Iowa conceals troubling incidents at juvenile home
DES MOINES – Some troubling incidents at the Iowa juvenile home are being concealed in records state officials release to the public, according to a newspaper report.
The Des Moines Register reports the Iowa attorney general’s office tried to electronically black out details of abuse allegations, illegal restraints and other problems at the home in Toledo.
The newspaper discovered the details of what happened after copying and pasting the records into another file.
Register Publisher Rick Green says officials went too far because the hidden information helps show how the home was run and how kids were treated.
“Iowans expect and deserve full transparency from their state government, especially when public information casts the performance of state agencies or their employees in a questionable light,” Green said. “The disclosures here raise an important question: Who is the attorney general’s office trying to protect?
The Attorney General’s spokesman Geoff Greenwood says the information was blacked out because it revealed details of individual cases, and state law protects children’s privacy.
“Confidentiality under Iowa law extends beyond the name of the child,” Greenwood said. “It extends to the services provided to the child, the circumstances of the child, and medical and psychiatric information about the child.”
The home houses, treats and educates youths with serious behavioral problems. The federally funded group Disability Rights Iowa has been investigating allegations about the home’s treatment of children, including small, isolation rooms where some children have been held for weeks and months.
The newspaper did not identify individual children in the new records.
The newly disclosed incidents include a girl being physically restrained by a juvenile home staffer and the home’s staff withholding court-ordered substance abuse treatment.
On July 27, a girl who was sitting on her bed and reading refused to go to a seclusion room, so workers took her blankets away and then physically restrained her after the girl became aggressive. Then the girl was placed in a seclusion room.
The girl complained to a nurse that she was restrained so tightly that she couldn’t breathe and was dragged out of bed by her feet and ankles.
Disability Rights of Iowa questioned the staff’s actions in that incident because the staffers’ actions appeared to make the confrontation worse.
The records also show that a youth wasn’t allowed to attend substance-abuse treatment this summer because of behavior in group settings and an unspecified incident.
Officials at the home said the youth received substance-abuse treatment from a staff psychologist, but it wasn’t clear whether that psychologist was qualified to provide the treatment.