Governor Eric Holcomb has selected Terry Stigdon as the next director of the Indiana Department of Child Services. Stigdon, who currently serves as clinical director of operations at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis, succeeds Mary Beth Bonaventura, who announced her resignation earlier this month in a letter criticizing the administration for cutting funding for the agency. The governor has also tapped the Alabama-based Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group to conduct a complete assessment of the DCS. 

Stigdon has been a part of Riley Hospital since 1998. In her current role, she is responsible for overseeing strategy, finance, personnel, research and programs for several divisions, including emergency, trauma and nursing. Holcomb says Stigdon's experience makes her a prime candidate to lead the DCS.

"She has dedicated her life to saving and improving the lives of young Hoosiers, and she will bring a passion for this critically important work," Holcomb said in a news release. "Working in partnership with Dr. Walthall at the Family and Social Services Administration and Dr. Box at the Department of Health, Terry will help our state improve DCS service to children in need."

Stigdon will assume her new role January 22. Until that time, DCS Deputy Director Sam Criss will serve as interim director of the agency.

The nonprofit Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group will next week begin its assessment of the DCS. Holcomb's office says the group will evaluate several issues, including:

• Are systems in place to assure that children and families are healthy and safe?

• Is funding being utilized in the most appropriate ways to best serve children and taxpayers?

• Are caseloads appropriate for staffing levels? What staffing adjustments should be made?

• Are DCS program outcomes appropriate for services provided to Indiana children and families?

• How do Indiana’s case load numbers, costs and program outcomes compare to other states and the nation?

"I’m encouraged and optimistic about what Indiana can accomplish to improve DCS and, in turn, the lives of Hoosier kids and families," said Holcomb. "With insights and guidance from the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group and strong leadership in place in our state agencies, Indiana is positioned for even better outcomes for children in the future."

Our partners at WIBC in Indianapolis report Bonaventura criticized Holcomb's administration for not only slashing funding, but damaging relationships with foster parents, placement agencies and treatment centers. In her resignation letter, she said those moves would "all but ensure children will die."

The assessment is expected to be complete and delivered to the governor and Stigdon in the spring. Holcomb's office says the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group has conducted similar assessments in 20 other states.