INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The longtime director of the Indiana Department of Child Services is stepping down after nearly five years as its chief.

Gov. Eric Holcomb's office says Mary Beth Bonaventura notified the governor Friday that she will resign, effective Dec. 27. Holcomb said in a statement that his office has begun searching for the next leader of what he called "this critical state agency."

Bonaventura was the top juvenile court judge for northwestern Indiana's Lake County when then-Gov. Mike Pence appointed her DCS director in January 2013.

She took over an agency roiled by news investigations into its handling of abuse and neglect cases after several children died in troubled homes reported to the agency.

Holcomb says Bonaventura has demonstrated an "unwavering commitment to keeping Hoosier children safe" as the agency's chief.