James W. Payne, the director of the Indiana Department of Child Services since 2004, submitted his resignation letter Monday to Gov. Mitch Daniels. The resignation comes after news reports raised questions about his involvement in DCS actions pertaining to his grandchildren.
The Indianapolis Star began reporting Saturday that Payne became involved in his grandchildren’s case in 2010, in which the children were taken from their mother as she and Payne’s son were involved in a divorce and custody battle. Further stories published over the weekend indicated that Payne consulted with his son’s attorney and drafted a legal brief that was highly critical of his agency’s work on the case.
In his resignation letter, Payne alluded to the Star story and called the impact of it on his family and grandchildren “tragic beyond belief.”
“I will not allow this personal, family tragedy to be misused to distort the positive performance of all DCS employees, which has been recognized across the nation as one of the biggest turnaround stories.”
Payne’s resignation comes as the DCS faces scrutiny in the Indiana General Assembly, including for the screening process of abuse reports made to its centralized hotline.
Daniels praised the work Payne and the DCS have done over the last eight years.
“Attacks on his record have ranged from innocently ignorant to despicably political and self-interested,” Daniels said in a news release. “His resignation does not alter the plain truth that thousands of Indiana children are better off, and many are alive only because of the passionate and devoted leadership of this fine public servant.”
Daniels appointed Payne as director in 2004 to head up the newly created DCS. Before joining the agency, Payne was a juvenile judge in Marion County for 20 years.
DCS Chief of Staff John Ryan will serve as director.