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Mary Beth Bonaventura

Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, was juvenile court judge in Lake County for 20 years prior to her 2013 appointment by Gov. Mike Pence.

We've known outgoing Indiana Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura as an ardent champion of child well-being and safety for years.

Many of us also have come to know Gov. Eric Holcomb as a reasonable leader who's taken the state to new economic and quality-of-life heights in his first year.

Holcomb should bring the best of his reasonable nature to bear when considering the concerns of Bonaventura as she resigns her state director's post.

It was Bonaventura's sterling track record as a Lake County juvenile court judge, coupled with her Republican Party affiliation, that no doubt attracted the attention of then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2013.

Pence anointed Bonaventura to lead a troubled Department of Child Services that year. At that time, the agency was reeling from unexplained spikes in child death and abuse cases.

Bonavetura was seen as the right person to help turn the agency around, and Holcomb seemed to agree.

In 2016, Holcomb announced he would retain Bonaventura as agency director, noting she was "widely respected for her bold service in the department."

"Her relentless passion for child advocacy will serve Hoosier families and children well for years to come," Holcomb said at that time. "I am proud to have her on our team."

Now, Bonaventura is resigning the post, "rather than be complicit in decreasing the safety, permanency and well-being of children, who have nowhere else to turn."

Bonaventura claims that since Holcomb took office in January 2017, she's been relegated to "DCS director in name only," with a chief of staff actually leading the agency and Holcomb's budget officials controlling its spending.

She argues the move has driven out valued career professionals, equated to bullying tactics and created a hostile work environment while diminishing child safety, among other complaints.

Holcomb has countered that Bonaventura's claims of detrimental cost-cutting are false, noting the agency received $200 million more in its 2018 and 2019 budget years than its base 2017 appropriation.

Holcomb has shown true signs of having the state's best interests, including those of its children, at heart.

That's why we're hoping it's not too late for Holcomb and Bonventura to discuss and consider each other's concerns on the crucial matter of protecting the state's most vulnerable children.

Abandoned, orphaned, abused and other vulnerable groups of Hoosier children rely on the Department of Child Services for their protection and very survival every day.

Two reasonable leaders should be able to work through these issues for the greater good.

A firm and united front is the only way forward for the protection of youth who need it the most.

Perhaps there are too many differences between Holcomb and Bonaventura for the partnership to be tenable, but that doesn't mean her concerns shouldn't be reviewed and addressed.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.