Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s former director of the Indiana Child Services Department, who left that post in protest of Holcomb policies that she publicly charged would lead to unnecessary child deaths, has been picked by the state’s chief justice to serve temporarily as a family court judge in the state’s largest county.
For Mary Beth Bonaventura, working on the judicial bench in Marion County, home to the capital city of Indianapolis, will be rather familiar. She spent more than 30 years in children’s court in Lake County.
Holcomb’s predecessor, Mike Pence, appointed Bonaventura to run his Child Services Department in 2013. Holcomb kept her on, but she sent a scathing letter of resignation to him in 2017, saying she could not in good conscience remain in the post amid the policies and budget cuts that she warned would leave her unable to adequately protect vulnerable children. “Children will die,” she wrote.
She was appointed last week to her new role under an order signed by Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush following the retirement of Judge Mark Jones.
How long Bonaventura will remain there is not clear. Her appointment is effective beginning today and will remain in effect only until Rush rescinds it. Earlier this week, a selection committee sent three nominees to Holcomb for consideration: Marion County magistrates Danielle Gaughan and Kelly Scanlan, and attorney Charles Miller.
According to the Indianapolis Star, after Bonaventura quit, Holcomb appointed a group to conduct a six-month assessment of child services, which found that department employees functioned in a “culture of fear” and that the state was removing children from homes at a much faster clip than neighbors with a narrower definition of neglect.