Can a military spouse commit to CASA? Just ask Susan Varnier.
Certain life experiences can make you resourceful.
For Susan Varnier, those experiences included being a newspaper reporter, a middle school and high school English teacher, and a life-long member of a military family. Combine those factors together, and what do you get? A very motivated and resourceful CASA volunteer.
Susan was a semi-retired teacher when she discovered CASA while working with a local CASA Executive Director through her military spouse’s club in Texas. She knew she wouldn’t be in Texas much longer, so she put CASA in the back of her mind for the next move.
“When we moved here (Colorado Springs) in 2019, I immediately found CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, applied, and went through the training so that I could maximize my time here.”
That was her motivation at play. Her resourcefulness is best illustrated through the first case she closed as a CASA advocate.
After taking the CASA oath in September of 2019, Susan began advocating for four siblings who were in foster care because both of their parents were addicted to drugs and their father was physically abusive. This was not the first time the children had been removed from their parents, but it WAS the first time one of the parents committed to making a real change.
“Mom finally realized that if she was with dad, she wasn’t going to ever get everything together,” she said. “It was a difficult decision because she had been with this man for a long time, but they got divorced. She went into treatment and did everything she was asked to do.”
Susan’s role was to advocate for the best interest of the kids and ensure the kids received the services they needed, but in this case, working in the best interest of the kids also meant supporting the mom and making sure SHE had the resources needed to succeed.
Susan went to work finding counseling for the children, taking them on outings, acquiring things like gift cards and snow boots, putting in CarePortal requests, shopping at The Hanger and Kids’ Closet, and providing mom with referrals to organizations that helped on her journey to get clean. This case ended with the kids going home to mom, who is now clean with a degree and a job.
“This case really showed me hope for what can happen for some folks,” Susan shared. “I think a lot of times people look at these parents as bad people, but they’re really not. They’ve just gotten into a bad place and it’s nice to see that there’s hope for them to provide for their kids and provide a safe place. And (as a CASA) you can have a part in that.”
Susan is currently working her second case which will be her final one with CASA of the Pikes Peak Region. Her family is hitting the road again in June, this time to South Dakota. We’ll be sorry to lose her but happy for the next CASA who gets to call her their advocate.
“I’ve already applied and interviewed with the CASA in South Dakota,” she said. “This is something I really enjoy doing. The skills and the interactions you have with kids are very similar to what you do with teaching. I loved being a teacher. I did it for 25 years. CASA really fills that void for me of hanging out with, listening to, and helping young people.”
Susan’s dad was in the Airforce. Her husband is in the Airforce. Her daughter attends the Air Force Academy, and her son is at Air Academy High School. In addition to serving children through CASA, and raising children to serve our country, Susan keeps even busier as a substitute teacher in ASD20.
Want to follow Susan’s footsteps in making the world a better place, one child at a time? Sign up here to attend a CASA Volunteer Information Session.