Terry Stigdon has departed as head of Indiana’s child welfare agency after four years to join the American Red Cross as CEO of its Indiana region. Her last day was May 5. Eric Miller, the agency’s chief of staff, has been appointed to replace her.
“It’s been an absolute honor and joy working alongside this team the last five years to serve Hoosier families and children, and I am so thankful the governor entrusted me with this opportunity,” Stigdon said in a press release. “We’ve made incredible strides in the child welfare system, and I am confident I am leaving the agency in capable hands that will continue this excellent progress.”
Under Stigdon’s leadership, the department has decreased the number of children in foster care by half and reduced reliance on congregate care, according to a press release from the Governor’s office. The agency also implemented extended foster care in 2019, serving youth up to age 21 for the first time and offering additional services until age 23.
“Terry leads with compassion, kindness and grace and has embraced all of Indiana’s children as if they were her own, and we are all better because of it,” said Gov. Eric Holcomb (R). “While I will miss her, I’m equally excited for her next chapter of service to others.”
A nurse by training, Stigdon worked in healthcare for two decades before entering the child welfare world. Eighteen of those years were spent managing clinical services at Indianapolis’ Riley Hospital for Children.
She took over the child welfare agency in 2018, when it was reeling from controversy. Her predecessor, Mary Beth Bonaventura abruptly resigned over concerns that she could not adequately keep children safe amid state budget cuts during the opioid crisis that caused a spike in foster care entries.
Back in 2021, Stigdon joined Fostering Media Connections — which publishes The Imprint — for a webinar featuring child welfare professionals who had come to the field by way of healthcare careers, alongside Charlene Wong who runs North Carolina’s child welfare system and Deborah Shropshire, who at the time led Oklahoma’s child welfare agency and now heads up the state’s entire human services department. In that conversation, Stigdon stressed the importance of a well cared- for child welfare workforce and a “psychologically safe” environment as the path to transforming the system.
“Coming to the Department of Child Services, the most important thing to me were the people,” she said. “How well were they cared for and able to do the very difficult work that they already have to do. And so I prioritized them — knowing that I wasn’t the expert in the child welfare world — but looking at child abuse and neglect from a public health lens and saying, what can I offer as a nurse to care for these people and help them see this very differently?”
Miller, who started his new role as director on May 8, previously oversaw daily operations at the agency as chief of staff. He’s worked within the Indiana state government since 2007, most recently spending several years climbing the ranks at the state’s health department. He’s also worked as an analyst in the budget office and with the Department of Corrections.
“I am honored to lead DCS at this exciting time and confident my experience in government has prepared me to support DCS’ mission and programs,” Miller stated in the press release. “I appreciate Gov. Holcomb’s confidence in me, and I’m delighted to build on the important work started under Director Stigdon and continue to improve how we protect and serve our most vulnerable children and families.”