Indiana's children will be better off because of Child Welfare Scholar graduates


The director of the Indiana Department of Child Services told Child Welfare Scholars graduates the lives of children across Indiana will be better off because of them.

"Let me say thank you for choosing this line of work for your life’s work," said Mary Beth Bonaventura, the director of DCS. Bonaventura, who previously served as the juvenile court judge in Lake County, joined Indiana University School of Social Work Dean Michael Patchner at the Indiana University School of Social Work recently to congratulate the Bachelor and Master of Social Work students that will either join DCS or already work there.

Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura Judge Bonaventura noted the agency touches the lives of people all over Indiana. At any given time, the DCS has about 15,000 open children in need of services cases. “I can sit up in the ivory tower and make plans and try to give you all the support you can have, but it is really the decisions that you and your supervisors will make when it is all said and done,” she said. “There isn’t anybody more important to this work than the people in this room,” she said of the graduates.

Judge Bonaventura said no one would call their job glamorous, but it is the most important work anyone could do. They will find themselves going into homes where they have no idea of what has just occurred there or the state of mind of the people they will be dealing with. But as advocates for children, they will improve the lives of the children and families they work with. “I congratulate you for doing this work.”

Dean Patchner echoed the judge’s words, telling the graduates “there is not a more important job because you literally have children’s lives in your hands on a daily basis.”

The dean told the graduates the training and education they received is a product of a partnership between DCS and the School of Social Work that has helped Indiana become a model of how to protect children.

After arriving at Indiana University in 2000, he began efforts to start what has become the Child Welfare Education and Training Partnership. Initially, it began as a small program to help employees of DCS earn their MSW degrees. The program expanded and includes BSW as well as MSW students from public schools of social work in Indiana.

“I believed in my heart that if we were going to improve child welfare we were going to partner with DCS and bring our resources together, address the issues and work on making Indiana better for children and their families.”

Dean Michael PatchnerThe dean noted that in recent years family case managers struggled to do their work because of heavy case loads. In some cases child welfare employees had 60 to 70 cases and simply were not able to do their jobs. It was crisis management, he noted. That led to situations where children were removed from homes that did not need to be removed to at least ensure the child’s safety.

Under the direction of former Gov. Mitch Daniels, the number of case managers was doubled and the case loads were reduced. “We see much better outcomes for children in Indiana,” he said. “I know why we had such success. We had social workers infused into the system and we got those caseloads down to where people could do their job,” he added.

The dean told the new graduates they will make decisions that will impact children for the rest of their lives.

Press Release Contact:
Rob Schneider
(317) 278-0303