DES MOINES — The Iowa ombudsman should investigate operations at the Toledo Juvenile Home, two Democratic lawmakers said Monday.
Des Moines Sen. Jack Hatch and Mason City Sen. Amanda Ragan said an independent review is needed to ensure that the home is safe.
The Toledo home houses, treats and educates youths with serious behavior problems. Disability Rights Iowa, a federally funded advocacy organization, has been investigating allegations about the treatment at the home of children with behavior problems. The allegations include the longtime use of concrete-block isolation cells, where youths have been placed for weeks and months.
“Management is responsible for the policies that created and used these isolation rooms. That’s why we need an independent investigation to keep children safe and to prevent this from happening again,” Ragan said in a press release.
Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said the senators have the right to seek an investigation. He said his administration is working to “change the culture” at the home.
“We take the problems with Toledo very seriously. I’m going to be meeting with Disability Rights Iowa,” Branstad said. “I’m concerned about the need to change the culture there. That’s a culture that needs to change. We need to make sure those children are protected. We need to do all we can to provide a safe environment for them.”
Ombudsman Ruth Cooperrider said she has made some informal inquiries into the home’s management.
“I share the concerns. We’ve been making an inquiry preliminarily,” she said. “At this point, my feeling is I will probably be doing a more formal investigation of the facility.”
Recently disclosed records show that two psychologists at the Iowa Juvenile Home have questioned treatment at the facility. The Des Moines Register obtained summaries produced by the psychologists through a request under the state’s open records law.