Ex-DCS chief Bonaventura joins AG’s staff as special counsel

Editor's note: This article has been updated.

Former Indiana Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura will join the Indiana Attorney General’s Office as special counsel Monday, a move that comes less than a month after she resigned from her DCS post with a scathing resignation letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Attorney General Curtis Hill announced Bonaventura’s move to his office on Wednesday. Prior to her tenure at DCS that began in 2013, Bonaventura served as a magistrate judge in the Lake County juvenile court until she was appointed in 1993 as senior judge of the Lake Superior Court’s juvenile division. Bonaventura will focus her efforts on addressing Indiana’s ongoing opioid crisis in her new role.

“I’m extremely pleased to bring aboard a leader of such caliber as Judge Bonaventura,” Hill said in a statement. “Her breadth of experience and depth of knowledge will continue to prove indispensable assets to the citizens of Indiana as she steps into this next phase of her distinguished public service.”

Bonaventura resigned from DCS on Dec. 27 after penning a resignation letter accusing Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration of making decisions that “all but ensure children will die.” Holcomb quickly appointed Terry Stigdon, Riley Hospital for Children clinical director of operations, as Bonaventura’s replacement.

Meanwhile, Indiana legislative leaders have said they have no plans to act on the growing DCS crisis during the 2018 legislative session. Holcomb, however, pledged to conduct a “transparent” review of the department during his State of the State address last week.

Local family law attorneys pointed to money problems and bureaucratic issues as the underlying causes of DCS’ troubles. Bonaventura alluded to similar issues in her resignation letter.

The former judge said Wednesday she plans to assist the AG’s office in its efforts to combat the opioid crisis, another factor contributing to the skyrocketing number of cases coming before DCS.

“I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to work with AG Hill on continuing the fight against the opioid crisis and tackling the many challenges facing Hoosiers and their families,” Bonaventura said in a statement.”

As special counsel, she will replace Hill’s senior adviser, who left the office in December. Bonaventura will work with the AG’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force and will advance Hill’s previously-announced efforts to implement the models of the Indiana Ten Point Coalition and Jail Chemical Addiction Program in communities throughout the state.

“She will draw upon her expertise in protecting the interests of children whenever appropriate,” Hill spokesman Bill McCleery said in an email to the Indiana Lawyer. The former Lake County juvenile judge will earn $125,000 annually.

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