- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - The future of the former Iowa Juvenile Home facility in Toledo remains murky, and questions about how the state will care for delinquent girls linger.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports (https://bit.ly/1JEAMhm ) supporters of the 27-acre facility hope the state will decide soon what to do with it, but lawsuits related to the closure of the juvenile home complicate the situation.

“It’s sitting there like a ghost town, and it’s a sad, sad situation, but there’s not much we can do at this point,” said Toledo resident Bill Skow, who helped establish a foundation that supported the juvenile home.

The Iowa Juvenile Home closed in January after questions were raised about the treatment of teenagers, including use of isolation cells and a lack of educational opportunities.

But a year ago, the facility housed 21 youths and employed 93 staff members.

Without the Iowa Juvenile Home, the state lacks a facility to care for delinquent girls who have committed crimes. Iowa does continue to operate a home for delinquent boys in Eldora.

The lack of a facility for girls is a concern for Chelsea Reasoner, who lived at the Iowa Juvenile Home for part of her childhood.

“I would say that now, especially since it’s closed, there’s a severe lack of a facility like that in Iowa,” said Reasoner, 18. “There definitely needs to be something as serious and as well organized as the juvenile home for youth.”

Reasoner said her time at the home helped get her ready to study psychology and early childhood education at Des Moines Area Community College.

The state’s public employees’ union and four lawmakers sued over Republican Gov. Terry Branstad’s decision to close the facility. The case is now waiting to be argued before the Iowa Supreme Court.

That pending lawsuit makes it difficult to move forward with plans for the buildings and land in Toledo, but area leaders hope a solution can be found soon.

“If it’s never going to be open again for a girls’ facility, I think we need to utilize the buildings and grounds that the taxpayers have already paid for,” said Iowa Sen. Steve Sodders, a State Center Democrat.

Iowa Rep. Dean Fisher, a Garwin Republican, said he thinks it’s unlikely the facility will be a juvenile home again, but he believes it could serve as a Bible college campus or something else.

“It’s not going to happen, politically,” Fisher said. “I’ve been around that loop several times, and it became very clear that isn’t what it’s going to be. It needs to be something else.”

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, https://www.wcfcourier.com


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