ALL IN FOR KIDS: New Zoey’s Place director has strong record of child advocacy

HANCOCK COUNTY — As the mother of a teenage daughter, Crystal Wiley knows how important it is for children to grow up in a safe environment.

It’s one reason why she’s dedicated her career to helping youth in need. From doing investigations on child abuse to finding neglected children a safe place to live, Wiley is a trained professional who is now ready to make a difference in Hancock County.

Out of approximately 100 candidates who expressed interest in being the first executive director of Zoey’s Place, the Hancock County Child Advocacy Center, Wiley was the one officials selected to lead the start-up program.

Zoey’s Place is expected to open its doors as soon as this spring.

Wiley, an Indianapolis resident, officially starts the new job Thursday, Jan. 23, and will set up an office inside the new advocacy center, located in a former home at 953 West North St. Zoey’s Place will provide a comforting environment for children who have been abused and neglected. Instead of being interviewed about their traumatic experiences in an environment that can be intimidating — such as a detective’s office — Zoey’s place is designed to feel almost like home to children forced to relate details of what they endured.

“I’m so excited for this opportunity and to be in the community,” Wiley said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

Wiley likes the fact Zoey’s Place is located in a former family home, which she said will help families, particularly children, feel more at ease and secure when she’s trying to find out about the issues they’ve gone through.

Officials have already started moving furniture into the facility and are waiting for recording equipment to be installed before they can set an official opening date. But hiring the executive director is a sure sign they’re close.

Wiley describes herself as a person with a big heart when it comes to working with children to make sure their stories are told as well as securing their futures.

She has 20 years of child welfare experience, which includes working with Choices Inc., a nonprofit in Marion County that works with troubled young people. At Choices, she helped find secure placement for children, and she also has several years of experience as a consultant working through the Indiana Department of Child Services. She also has experience with foster care programs, she said.

Wiley did her undergraduate work at Marian University. She also has a masters degree in social work from IUPUI and a masters degree in business management/health care administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, according to her LinkedIn profile. That made her uniquely qualified for the job of overseeing as well as running the program, Zoey’s Place board members said.

“I’d have to say we’re very excited to have her,” board president Katie Molinder said. “She’s got that real experience in child welfare including going out with officers doing investigations.”

Wiley will make $65,000 per year, money the board was able to secure through the Victims of Crime Act Victim Assistance Formula Grant Program that supports local government and community-based victim services.

Zoey’s Place board members will apply for the grant each year to fund the executive director’s salary.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton was one of the people on the five-person committee who helped select Wiley for the position. He said it’s exciting to see the program get to this stage after almost five years of planning to build an advocacy center for children.

“It’s almost unbelievable to think that it’s all really going to happen,” Eaton said. “We’re really excited to have her on board and are thankful for all the work the team did going through all the qualified applicants.”

Eaton noted they needed someone with great qualifications capable of handling the responsibility of getting the program off the ground and running smoothly.

“We needed someone to take a program that is still sort of in the start-up phase and develop it along to where it becomes a strong community resource,” Eaton said.

Wiley was so excited about the possibility of getting the job, she even applied twice, sending in two resumes, one through the email and another through a social media site just to make sure officials didn’t overlook her. But, there was no way that was going to happen, officials said.

Bridget Foy, detective sergeant with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, is also a board member and one of the people who has pushed hardest to open the child advocacy center. Foy said the moment she saw Wiley’s resume, she had a pretty good feeling she would be a good fit for the position.

“She stood out among the applicants; I’m not even going to lie about it,” Foy said. “When I saw her resume, I thought, ‘That’s top of the heap right here.’”

With so much experience in the field of child advocacy, Wiley knows what she’s getting into and said working with abused children is difficult. Through the years, she has learned to try and not take the job home with her, which she admits can be easier said than done.

“You’ll see a lot of trauma in a job like this because you see a lot of people’s pain,” Wiley said. “It’s tough stuff.”

2020-10-19T18:35:22+00:00January 16th, 2020|Daily Reporter, Zoey's Place|

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