Make your home page

Lawyers: Foster care program makes Indiana dangerous for children

A view of a lawsuit filed by foster children against Indiana and its Department of Child Services. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A federal complaint filed this week outlines the abuse of nine children while in care of Indiana Department of Child Services.

News 8 first reported on the lawsuit Thursday on

The lawyers who filed the complaint say the state’s foster care program is in crisis, and the actions and inactions of Child Services make Indiana a dangerous place for kids.

The 66-page federal lawsuit lays out a long list of allegations of failures by the Indiana Department of Child Services. The lawyers wrote that Indiana is failing in its most fundamental duty as custodian, keeping foster children safe and healthy.  

Marcia Lowry is the executive director and a lawyer for the advocacy group A Better Childhood. The nonprofit uses the courts to reform dysfunctional child welfare systems around the country. Her organization spearheaded the complaint.

Lowry says the Indiana’s Child Services director, Eric Miller, is at the center of their concern. “The outgoing commissioner said that children are going to die because this person had taken over the system. This person has now been appointed by the governor to run the child welfare system, and children in the system are in really serious trouble.”

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed Miller to lead Child Services three months ago. He had served as the agency’s chief of staff under Mary Beth Bonaventura. Her 2017 resignation letter to Holcomb complained about Miller. That letter is quoted in the complaint: “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 … (he) is bent on slashing our budget in ways that all but ensure children will die.”

Miller this week posted his first video to the Child Services’ YouTube page to announce changes in the leadership team. He did not address the federal complaint. His office sent a statement to I-Team 8 that said it declines to comment.

The governor’s office also declined to comment Friday.

Lowry says the state’s child welfare program is crisis. “There is basically no regard for the children. The system just doesn’t seem to pay any attention to them. They are simply being moved around and not getting the services they need. These are kids in state custody. They are not getting what the law and the constitution require.”

Lowry wants a federal judge to order massive changes to Indiana’s Child Services, including guarantees of timely and appropriate services and treatment, increasing the number of case workers, and improving the handling of medical records for foster children.