New Indiana child services chief aims to cut burnout

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The incoming director of the Indiana Department of Child Services says her goals include figuring out how to reduce caseworker burnout and working with the Legislature to improve the agency's operations and the welfare of children.

Lake Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura told The Times of Munster for a story published Sunday that she hopes her conversations with DCS employees will help her figure out how to reduce turnover and burnout among its caseworkers.

One challenge they face, she said, is needing to quickly make decisions that carry huge ramifications.

Bonaventure said her new job will require reaching out to others and fine-tuning the accomplishments of her predecessor, James Payne.

Bonaventura said Payne, a former juvenile court judge in Indianapolis, was her mentor.

"He was the pioneer, and I'm probably the settler," she said. "I thank him. Today, DCS is a better agency than it was eight years ago."

However, Payne left behind an agency not only marked by high turnover by caseworkers but one roiled by news investigations into its handling of abuse and neglect cases after several children died in troubled homes. Lawmakers and children's advocates blamed a centralized reporting hotline for "screening out" calls that should have been investigated.

Payne resigned last year amid allegations he improperly intervened in a DCS neglect case involving his grandchildren. He denied wrongdoing.

Bonaventura said she will focus on recommendations for improving the hotline determined by lawmakers last year. Legislation to also establish a state commission on children is pending in the General Assembly, and Bonaventura said it would be a partner with DCS.

"It can only help," she said. "We need partners. The court can't do it alone and DCS can't do it alone."

Bonaventura said she also wants to visit all 92 of Indiana's counties to speak directly with judges, regional DCS directors and caseworkers.

"I want them to see my face," she said. "I want them to tell me how I can do this better."

Bonaventura said she will continue to closely watch a DCS pilot project that officials hope will close the gap in providing mental health services for children.

The East Chicago native, appointed the senior judge of Lake Superior Court's Juvenile Division by former Gov. Evan Bayh in 1993, has been a leader in statewide efforts to improve the lives of children, chairing the Civil Rights of Children Committee for the Indiana State Bar Association and the Child Welfare Improvement Committee of the Indiana courts.

Gov. Mike Pence appointed Bonaventura in late January. She has not yet taken over the agency because some juvenile cases in Lake County remained pending and no successor for her had been determined. The Indiana Supreme Court named an interim juvenile court judge last week.

Bonaventure said her appointment was "like a dream come true, really."

"I will work every minute of the day to make sure I don't let anyone down," she said.


    You can do better by getting rid of the biased one-sided system. DCS, the GAL and Custody Evaluators pick who they want to win and lie about the other parent. My case has lasted over two years costing me nearly 200K and during this time my children have lived solely with their father, I've been termed uncapable of parenting b/c I have a Personality Disorder NOS. 4 therapists have recommended the kids are in NO harm with me and yet I've not had my kids returned yet. They ordered me to a 5th Dr hoping one will side with them. They will keep doing this b/c once you're in the system, they won't let you get out! My oldest has gained nearly 100 pounds in 2 years and now has gynecomastia on the verge of pre-diabetic. Two haven't had their meds as prescribed and are missing other necessities such as glasses, braces and orthotics. It took a court order to make the father take them to the Dr and dentist and he doesn't do their recommendations! He just collects child support from me as I watch my oldest kill himself slowly! The system is very flawed! These kids NEED returned to their Mommy!

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I still don't understand how the FBI had any right whatsoever to investigate this elderly collector. Before the Antiquities Act it was completely legal to buy, trade or collect Native American artifacts. I used to see arrow heads, axes, bowls, corn grinders at antique shops and flea markets for sale and I bought them myself. But that was in the late 60's and early 70's. And I now know that people used to steal items from sites and sell them. I understand that is illegal. But we used to find arrow heads and even a corn grinder in our back yard when I was a child. And I still have those items today in my small collection.

  2. I lived in California and they had many of the things noted in the proposed suggestions from the "Blue Ribbon Panel". California is near financial collapse now. Let's not turn the great state of Indiana into a third world dump like California.

  3. The temporary closure of BR Avenue will get a lot of attention. But, one thing reported by the IndyStar really stands out to me, and is extraordinarily depressing: “Police also have agreed to crack down on noise violations, traffic violations and public intoxication.” In other words, the police have generously agreed to do their jobs (temporarily, at least), instead of just standing around waiting for someone to call 911. When is someone in this department going to get off their fat arse (looking at you, Chief), get their minds out of 1975-era policing and into 2014, and have his department engage in pro-active work instead of sitting around waiting for someone to be shot? Why in the hell does it take 7 people getting shot in one night in one of the city’s biggest tourist destinations, to convince the police (reluctantly, it would appear) that they actually need to do their f’n jobs? When is the Chief going to realize that there’s a huge, direct, proven correlation between enforcing the law (yes, all laws, especially those affecting quality of life) and preventing larger crimes from occurring? Is it racial BS? Is that what this extraordinary reluctance is all about? Is the department and the city terrified that if they do their jobs, they might offend someone? Whom, exactly? Will the victims of violence, murder, assault, rape, robbery, and theft be offended? Will the citizens who have to tolerate their deteriorating quality of life be offended? Will the businesses who see their customers flee be offended? Or, is it simple ignorance (maybe the Chief hasn’t heard about NYC’s success in fighting crime - it’s only the biggest g*&#am city in the country, after all)? Either way, Chief, if you don’t want to do your job, then step down. Let someone who actually wants the job take it.

  4. I thought Indiana had all the funding it needed for everything. That's why the state lottery and casino gambling were allowed, as the new tax revenue would take care of everything the state wanted to do.The recommendations sound like they came from California. Better think about that. What is the financial condition of that state?

  5. I was a fan of WIBC in the morning, Steve was the only WIBC host that I listened too, he gave the news with so much flare that I enjoyed listening to him on my way to work. Katz is no Steve. Sadly, I will not be listening to WIBC anymore.