It is difficult to imagine a better selection for the new Indiana Department of Child Services director than Lake Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura.
Gov. Mike Pence, in announcing his selection of Bonaventura on Wednesday, said she is "uniquely qualified to lead the state's Department of Child Services and help to protect Hoosier children from abuse and neglect. She is a strong leader who has an impeccable reputation of integrity and compassion for children."
Bonaventura, an East Chicago native, has served in what Pence called "one of the toughest juvenile court systems in the state" since 1982, first as a referee, then magistrate, and since 1993 as judge.
This judge has a passion for protecting children. With the Indiana Supreme Court's permission, she has twice allowed TV cameras in her courtrooms in the hopes of showing teens what can happen when they stray too far from the beaten path.
She has seen the worst and knows what the law can do to help children in those circumstances.
In her role as DCS director, Bonaventura will be faced with implementing reforms rapidly moving through the Indiana General Assembly. Among them would be serving on the 16-member Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana, which the General Assembly should create this year.
The first DCS director, James Payne, was also a juvenile court judge when he was selected to run the new agency. Payne had much to do to improve the state's record on child protection. He resigned last September amid allegations he improperly got involved in a case involving his grandchildren.
Bonaventura must now take the DCS to the next level, not only implementing the reforms being considered by the General Assembly this year, but also looking for additional ways to protect Indiana's children.
Pence's selection of Bonaventura to head the embattled DCS is Lake County's loss, in a way, but also the state's gain. Her experiences here should put her in a good position to set things right at DCS.