Gov. Eric Holcomb is showing encouraging signs he's willing to do what it takes to improve state services provided to the most vulnerable Hoosiers.
On Thursday, Holcomb announced a new Department of Child Services director, Terry Stigdon, would assume the reins following the recent resignation of Region native and former Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura from the DCS post.
On her way out, Bonaventura lamented a lack of state resources being channeled to the children, often in situations of abuse or other danger, who are served by DCS.
Though she clearly had differences with Holcomb, it's good to see Holcomb responding to the situation with urgency.
Stigdon, who will take over the agency Jan. 22, appears to have a pedigree of high-level service to children. Stigdon will be leaving a post as clinical director of operations for acclaimed Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis to take on the DCS role.
At Riley, Stigdon reportedly oversaw strategy, finance, personnel, research and programs of the hospital's key divisions, including emergency, trauma and nursing, according to the governor's office.
Meanwhile, Holcomb also has directed the Indiana Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group to audit DCS funding and practices, including probing whether:
- systems are in place to assure children and families are healthy and safe.
- funding is being used in the best and most appropriate ways to serve children and taxpayers.
- staffing levels are appropriate for caseloads.
- the agency is reaching appropriate resolutions for children and families in need of the state's services.
Holcomb also is seeking empirical data to determine how Indiana DCS's caseload, costs and programs compare to other states and the nation.
This last point is crucial.
DCS has been plagued in recent years by climbing cases of abuse and child death in our state.
An empirical audit could be the best way of determining the optimum response and fixes for this problem.
In an editorial last week, we asked the governor to listen to the overtures of the departing Bonaventura, who we've known to be a dogged and perennial champion of children, regarding the state of programs and funding at DCS.
Holcomb's recent director appointment and call for an agency-wide review appear to be in keeping with that admonition.
It's time to gather the evidence and act appropriately on the findings.