allegations that teens were improperly treated and denied a proper education. The home housed some of Iowa's most troubled girls.
Democrats announced their plan Thursday to file legislation in an effort to reopen the home, which would include a complete overhaul to the facility's programming. Four Democratic lawmakers also have joined with the head of the state employees' union in filing a lawsuit against Branstad and Iowa Department of Human Services Charles Palmer, seeking to keep the home open.
The proposed legislation would bring educational programming under the Department of Education in an effort to provide quality schooling and a pathway to graduation. The bill would also address other problems at the home outlined by a task force.
Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, said there is concern that the girls haven't been properly relocated, sparking the need to act quickly with legislation.
“It is apparent that the placement of these girls has been sporadic, and there is absolutely no assurance about the services they are receiving,” he said.
The governor, however, said other institutions can better serve the needs of teens previously housed in the home and insisted the closure was best for them.
“We came to the conclusion that we need to do what's in the best interest of these kids,” he said during the program.
Branstad said he fears old problems will resurface if the home is reopened.
Hatch acknowledged there were problems at the facility but said closure could have been avoided had the Legislature been involved earlier in the process.
House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, has said he's willing to discuss the bill that would reopen the home.