Bonaventura tackles tough tasks at child services agency

2013-07-31T17:00:00Z 2013-08-01T08:54:03Z Bonaventura tackles tough tasks at child services agencyDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
July 31, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Mary Beth Bonaventura revealed to a new state oversight panel Wednesday that she intends to be a transformational director of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Even with just four months on the job, Bonaventura said she's set her sights on reforming three of DCS' most significant and complicated duties: collecting and distributing child support, mitigating child abuse trauma and retaining staff.

The former Lake County juvenile court judge explained during the first meeting of the Child Services Oversight Committee that DCS processes more than $1 billion in child support every year — money she said thousands of Hoosier children rely on for their quality of life.

Bonaventura said DCS needs a better computer system to track and account for those funds as they come in and go back out. To that end, the agency has begun a multiyear project to implement a new child support information system, she said.

For children DCS encounters through abuse or neglect reports, Bonaventura said the department must do a better job reducing the trauma children experience due to and on removal from an abusive home.

She said DCS is beginning to work with health care and other service providers to prepare those children for new, safe and permanent homes.

"Our goal is to assess each and every child that's removed from the home within 30 days to make sure we can identify what that trauma is," Bonaventura said. "Then, within a short period of time thereafter, to provide them with services that will address the trauma."

She noted the trauma of encountering abuse is not limited to the affected children; DCS staff also suffer as a result of their work aiding those children.

That's why Bonaventura said DCS is developing systems and processes that will encourage staff to remain in their jobs and continue helping children. The agency is using pay raises, departmental recognition and other services geared toward promoting retaining employees, she said.

The Child Services Oversight Committee was established earlier this year following unexpected increases in child abuse deaths and a sense among state legislators that a former DCS director was unresponsive to their concerns. It is required to meet quarterly.

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