2 girls ‘runaways’ following IJH closure

Two juveniles are considered runaways following the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo, according to a document released by the Iowa Department of Human Services Tuesday.

Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said the information was “disgusting” and another example of how Gov. Terry Branstad mishandled closing the Toledo facility.

The review of the placements for the juveniles between July 1, 2013 and Jan. 14, 2014 was sent to the Senate Human Resource Committee by request.

Of the 50 youth discharged during that time 24 were adjudicated Child in Need of Assistance (CINA), 13 were dually adjudicated as CINA and delinquent and 13 were adjudicated delinquent.

The current placement for two of the youths is listed as runaway.

The DHS memo, sent by policy advisor Jennifer Davis Harbison, said one girl whose case had been closed upon her return home, ran away and was later located in another state. After she was detained, she ran away again, according to the memo.

Sodders said he’s familiar with the girl’s history from postings she made on an Iowa Juvenile Home Facebook group and other research he conducted. The juvenile, he said, is a 17-year-old Marshalltown native.

“This girl wasn’t ready to go home,” Sodders said. “She was sent home too soon because the facility was closing and that’s disturbing. Now we don’t know where she is.”

The other missing child was discharged home, but ran away five months later, according to the DHS.

The information was made available following Department of Human Services Director Charles Palmer’s visit with the senate committee on Monday.

Palmer said the state should provide at least 20 secure beds for delinquent girls.

Democratic lawmakers announced a plan last week to file legislation in an effort to reopen the home. Sodders, along with other lawmakers, has also joined with the head of the state employees’ union in filing a lawsuit against Branstad and Palmer, seeking to keep the home open.

“It’s just making me sick that nobody is recognizing these missing girls,” Sodders said. “If they hadn’t shut down the home and pushed these girls out, this wouldn’t have happened.”