Riley Hospital official appointed new DCS director

A day after Mary Beth Bonaventura left her position as director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, the Gov. Eric Holcomb has announced the appointment of a new leader for the agency and has initiated a review to assess how the agency is operating.

Terry Stigdon, clinical director of operations at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis, has been tapped by Holcomb to lead DCS. She will start Tuesday. Sam Criss, DCS deputy director, is serving as interim director.

In announcing her appointment Thursday, Holcomb praised Stigdon’s work and experience.

“Terry has in-depth, firsthand experience in the issues faced by the children and families served by Indiana’s Department of Child Services,” Holcomb said. “She has dedicated her life to saving and improving the lives of young Hoosiers, and she will bring a passion for this critically important work.”

Sitgdon started at Riley in 1998 as a pediatric intensive care staff nurse. She then moved into management and eventually into her current position where she oversees strategy, finance, personnel, research and programs for several of the hospital’s divisions including emergency, trauma and nursing. 

“I am honored by this incredible opportunity to put my experiences and passions to work as never before to improve the lives of children and families around the state,” Stigdon said. “I look forward to working hand-in-had with other agency leaders and the caring team of public servants at DCS to continue to improve our positive impact for kids and communities.”

In addition, the governor announced Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, based in Alabama, has been hired to do an assessment of DCS. The issues Holcomb has asked the nonprofit organization to examine include funding, caseloads and staffing levels, and costs as well as the programs and systems that are in place to protect children and families.

The DCS assessment is expected to be completed in the spring of 2018. Although the governor’s office did not indicate how much the study would cost, it did say the report would be used to inform future operations of DCS to ensure state resources are deployed most effectively so that all Hoosier children in need of services are kept safe and healthy.

“I’m encouraged and optimistic about what Indiana can accomplish to improve DCS and, in turn, the lives of Hoosier kids and families,” Holcomb said. “With insights and guidance from the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group and strong leadership in place in our state agencies, Indiana is positioned for even better outcomes for children in the future.”  

Stigdon will replace Mary Beth Bonaventura, who resigned as director of DCS after charging the governor’s cuts to funding and services are putting children at risk. In her resignation letter to Holcomb, Bonaventura, a former Lake County juvenile court judge, wrote “…without serious change in the way the Governor’s office approaches child welfare and then needs of vulnerable children, I fear lives will be lost and families will be ruined.”

Bonaventura’s last day was Wednesday.

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