INDIANAPOLIS – In a four-page scathing letter to Governor Eric Holcomb, outgoing Indiana Department of Child Services director Mary Beth Bonaventura alleges children are being put at risk.
Bonaventura is stepping down, effective December 27.
Bonaventura said she’s been stripped of power to run DCS for the past 11 months, and that the Governor’s office selected Eric Miller to be chief of staff, despite Miller having no welfare experience. Miller helped run Holcomb’s campaign.
"The current chief of staff has engineered the hiring of his choices, driven out career professionals, engaged in bullying subordinates, created a hostile work environment, exposed the agency to lawsuits, overridden my decisions, been brazenly insubordinate, and made cost cutting decisions without my knowledge or regard for the consequences,” Bonaventura said in the letter. “I am truly the DCS director in name only. The current chief of staff, with the position and authority he has been given by your office, is the greatest threat to this agency and child welfare.”
Governor Holcomb's office released this statement about Bonaventura's resignation:
"I'm grateful for Director Bonaventura's years of service and her commitment to keeping Hoosier kids safe. I share that commitment and that's why the state continues to make investments in the agency. We are providing record funding to DCS with nearly half a billion dollars more in funding support over the next two years. We will continue to do all we can to protect children."
Call 6 Investigates has reached out to Miller for a response, but we are still waiting to hear back.
Bonaventura also alleges the Child Support Bureau, a division within DCS, is on the “verge of collapse” due to antiquated technology.
“The collapse will affect not only DCS, but the prosecutors, every noncustodial parent in Indiana that pays child support, and every child and custodial parent that receives child support,” read the letter. “With no alternative plan for modernizing child support, the administration risks a financial crisis for millions of Hoosier families, as the collapse of ISETS will stop ordinary child support payments from getting to children.
Bonaventura said she’s worked hard to develop relationships with foster parents, child placing agencies and residential treatment facilities, however she alleges the new administration is undermining that work.
The outgoing DCS director warns current efforts to cut staffing in crucial areas, such as family case managers and child welfare attorneys, “will lead to disastrous results.”
She also expressed concern about the increased number of children entering the child welfare system in the past four years due to the opioid crisis.
“Only once society has found a solution to opioid abuse and its consequences, would it be appropriate to even think about cutting funding to child welfare,” read the letter.
Bonaventura alleges a plan to cut $15 million from providers will leave more than 1,000 without needed, court-ordered services.
“Without serious change in the way the Governor’s office approaches child welfare and the needs of vulnerable children, I fear lives will be lost and families ruined,” the letter ended.
Then-Gov. Mike Pence appointed Bonaventura in 2013. The governor has begun the search for a new director to lead agency.
“I am grateful to Director Bonaventura for her service at the Department of Child Services over the past five years,” said Holcomb in an statement to RTV6. “ She has demonstrated unwavering commitment to keeping Hoosier children safe and has led this important state agency in the midst of a growing opioid epidemic that has impacted so many families.”
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