By Brenda L. Holmes
AVON — Susie’s Place, Hendricks County’s Child Advocacy Center, opened its doors just three and a half years ago, but the agency quickly outgrew its space. This week, the staff and board of directors held a grand re-opening event at their new center in Avon, which more than triples its space.
“This has been quite a challenge for the staff and our teams,” said Emily Perry, executive director for Susie’s Place. “We closed one center, moved, and re-opened here in just one week.”
She said the space will enable the center to do more work for the children of Hendricks County and surrounding communities.
Susie’s Place is Hendricks County’s Child Advocacy Center. The facility employees trained forensic interviewers who help children who have experienced abuse or witnessed a violent crime tell their story. The center is designed to be child friendly.
During interviews, there is a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) that can watch and make sure they don’t have any more questions for a child. Members of these teams come from law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, and Child Protective Services.
Georgie Teipen works in the Hendricks County Prosecutor’s office and is part of the MDT system.
“This space will enable us to do more interviews and will help with scheduling,” Teipen said. “Now we can have multiple teams here or have multiple interviews going on. This is huge for us.”
Teipen had worked for the prosecutor’s office when the MDT system was first put into place. She’s back on the Hendricks County team and said the process has gotten event better.
“It has gotten even more effective,” she said. “I try to be at all the interviews that I can, but I can’t always be here. The process is in place so I can pick it up and get things filed. It’s a good team and the people here are unbelievable.”
MDT member Alyson Ritter is a detective with the Plainfield Police Department. She said she remembers when the team process was first introduced.
“It was rough wen we first started the MDT idea,” she said. “Now I may be biased, but we’re much more cohesive now and we really work together. This couldn’t have happened without Susie’s Place.”
She said the move to the larger space has been very positive to the teams.
“This new center offers us the much needed space,” Ritter said. “We were literally stepping over each other at the other Avon office. And when we had multiple families waiting, they were so crowded. This space is definitely a plus.”
Perry said she’s still realizing just how much Susie’s Place has grown over the past few years. The Avon center is on pace to do nearly 900 interviews in 2012. The organization has a second location in Bloomington that handles nearly the same volume of cases.
She thanked numerous people including the staff, board of directors, team members, and the Circle of Friends — the center’s group of volunteers.
“I also have to thank Rick Bowman of Avon Insurance,” Perry said. “He has done so much work and always volunteers to help us out. And to my husband, Brian (Perry), thank you so much. We’ve been through three grand openings together. Gosh, it’s just so nice to have a husband that believes in what I do.”
Susie’s Place is a non-profit organization and operates mainly on fundraising events and contributions from the community. The next fundraiser for the organization is Masquerade Mayhem at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Washington Township Pavilion Center in Avon.