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Director of Indiana's Child Protection Agency resigns

WSBT 22

The leader of Indiana's Child Protection Agency says she can no longer protect children.

Mary Beth Bonaventura will resign December 27.

In a resignation letter Bonaventura says she feels "lives will be lost and families ruined" under Governor Eric Holcomb's approach to child welfare during what she calls the ongoing opioid crisis.

The letter gives insight into why the office will be without a director after five years.

Bonaventura's letter tells Governor Eric Holcomb she's quitting because of a push to cut costs under his administration. In the four-page letter she writes:

"I feel I am unable to protect children because of the position taken by your staff to cut funding and services to children in the midst of the opioid crisis... the chief of staff…is bent on slashing our budget in ways that all but ensure children will die."

The Indiana Youth Institute reports about six percent of children in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties live with grandparents as their parents battle addiction.

Bonaventura says she's worked to improve the office but is critical of a co-leader of the office. She claims she's been "stripped of the power to run DCS" by a chief of staff from Holcomb's office she accuses of "bullying subordinates" and cutting costs.

She points to a plan to reduce contracts with service providers by $15 million.

In a statement, Goveror Eric Holcomb says:"We are providing record funding to DCS with nearly half a billion dollars more in funding support over the next two years. We will continue to do all we can to protect children."

Bonaventura's letter has inspired another political leader to pen a plea-- House Minority Leader Terry Goodin says he's calling "full investigations" of DCS.

Bonaventura says she's willing to serve an additional two weeks, if requested.

Leaders from the South Bend Family and Children's Center say Bonaventura is a "true advocate for the children of Indiana."

Bonaventura sent a message to her staff that states:

"Good afternoon,

As we close 2017 and prepare to start a new year, we often reflect on the past. I have been reflecting on my time here at DCS, especially all the accomplishments we have achieved as an agency, and none more important than keeping Hoosier children safe.

I pray I have expressed how much all of you have meant to me since I arrived in 2013, which is why it is with a heavy heart that I inform you I will be resigning as the Director of DCS, effective December 27. In the meantime, I will be working with the Governor’s office on a transition plan for my position.

Please know it is your continuing service to Hoosier children and families that has positioned Indiana as one of the most respected child welfare and child support programs in the country. The work you are doing each day, in the midst of a drug epidemic like this country has never seen, is nothing short of astounding.

There are really no words to express how much you have poured into my life. When I left the bench, I did not think there was any work I would love more, but this position changed that. Although I won’t be here as the Director, I will always be the biggest advocate for children and the people who are serving them. There are many things I will miss about DCS, and the biggest is serving Hoosier children and families alongside the greatest team for which a child welfare director could ask. Thank you and may God bless all of you."

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