Marisa Kwiatkowski, writing for the Indy Star, has an article on the resignation by Mary Beth Bonaventura from her post as director of the State’s Department of Child Services. She was a Pence appointee to DCS and, prior to that, had been a Bayh appointee as judge of the Lake County Juvenile Court. So, she’s been in the child welfare business for a long time, and it sounds like she’s either bipartisan or non-partisan.
Her letter of resignation outlines four reasons for her departure. First, is the Governor’s choice of DCS chief of staff. (I had initially posted, incorrectly, that it was a very partisan Eric Miller, known for his campaigns in favor of socially conservative views. Turns out it was a different Eric Miller):
She said the governor’s office placed Eric Miller as her DCS chief of staff — someone with no child welfare experience — because he “was an asset during the campaign.”
Using the position and authority given by Holcomb’s office, Bonaventura argued, Miller has engineered his own hires, bullied subordinates, created a hostile work environment, exposed the agency to lawsuits, overridden her decisions, been ‘brazenly insubordinate” and made cost-cutting decisions without her knowledge. She said her attempts to “rein him in” haven’t been supported.
Second she says the works DCS has done to build a better relationship with child welfare providers and the work DCS been trying to do to update its rates and licensing is being undermined. A collaborative relationship is being returned to an adversarial one.
Third she says antiquated technology is threatening to wreck the Child Support Bureau and that the governor’s office has cancelled the plan for a new system despite years of work to secure federal approval and matching funds.
Finally, she says efforts to reduce or cap staffing levels of family case managers and child welfare attorneys “will lead to disastrous results.” She contends that DCS was permitted “to request only a fraction of the funding and staffing needed to protect kids.”
A lot of the complaints sound more or less like you could chalk it up to budgetary concerns. A good director is going to believe in the mission of his or her agency and will frequently chafe at budgetary constraints imposed from higher up where they are trying to balance a lot of different priorities. But, I doubt that can be the whole story. She managed under the Pence administration which, I don’t suppose was overly free with money when it comes to social welfare. So, it sounds like this might go beyond the usual penny pinching.
Social welfare spending can often seem like you’re pouring money into a black hole. The need is infinite, and it’s tough to see good results from the spending. At best, it seems like you are merely making bad situations less bad. But, at the end of the day, Ms. Bonaventura is correct that kids lives hang in the balance.