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Juvenile Home Employees Let Go Early

TOLEDO, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Now-former employees of the Iowa Juvenile Home say they expected their final day of work in the shuttering facility to be January 16, but when they arrived to work on Wednesday morning, they were greeted with changing locks and several state troopers, alerting workers that they needed to gather their things and leave.

Former IJH employees said they had been previously told there would be no early layoffs before the January 16 deadline, and were not alerted that Wednesday would be their final day of work.

"It was like being at a funeral. It was the worst funeral. You've got all these people coming up to you, saying they're leaving now and you don't know when you're going to see them again," said former youth service worker Sandy Bartling.

Bartling and fellow youth service worker Karen Gale have worked more than 50 collective years at the Iowa Juvenile Home -- putting in 10, sometimes 15, hour days to help Iowa's most troubled youth find some stability. Now, they are just as helpless.

"There's just absolutely nothing we can do," Gale said.

"It's somebody's agenda and it's so sad, it hurts all of us, but we're all adults and we'll move on. There's kids that, yes, we're the last resort (for); thank God there's a last resort, thank God there is some place that's not going to kick them out. Now they're in places that don't even know how to deal with some of these kids," Bartling said.

The Department of Human Services has placed all of the girls from the home into new facilities in Iowa, but Bartling and Gale said, IJH staff have been receiving disturbing phone calls indicating a negative trend in progress from both the new caretakers and the girls themselves.

"(They are) wanting to come back, wishing that they could come back, (saying) that things are very chaotic where they are -- where things are very stable when they were with us," Gale said.

The women said they will be looking for new jobs, and encourage their former colleagues to do the same, but they will also continue to stand behind a union lawsuit to keep the juvenile home open.

"We're really fighting and we're not going to let it go until someone tells us that we have to," Gale said.

"I did not expect for it to end this way for all of us, ever," Bartling said.

In response to the abrupt layoff, DHS said:

"There is a protocol in place for a layoff which includes collecting final time sheets, keys and state identification badges. Because the last youth left the facility Tuesday, requirements for onsite staff are minimal. Staff are being paid for their scheduled hours through the final layoff date/time whether or not their ongoing presence on campus is required."

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