New Indiana DCS director named, department to undergo ‘complete assessment’

Terry Stigdon

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday that Terry J. Stigdon, RN, MSN will be the state’s next director at the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS).

Holcomb also requested a “complete assessment” of the department, which comes not long after Mary Beth Bonaventura announced she would be stepping down from the position. She wrote a scathing resignation letter saying his administration hindered her ability to protect children amid the ongoing opioid crisis by cutting services and her budget. She also claimed Holcomb’s chief of staff created a hostile work environment.

Stigdon is currently the clinical director of operations at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis—overseeing strategy, finance, personnel, research and programs for several of the hospital’s key divisions, including emergency, trauma and nursing.

“Terry has in-depth, firsthand experience in the issues faced by the children and families served by Indiana’s Department of Child Services,” Gov. Holcomb said. “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. 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 has been with Riley Hospital for Children since 1998. She began as a pediatric intensive care staff nurse and took on greater responsibilities over time.

“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,” Terry Stigdon said. “I look forward to working hand-in-hand with other agency leaders and the caring team of public servants at DCS to continue and improve our positive impact for kids and communities.”

Stigdon is a member of multiple organizations, such as the American Organization of Nurse  Executives, the Emergency Nurses Association and the Indiana Emergency Medical Services for Children Advisory Board.

“Terry brings years of experience in building strong teams that result in positive outcomes for vulnerable children,” Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Dr. Jennifer Walthall said. “Her expertise in developing specialty pediatric sexual assault programs and networks and in overseeing trauma, emergency medicine and behavioral health for Riley Hospital makes her ideally situated to take on the challenges of this position. She will make an incredible impact for Hoosier families.”

Stigdon’s first day with DCS will be January 22. Sam Criss, current DCS deputy director, will serve as interim director for the agency.

Gov. Holcomb’s call for a review of the department is part of a partnership with the Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group and will begin on Jan. 3. The group is a non-profit organization which has conducted similar projects in 20 other states.

Bonaventura claims she was stripped of the power to run DCS overthe past 11 months, and the chief of staff Eric Miller bullied subordinates. She wrote that she resigned instead of being complicit in “decreasing the safety, permanency, and well being of children who have nowhere else to turn.”

Holcomb’s office says the group will address the following topics, among others:

  • 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 group is expected to present their findings to the new DCS director in the spring of 2018.

“I’m encouraged and optimistic about what Indiana can accomplish to improve DCS and, in turn, the lives of Hoosier kids and families,” Gov. Holcomb said. “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.”

Indiana House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin issued a statement saying lawmakers need to be involved in the assessment.

“It is good to see that the governor has realized that there is more that needs to be done at DCS than simply saying that the agency is getting more funding.

“There is a need for a study of the agency. I do not think that the answer is simply to have a private organization conduct a review of DCS, with the very great likelihood that answers will not come until the 2018 session is over and the Legislature loses the opportunity to weigh in on whatever is discovered. There is a sense here that we are being asked to let the foxes guard the henhouse, and trust them to do what’s right.

“Lawmakers need to be a part of this study. Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed their concerns about the crisis facing DCS, and we think that our participation in finding solutions is critical.

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

“We intend to ask for these hearings at every opportunity during the 2018 session, starting next week. If legislation is demanded to conduct this business, we will file it.

“In all cases, these studies should be done in full view of the public, with a complete airing of the problems that plague this agency. The public deserves a chance to have its say.

“One of the stated purposes behind a short session is to address emergency matters. What could be a greater emergency than to protect the lives of children at risk?

“So, we thank the governor for saying that something needs to be done. Pardon us if we take a look at what’s going on as well.”