A high-powered committee convenes Wednesday for work that bodes well for Indiana children. The State Commission on Improving the Status of Children is comprised of the top officials in charge of services for the states youngest residents.
The commission was established under Senate Enrolled Act 125, authored by Sens. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, and John Broden, D-South Bend, to address long-standing problems in Indianas child protection services. Department of Child Services Director James Payne resigned last September after a troubled tenure of nearly eight years. DCS drew complaints from judges, service providers, child advocates, health officials and lawmakers across the state as spending was slashed and control was shifted from counties to Indianapolis.
After years of failing leadership, the powerful panel is an encouraging sign the state is moving in the right direction. With Supreme Court Justice Loretta Rush as chair, Gov. Mike Pence sends a strong message that Indiana intends to do whats best for its children.
This unprecedented cross-agency collaboration is vital, Rush said in a news release. All three branches of government are coming together to realize overall systems improvements for Indianas youth.
Holdman, who co-chaired last years DCS oversight committee, said Rush was insistent on naming top state executives to the commission.
Her fear was that if they delegated the work to others, we would lose the consistency and urgency, he said.
Coordination and even consolidation of some of the 31 boards and agencies involving children are likely to be among the goals, he said.
Holdman said hes pleased with the new direction of DCS, first under interim director John Ryan and now under Mary Beth Bonaventura, the former Lake County Juvenile Division judge appointed by Pence in February.
Director Bonaventura got right in and got to work – collaborating with provider groups, foster homes – trying to turn the page on some of the issues, he said. In fact, when John Ryan came in, that was a breath of fresh air. People decided it was time to get along and stop some of the bickering and complaining.
Holdman said he is optimistic about the states direction.
I know there are going to be slip-ups. This is an imperfect world, an imperfect system, but weve made some huge steps administratively. Just using a more common-sense approach is bound to be helpful to us.
The bold statement the administration has made in filling the commission is an excellent sign that Indiana children finally will be Priority One.