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Indiana’s DCS director resigns in critical letter to Gov. Holcomb

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — 24-Hour News 8 has obtained a letter sent by now-former Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office.

Bonaventura submitted her resignation last week.

In the letter, she says, “I feel I am unable to protect children because of the position taken by your staff to cut funding and services to children in the midst of the opioid crisis. I choose to resign, rather than be complicit in decreasing the safety, permanency, and well being of children of who nowhere else to turn.”

The resignation letter lists several reasons as to why she is resigning. Holcomb’s chief of staff was criticized heavily, with Bonaventura writing, “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.” She also said “I have effectively been stripped of the power to run DCS for the last 11 months.”

State Senator Karen Tallian, a Democrat from LaPorte County said “She made a recommendation that they probably should hire close to 200 more. Yet what the Governor’s office is calling for, as far as I understand, is either cuts or a hiring moratorium.”

Tallian sits on the state’s Budget Committee which met Monday afternoon. Monday afternoon, Tallian told 24-Hour News 8 she is calling for a full investigation into DCS funding.

“And find out exactly what’s going on over there. Find out exactly what the Governor is proposing. And see why he’s asking for cuts when the Legislature has been adding money for them to add staff?” Tallian said.

On Monday morning, Indiana House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin released a statement, saying in part:

The circumstances surrounding this resignation raise some highly disturbing questions about the commitment this administration is showing toward protecting those children who are most at risk.

To hear that the director of DCS is leaving that post because the administration is pursuing policies that all but ensure children will die should give any reasonable person pause. Since taking the post, Mary Beth Bonaventura has done a praise-worthy job of bringing a measure of sanity to an agency that has seen its fair share of deserved criticism through the years.

The governor released this statement on Friday:

I am grateful to Director Bonaventura for her service at the Department of Child Services over the past five years. 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.

Holcomb released an additional statement on Monday:

As I said on Friday, 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.”