Holcomb picks new Child Services director, calls for assessment of agency

Staff Report
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS—Gov. Eric Holcomb has named a veteran health professional to lead Indiana’s Department of Child Services and is calling for a complete assessment of the agency.

Holcomb named Terry J. Stigdon, who has worked at Riley Hospital for Children for nearly 20 years, as the next director of DCS, effective Jan. 22. Stigdon replaces Mary Beth Bonaventure, who quit after saying that she was no longer able to protect the children in the care of the agency because of budget cuts.

“I choose to resign, rather than be complicit in decreasing the safety, permanency and well-being of children who have nowhere else to turn,” Bonaventure said in a letter to the governor.

Former Gov. Mike Pence appointed Bonaventure, who had 31 years of experience in the Lake County juvenile system, to lead the agency in 2013.

Stigdon comes to the role with extensive experience at Riley Hospital where she is currently the clinical director of operations, overseeing strategy, finance, personnel, research and programs for several of the hospital’s key divisions.

Terry J. Stigdon has been named to lead Indiana’s Department of Child Services. Photo provided by governor’s office.

“Terry has in-depth, firsthand experience in the issues faced by the children and families served by Indiana’s Department of Child Services,” Holcomb said in a statement. “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.”

Stigdon has worked at Riley since 1998, where she began as a pediatric intensive care staff nurse before taking on progressively greater managerial responsibilities over the next two decades.

“I am honored by this incredible opportunity to put my experiences and passions to work as never before to improve the lives of children and families around the state,” Stigdon said in a statement. 

Stigdon has earned associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing as well as a master’s degree in nursing leadership and management. 

Sam Criss, current DCS deputy director, will serve as interim director for the agency.

Holcomb has also announced that he has asked a national nonprofit organization that specializes in improving child and family outcomes to conduct an assessment of DCS. That assessment, conducted by the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, will begin its work on Jan. 3.

The group has conducted similar projects in 20 other states. In Indiana, it has been asked to assess:

  • 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?

The DCS assessment is expected to be complete and delivered to the governor and the new director in spring of 2018. It will be used to inform future operations of DCS to ensure state resources are deployed most effectively so that all Hoosier children in need of services are kept safe and healthy. 

Indiana House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin of Austin issued a statement saying he had asked for a complete assessment of DCS and believes the legislature should be involved in the process.

“If the governor doesn’t want us to take part in his review, then the Legislature must study the situation on its own,” Goodin said in a statement. “Committees in both chambers should conduct hearings on this matter, and figure out if there is a need for legislative remedies.”

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