Public Safety & Justice

Judge Orders Iowa to Reopen Juvenile Home That Governor Closed

February 6, 2014

A court order directing the state to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home has left legislators and the governor’s office scrambling to figure out their next move.

Declaring that “we are a nation of laws,” District Court Judge Scott D. Rosenberg ruled that Iowa’s Executive Branch, led by Branstad, cannot “unilaterally decide which laws it will obey and which laws it will not.”

Rosenberg said that by ordering the home closed in December, Branstad chose to “essentially ignore the law of the state of Iowa.”

The judge ordered the governor and the Iowa Department of Human Services to “reopen the Toledo home and abide by the duly passed laws of the state of Iowa.”

But Jerry Foxhoven, a Drake University law professor who recently chaired the governor’s Iowa Juvenile Home Protection Task Force, said Rosenberg’s ruling poses a real challenge for the state now that the 27-acre campus has been shuttered, its 93 workers laid off and its juvenile clients relocated.

“I am sure at this point the state is stepping back and saying, ‘OK, what are we going to do now?’ ” Foxhoven said. “It’s difficult to see where in the short term this is going to lead.

Register Investigation: Years of problems before state-run home is closed

“This order doesn’t say how the state has to staff the home. … Obviously, you could have a facility that’s ‘open,’ but with one staff and one kid there, or one kid and three staffers. It’s just hard to imagine that all of a sudden we’d have 50 kids back there, or even 20.”

Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers declined to say how the governor will respond to the ruling, but said Branstad still believes “alternative placements” are in the best interests of children who would otherwise be sent to Toledo.

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