Susie’s Place Child Advocacy Center has been on the mind and in the hearts of many for more than a decade and is committed to strengthening the community’s ability to nurture and protect children and respond to child abuse in Indiana.
In 2005, Emily E. Perry joined the Indianapolis Institute for Families as a Clinical Associate and Director of Special Programs. At that time, the Indianapolis Institute for Families had provided the Child Abuse Treatment Program to Hendricks County for over 20 years. Shortly after joining the Institute’s team, Emily identified an opportunity within Hendricks County that had the potential to systematically improve the county’s ability to investigate allegations of child abuse while maintaining the child as the first priority. Hendricks county needed a Child Advocacy Center.
After over two years of talking about the development of a Child Advocacy Center, little to no progress was being made toward helping victims of child abuse in Indiana. In December, 2007 Emily coordinated an informational meeting to introduce the concept of a Child Advocacy Center to Hendricks County. Representatives from virtually every law enforcement jurisdiction in Hendricks County, the Hendricks County Prosecutors Office, the Hendricks County Department of Child Services, Hendricks Regional Health, and the Indianapolis Institute for Families attended this informational meeting. From that meeting, a Child Advocacy Center Steering Committee was developed.
Through the support and dedication of a number of individuals that participated on the Steering Committee, Susie’s Place celebrated its grand opening in April, 2009. Since that time, well over 100 child forensic interviews have been conducted at Susie’s Place. Susie’s Place has been utilized by 13 different law enforcement agencies and seven county Department of Child Services offices. Additionally, Susie’s Place has coordinated cases with child abuse investigators in four other states.
“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”
– Graham Greene
At Susie’s Place, we believe that “moment” mentioned in Graham Greene’s quote is when our door opens and a child walks in.
A very special thanks to the following child abuse investigators and other supporters for participating in the development of Susie’s Place:
- Lt. Jeff Hearon – Indiana State Police
- Det. Brian Smith – Indiana State Police
- Det. Brian Fowler – Plainfield Police Department
- Det. Terry Judy – Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department
- Patricia Baldwin – Hendricks County Prosecutor
- Georgeanna Teipen – Hendricks County Deputy Prosecutor
- Tamitha Hasty – Victim Assistance Coordinator
- Deb Berkey – Hendricks County Department of Child Services
- Sharon Stegemoller – Community Member
- Jim O’Bold – Community Member
- Mark Fairchild – Community Member
- Maria Larrison – Community Member
- Jay Rasmussen – Community Member
- Duke Energy Leadership Class 2008
Also, a special thanks to Donna Harcourt and Hollie Braun for designing the Susie’s Place logo.
About Susie Austin, Namesake
Susie Austin began her career with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department in 1968. By 1978, Susie was the first female Merit Deputy in Hendricks County and worked diligently to further her career with the Sheriff’s Department. Susie eventually became a Detective and finally a Lieutenant.
Susie paved the way for women in law enforcement in Hendricks County.
- As a Detective, Susie specialized in crimes against children and sex crimes. She was a constant advocate for the rights of children, families, and victims and strived to protect children while seeking justice.
- Founded Officer Teddy (1988), providing a teddy bear to each child victim of alleged abuse or neglect, rape victims, and children traumatized by domestic violence.
- Founded Teach-a-Bodies Program, offering Good Touch/Bad Touch programming in schools, churches, and local hospitals. The program spurred countless child molestation investigations resulting in numerous convictions.
Sadly, Susie was stricken with cancer in May, 2002. After 32 years of service, Susie was forced to retire from the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department in December, 2002.
In February of 2003, the Hendricks County community experienced a great loss in the passing of Susie Austin. Susie is survived by her husband, Ronnie Austin, and her daughter, Marisa (Vanek).
According to Susie’s family, Susie would be proud of the ongoing efforts to protect the children of Hendricks County from child abuse and honored that she was thought of during the development of the Hendricks County Child Advocacy Center. It is because of Susie Austin that Susie’s Place will finally come to fruition.