INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
The head of Indiana’s child welfare agency told the governor in a scathing
letter that she is quitting because his administration’s funding cuts and
changes to her agency had made it impossible to adequately protect the
state’s most vulnerable kids.
Bonaventura, who’s stepping down Dec. 27 after five years as director of the
Indiana Department of Child Services, warned in last week’s resignation
letter to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb that a continuation of his
administration’s policies will “all but ensure children will die.”
did not immediately reply to a Monday requests for a response to
Bonaventura’s letter, which was obtained by The Indianapolis Star.
In a statement
Friday announcing her resignation, Holcomb said he was grateful for
Bonaventura’s service and said she had demonstrated an “unwavering
commitment to keeping Hoosier children safe” as the agency’s chief.
But in her
resignation letter, Bonaventura said the administration is cutting her
budget and services amid Indiana’s opioid abuse crisis and she could no
longer in good conscience stand by and watch Indiana children “being
systemically placed at risk, without the ability to help them.”
“I choose to
resign, rather than be complicit in decreasing the safety, permanency and
well-being of children who have nowhere else to turn,” she wrote.
former Lake County juvenile court judge who has worked in child welfare for
36 years, was named DCS director in January 2013 by then-Gov. Mike Pence.
She took over an agency roiled by news investigations into its handling of
abuse and neglect cases after several children died in troubled homes that
had been reported to the agency.
In her resignation
letter, Bonaventura outlined four reasons she believes the state is
threatening children’s lives.
First, she said
Holcomb’s office has stripped her of the power to run the agency, making
Eric Miller her chief of staff even though he has no child welfare
experience. She wrote that Miller has used the position to make his own
hires, bully subordinates, expose the agency to lawsuits, override her
decisions and be “brazenly insubordinate,” making cost-cutting decisions
without her knowledge.
She said she has
repeatedly tried to secure additional funding, but Miller is “bent on
slashing our budget in ways that all but ensure children will die.”
immediately reply to messages seeking comment that were left Monday at his
and the governor’s offices.
that the second way the state is threatening children’s lives is by
jeopardizing the relationship she’s built with child welfare providers and
the work DCS has been trying to do to update its rates and licensing.
The third reason is
that DCS’ Child Support Bureau is “on the verge of collapse due to
antiquated technology,” which she said would affect prosecutors and every
parent who receives or pays child support.
Bonaventura warned that efforts by Holcomb’s office to reduce or cap
staffing levels of family case managers and child welfare attorneys “will
lead to disastrous results.” She said a plan to reduce contract amounts with
providers by nearly $15 million will leave more than 1,000 families without
appropriate court-ordered services, and that Holcomb’s office allowed DCS to
request only a fraction of the funding and staffing needed to protect kids.