A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Judy Clabes: Let’s talk about the Children’s Home of NKY and Ian Sousis, a 9-year-old boy who died

The tragic death of Ian Jacob Joseph Sousis, 9 years of age, last Saturday is unspeakable, but as a community we should speak about it. We should come together in heartbreak and sorrow and mourning over the enormity of the loss — and from the grief we should emerge stronger in our resolve and compassion for all children.

The good people at the Children’s Home of NKY are grieving, devastated by their loss, and they should know that this community grieves with them. They cannot speak of it — the rules of privacy and litigiousness shut them down. We should understand that and share their pain.

Ian Sousis

We know full well what they have dedicated their lives to, that they take into their good and loving care children that no one else can find a place for. Mostly the children there are placed there by the courts. There are no orphans there anymore, and that’s the real tragedy here. These kids have family of a sort, but they don’t have a place except that provided by the CHNK.

So the 140 professionals at CHNK get the cast-offs, the broken kids, and most of them are not just broken in a couple of ways. Many are broken into a thousand tiny pieces, needing someone — or a group of caring someones — to try to put them back together again. Perhaps they have been abused — sexually or physically; perhaps they’ve experienced other traumas — homelessness, bullying, health problems, mental health issues, truancy, hunger, poverty, drug-related issues, mean and dysfunctional home relationships, absent or neglectful parents. The worst you can imagine, these kids have seen it and more.

CHNK responds with a safe, caring, and supportive environment, offering residential treatment care, plenty of food, smiles, and hugs, and kind words. The things that heal the brokenness and help kids find hope.

But it’s a process and it takes time and patience.

We know all this because CHNK has been a part of this community since 1882. The dedicated people who work there are our friends and neighbors.

And they are grieving.

It is simply wrong to say that Ian Jacob Joseph Sousis “walked away” from the Children’s Home last Saturday. He ran — and, according to police calculations, he ran like the Spiderman he wanted to be when he grew up. Thirteen seconds after he flew out of the door at the Children’s Home and into the surrounding woods, a staff member was right behind him.


But the Spiderman was too fast and too wily. He made his break and he made it good. Police were called right away, and they later tracked young Ian’s path with cobbled-together videos from home security systems that showed he was, indeed, alone on a path that lead to the river.

Ian, who was on the Autism spectrum, was a kid in search of an adventure or perhaps a kid running away from himself and the memories he carried. There were definitely demons enough in his young life — and more than most of us could bear. Only Ian could say whether he really meant to fall into the water or whether that was just another tragic bad draw in his short life.

His obituary says he was born in Poughkeepsie, NY., on September 28, 2012. It says his mother and grandparents and another grandmother live in Waynesburg and that he had attended Highland Elementary and Stanford Elementary in Lincoln County. (A grandmother was the custodial guardian.) Two siblings — a brother and a sister — also live in Waynesburg. In addition he had uncles and great-uncles and “many great-great aunts and cousins.”

(Please note: This makes no mention of a father.)

His obituary only says he “passed away” and does not say he was found afloat in the Ohio River by boaters, after he ran from the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky.

But it does paint a sweet picture of an ordinary boy who had a future:

“Ian was a brilliant child who was sweet, empathetic, and loved talking to people. He enjoyed being a Lego builder, drawing, video games, the color red, mac-n-cheese and Spiderman. If anyone asked, he always told them that he wanted to be Spiderman when he grew up.”

It goes on to say:

Visitation has been scheduled for Friday, June 10 from 5-8 p.m. at Spurlin Funeral Home in Stanford, Ky. Funeral will be held on Saturday, June 11, 2022, at 11 a.m. at Spurlin Funeral Home with Bro. Greg Starbuck officiating. Burial will follow at Mt. Moriah Christian Church in Highland, KY.

We know that Ian was not an ordinary child, but he was a child and he represents so many — too many — children amongst us who need and deserve our love and compassion and support on their way to a happier outcome.

CHNK expresses its vision this way: “a community free from adverse environments and children experiences that limit hope and opportunity — a community that is safe, acknowledges human emotion and loss, and empowers future possibilities.”

As Ian Sousis finds his final resting place, who among us is asking “Where do we place the blame?” and who is answering: “We all share the responsibility.”

Judy Clabes is editor and publisher of the NKyTribune and a long-time resident of Northern Kentucky.

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  1. Emmalee Walker says:

    Thank you for this heartfelt article written in such an understanding and truthful way. I would like to add that many parents (myself included and numerous other parents I’ve talked to) that have custody, also placed their children here.

    Thank you again.

  2. Bridget Obrien says:

    Thank you for a balanced glimpse into a heartbreaking story. It’s perplexing becoming familiar with both sides, parents who’s children have been taken away from them unjustly, leaving parents and their children in the agony of separation and too many times their children vulnerable to unspeakable abuse at the hands of those they are entrusted to through federal and state agencies.

    Then there are those children that are at the mercy of a biological parent and they too suffer unspeakable abuse at the hands of those who should live care and protect.

    Parents fighting for their children with no end in sight, and parents that never should have been.

    There needs to be accountability.
    An end to Qualified Immunity. More insight, more oversight. More community involvement.

    Children have rights. Children have a voice. Children need protection. And the list goes on. Change is too slow.

  3. Shannon Senor says:

    I find it grossly offensive that your story implies that Ian was tossed aside in the home as if his grandparents didn’t want him. They did what they felt was best for him they wanted to keep him safe. They trusted the home to keep him safe. This was a very difficult decision that was never made lightly his grandparents loved him deeply and grieve him with a pain so deep they will never fully be free of that pain. They trusted the home and the fact that he was able to wander off before and that they failed to correct the issue means they don’t deserve pity . They must be held accountable for their failure to this young man. They wanted the very best life could offer for a young man with the challenge his faced. This home was suppose to know better and do better and they didn’t they failed him. They can not be let off the hook for their negligence.

  4. Paul Hallinan Miller says:

    Ian learned to juggle, walk a tight-wire and spin a plate…. He was a favorite in our Circus Wellness program. We will honor him in our next phase of growth.

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