Governor appoints Bonaventura as DCS head

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Gov. Mike Pence named Lake Superior Juvenile Senior Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura as director of the Department of Child Services Wednesday.

Bonaventura has been involved with juvenile courts since 1982, when she began working in the court as a magistrate. She established and served as executive advisor for the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program in 1986. She was appointed judge in Lake Superior Court in 1993 after having served more than a decade as a magistrate in juvenile court.

She currently serves on the Juvenile Justice Improvement Committee and is a member of the board of managers for the Indiana Judges Association. She served as chair of various juvenile-relate groups, including the Child Welfare Improvement Committee.

She may be familiar to some for her role in several documentaries about juvenile court filmed by Karen Grau, which aired on MTV and MSNBC. The Indiana Supreme Court granted Grau access to Bonaventura’s 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," Pence said in a statement. "She is a strong leader who has an impeccable reputation of integrity and compassion for children."

The lifelong Lake County resident takes over as head of DCS following the resignation of director James Payne, a former Marion County juvenile judge, in September 2012 after news reports raised questions about his involvement in DCS actions pertaining to his grandchildren. The DCS has been the focus of news outlets and legislators recently after claims that several children died despite being reported to the agency as abused or neglected, for its decision to use a centralized reporting hotline, and how it has handled children with mental health issues.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R- Fort Wayne, said in a statement “no one in this state understands the intricacies of child welfare better than Judge Bonaventura, making her the perfect choice to lead DCS.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R- Indianapolis, said in a release that the judge will be leading the charge on one of the most crucial and sensitive issues in our state. “It is imperative for the Department of Child Services to have a fresh viewpoint overseeing the agency as we move forward with the many positive changes to best serve Hoosier children.”

There have been several bills introduced this session addressing DCS, including the creation of a committee on child services oversight and the ability for law enforcement and others to contact a local office of the DCS to report suspected abuse or neglect.



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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.