CROWN POINT | Leaders of Lake County's law enforcement and legal communities cheered Lake Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura's appointment to oversee the investigation of child abuse and neglect.
"She'll knock ’em dead in Indianapolis," Chief Superior Court Judge John Pera said Wednesday afternoon. "She is the most cooperative, solution-driving person I know and a dear friend."
Bonaventura's appointment creates a vacancy in the Lake Superior Court, although it is unclear which court will be vacant until the other Superior Court judges decide whether they prefer to take over the juvenile court and detention center with its $6 million budget and 169 employees.
Elena Dwyre, CEO of Campagna Academy in Schererville, said Bonaventura has always been an advocate for children and worked with DCS Regional Manager Jane Bisbee to reduce the number of children sent out of Lake County for residential care when the children’s needs could be provided within Lake County.
Campagna is a nonprofit that provides care to at-risk youths.
“I think her compassion and dedication to the children in this area has been wonderful and, to know that now she’ll be having an effect statewide, I’m very much looking forward to her leadership,” Dwyre said.
House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis, congratulated Bonaventura.
"(Her) background is extremely impressive, and considering her track record, she will be a great addition to Gov. Pence’s team. It is imperative for the Department of Child Services to have a fresh viewpoint ... as we move forward with the many positive changes to best serve Hoosier children."
Senior Civil Division Judge Gerald Svetanoff said, "She had the ability to organize the court, and that's important. What little I know about this (DCS) agency, it's in some disarray. It needs someone with a hands-on ability to take control and do what's right."
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller, who has known Bonaventura for 20 years, said the judge saved children for whom others had given up hope.
He credited Bonaventura for professionalizing the juvenile court staff.
“Although we will miss the fine work she does in juvenile court, we wish her the absolute best of luck and know she will be a great success,” Miller said.
Michael Jasaitis, president of the Lake County Bar Association, said Bonaventura is “exceptionally qualified and will do a wonderful job in this new venture."
"Her selection is another example of the strength of the judicial officers in this area of the state," Jasaitis said.
Former Sheriff Roy Dominguez said he remembers Bonaventura when they both were deputy county prosecutors several decades ago.
"Her appointment is a real tribute to two decades of tireless work. It's our loss, but a great gain for Indiana because she is a wonderful person and will be missed in in our community," Dominguez said.