Child support specialist honored with state award

GREENFIELD — To many staffers in the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office, Susan Sherwood is a friend and a mentor. For more than 13 years, she has worked as a child support specialist, working closely with the local courts to hold people not paying child support accountable.

It’s a job that has earned her praise from her superiors and fellow staff; now, she has been recognized on the state level.

Sherwood of Greenfield is the 2015 recipient of the Beatrice Deuel Award, a state recognition handed out each year to child support specialists who co-workers believe is the glue that holds their office together.

She recently received the honor at the 39th annual Indiana Child Support State Conference, a meeting conducted by the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

Prosecutor Brent Eaton said Sherwood is dedicated, hardworking and a strong asset to the prosecutor’s office.

“It always means a lot when someone who goes about quietly doing good work behind the scenes is recognized,” Eaton said. “We’re very proud of her and happy she’s on our team.”

Sherwood joined the prosecutor’s office in 2002. At that time, Hancock Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow was serving as prosecutor, and Sherwood said she didn’t know much about child support or the local support system.

“I just saw an (advertisement) for the position and applied,” she said. “I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”

Since then, she’s worked under five prosecutors. And even though the leadership changes, and people come and go, her job has remained roughly the same.

The duties of Child Support Divisions in each county’s prosecutor’s office are laid out in Indiana law, Sherwood said. Specialists work to establish paternity, create and enforce child support orders and locate a child’s biological parents.

Even though these tasks can be tough, Sherwood said, her job is satisfying.

“It’s a feel-good job,” she said, “because you know you’re helping kids get the support they need.”

Sherwood was nominated for the honor by Natalie Benavente, Hancock County’s child support administrator. In her nomination essay, Benavente called Sherwood a no-nonsense but compassionate caseworker.

Sherwood’s knowledge of the state’s child support system is unmatched, Benavente said, and she is always willing to assist with co-workers’ cases.

Even after suffering a stroke, Sherwood wasn’t set back at work; she was determined to get back to her duties as quickly as she could, and she did, Benavente said.

“She picked back up right where she left off without missing a beat,” Benavente said.

The Deuel Award was created in honor of Beatrice Deuel, a longtime staffer at the St. Joseph County prosecutor’s office in northern Indiana.

Ethan McKinney, director of the child support division in St. Joseph County, said that upon Deuel’s retirement roughly eight years ago, the county created a recognition in her honor, and it has been giving the award annually ever since.

All Indiana counties have a chance to nominate staffers. Sherwood stood out this year from a sea of great applicants because of her longtime service, said McKinney, who led the committee of St. Joseph County employees that chose the 2015 award winner.

Sherwood said she plans to keep working in Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office until she and her husband, James, decide to retire.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or