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National Women’s Month: Susan Harrison

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Susan Harrison is the definition of a humble, hardworking, and passionate woman, which became beyond clear after talking to her and her longtime friend and volunteer Susie Baker.

“What I admire most about Susan is her kind soul. She has a way of making families feel that they are the most important people in the world,” said Susie Baker, CASA volunteer and parent educator for Marshall County Schools.

Susan Harrison has been the Executive Director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for the past 14 years and is working everyday to protect and serve children in the foster care system. 

CASA is a nationwide organization spanning across the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Each branch of CASA looks slightly different in the way they run their programs, but Harrison explains that the mission of CASA remains the same.

To work myself out of a job would be the best case scenario because I don’t want to see kids caught up in the child welfare system.

— Susan Harrison

“The mission of CASA is to represent children who are in the foster care system going through the court proceedings for abuse and neglect,” said Harrison. 

Depending on the state, CASAs can be attorneys, non attorney representatives, or a mixture of both. Each CASA is a trained volunteer and get to know the child, their circumstances, and their case. Within West Virginia, CASAs work with an attorney representing the children in court (also known as a Guardian ad Litem or GAL).

“Susan makes it known that as a CASA volunteer we are just as important as the attorneys or anyone else on the case,” said Susie Baker.

“Ultimately at the end of the case we make that recommendation whether the child should be reunified with their parent or if rights should be terminated and that child go through with an adoption,” said Harrison.

Her passion for social work stemmed from her parents being foster parents her whole life.

“I guess I just knew I’d always get into the field,” said Harrison. 

While a CASA program existed when she moved to Wheeling (created by former Supreme Court member Judge Rect under the YWCA of Wheeling), they wanted the program to become independent.

“So I created CASA for children as an independent entity, but it was this CASA program moving to that CASA program. We started it July 1st, 2010 and it was just me at the time and 30 kids or so and a handful of volunteers, and then we grew it from there,” said Harrison.

“She has worked very hard to build such a huge CASA volunteer program. My sister was involved with CASA back in 2007 and it was not ran like this at all. Susan runs a tight ship, she works well with others. She’s able to work with attorneys and judges, and overall she is a great judge of character,” said Susie Baker. 

She is not just involved with child abuse and neglect cases. 

“I do a lot of prevention work because I think if I can keep kids from coming into the system that would be ideal. To work myself out of a job would be the best case scenario because I don’t want to see kids caught up in the child welfare system,” said Harrison. 

She is also very dedicated to teaching and sharing her knowledge of this field with others by providing community trainings and as a professor in the social work department of West Liberty University.

Students and members of the community can get involved with CASA by becoming a CASA volunteer (if you are at least 21) or volunteering or participating in CASA fundraisers such as the Superhero 5k on April 20th or Kayak for CASA on May 19th. 

 

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About the Contributor
Lily Osborne
Lily Osborne, Staff Writer
  • Journalism I
  • Senior
  • Oglebay Institute dancer, American Cancer Society Youth Board member, Paws for a Cause member, and Freshman Mentor
  • "When you feel like quitting, think about why you started."
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Comments (3)

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  • G

    Gwendolyn RobinsonMar 21, 2024 at 9:31 pm

    Wonderful article and Susan and Susie are both incredible women

    Reply
  • C

    Cheryl RipleyMar 20, 2024 at 11:12 am

    Great job Lily!! You’re gonna make a wonderful mark on this world sweetheart!

    Reply
  • M

    M Eileen Palmer-VarnerMar 19, 2024 at 1:52 pm

    To watch her work or talk about it, her passion to help shines through! Susan is well-deserving of this recognition! Thank you, Susan, for your dedication to troubled youth.

    Reply