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Former IJH Residents Talk about Closing Home

TOLEDO, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- The state is laying off 93 employees and moving 21 young residents from the Iowa Juvenile Home and Girls State Training School in Toledo.

The closure of the IJH has caused outrage statewide, and on Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered at the South Tama County High School to talk about the positive impact of the home -- and why it should stay open.

They say it's not just for the community and employees, but for the potential for success they've seen in other girls who have left IJH.

"To be honest, I would probably be in prison," said Brianna Bender. It was the road she was going down before spending 11 months at IJH.

"Sometimes you get dealt a crappy hand of cards and you just have to find a way around it," said Chelsea Reasoner. She was bouncing around from facility to facility -- fighting every step of the way.

"IJH is the one place that gave me the level of care that I needed," Reasoner said.

Now, Bender is a mother of two, who said she can finally build stable relationships.  Reasoner just applied to college.

"I changed from an angry, bitter kid to (someone who) just graduated from high school, I live alone, I work. They made me successful," Reasoner said.

These women shared their stories Thursday night because they said closing IJH cuts off current and future residents from the same success.

"They're starting to develop a bond with the staff there and starting to trust, and by breaking that up, it's giving them another reason to not trust people and to not be successful," Bender said.

And it isn't just Bender and Reasoner -- teachers, social workers, business owners, and state representatives were at the meeting to say the same thing: closing IJH cuts off the last effective solution for so many of Iowa's troubled youth.

"Listen to our voices, it's not a bad place. It helps us. It really, really helps us," Bender said.

Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) said he thinks the decision to close the home comes from a combination of factors, both budgetary and political. He said the best chance of keeping IJH open is to put as much political pressure on the statehouse as possible. 
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