(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Governor Mike Pence has tapped a Lake County judge as the new head of the troubled Indiana Department of Child Services.
Mary Beth Bonaventura was announced Wednesday as the DCS director.
Bonaventura is the Senior Judge of the Lake Superior Court Juvenile Division - one of the toughest juvenile court systems in the state, according to the governor’s office. Bonaventura was appointed Senior Judge in 1993 by then-Governor Evan Bayh after having served more than a decade as Magistrate in the Juvenile Court.
"Judge Bonaventura is uniquely qualified to lead the state's Department of Child Services and help to protect Hoosier children from abuse and neglect," said Governor Pence. "She is a strong leader who has an impeccable reputation of integrity and compassion for children."
In 2008, Governor Mitch Daniels appointed Bonaventura as a member of the Indiana Commission on Disproportionality in Youth Services. In 2009, she was named Chair of the Civil Rights of Children Committee for the Indiana State Bar Association and then-Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard appointed her as Chair of the Child Welfare Improvement Committee.
Bonaventura takes over a state agency mired in criticism and bad publicity due to the mishandling of several high-profile abuse and neglect cases. Several children have died in troubled homes that had been reported to the agency in recent years, including 12-year-old Devin Parsons of Greensburg.
Much of the blame for those reports falling through the cracks has been directed towards the DCS’s use of a centralized phone reporting hotline. Legitimate reports that should have been investigated were instead screened out through the system.
Longitme DCS director James Payne resigned last July following a newspaper report that he interfered in a case involving his own relatives.