Early in her working career, Susie Basler served as an Illinois parole and probation officer.
That served her well in what became her life’s work: volunteering for, then running Project Return, Westport’s well-respected group home for teenage girls and young women.
Basler — who has a master’s degree and is a licensed clinical social worker — enjoyed working with that population. They had issues that prevented them from living with their families — but Susie and her staff offered counseling, love (tough and soft), a chance for an education and, ultimately, a fresh start in life.
But about 3 years ago, the state stopped funding Project Return. Homes With Hope took it over. It’s now focused on supportive housing for homeless young women, 18-24 years old, providing individualized case management, and employment and educational resources.
Basler retired as executive director. But she was not ready to stop working. She spent a year as president of Westport Rotary. It was fulfilling and important.
Yet she missed helping young women grow.
“I’d gained knowledge and wisdom, and seen just about every behavior an adolescent could do,” she says.
Borrowing a friend’s office on Black Rock Turnpike, she worked with a woman whose daughter was troubled. Basler helped the mother appreciate her child’s strengths. Together they strengthened the relationship.
When her friend and fellow Rotarian Rick Benson bought 29 East Main Street — the former Temenos building — Basler saw an opportunity. She rented one of the offices, and is now seeing clients.
Most are parents of teenage girls and young women.
“I love working with adolescents,” Basler says. “But I realize they may want someone younger and cooler than me. There are a gazillion therapists in Westport. But not a lot of them are working the parents. And parents are the ones who can have a huge impact on girls.”
She adds, “No one teaches us how to be a parent. We learn — good and bad — from the way we were parented.” One of her strengths, she says, is that she’s a non-judgmental listener.
“Knowing we are accepted and loved for who we are — that’s what heals and leads to growth,” Susie adds.
Her role with parents is to provide empathy; help them understand the needs of teenagers, while setting healthy boundaries; provide guidance in raising children in an affluent community, and reduce anxiety, while navigating blind spots and roadblocks.
“My passion has always been helping kids — especially those who are hurting,” Basler says.
“The best way I can do that today is by helping their parents understand and love them better, be better able to tolerate their feelings, and be less reactive to their behavior.
“I’m a good believer in people. I’m their best advocate. I partner with them in their efforts to become whole and succeed. This was what I was at Project Return, at my best.”
Susie Basler knows teenage girls. Now she’s helping parents get to know their own daughters a little bit better too.
Welcome back, Susie! This is very exciting news, and parents of teenagers could not be in better hands. So happy you’re back in the biz helping people be better parents. It all begins at the top.
Thank you for this wonderful effort.
Good for you Suzie. This is a great need and you’re helping to fill it. Working with the parents is so important. They are the ones most involved with their children and who are the most motivated to help them! Parents as Teachers was an organization I was involved with that worked with parents of children birth to three. Very different age group and issues but the premise of getting parents educated and helping them help their children is basically the same! Best of luck in your new endeavor!!
Thank you, Susan, I appreciated your thoughts. I hope that I have the opportunity to be useful. We clearly both share a similar passion for children, and desire to help parents be the best they can be!
Brilliant! Our community is now twice blessed by your involvement & wisdom as an advocate for young women.
I had the pleasure of volunteering at Project Return and knew Susie. What a great lady. She was the driving force at the home. I was fortunate enough to move two of the girls years ago into housing. Good luck Susie!
A wonderful piece about a remarkable woman! I had the pleasure of working with Susie when she led Project Return. She is caring, smart and completely dedicated to the well being of young women. Westport is so fortunate to have her as a resource for families.
You go Susie!
Susie Basler is a gift to Westport and our families. A wonderful resource with years of experience and a long history of helping and making a difference for Westport families.
Congratulations Susie. Having been a part of Project Return with Susie, I know what a dedicated and exceptional person she is and how her work is so impactful to the lives of those she serves.
Welcome Back Susie! Thank you for all you have done, and continue to do for not only our community, but others as well.
if you knew Susie like I knew Susie
A testimonial to Susie- so very often the approach I use to relate to, empathize and even negotiate with my own teenager is influenced from moments I watched you parent the teens we helped at PR. Your insight transformed the way I parent and the proof is in the amazing relationship I get to have with my own almost 16-year-old girl! Parents with the need for some new approaches and perspective would be lucky to have you support them on the “parenting journey.” Wonderful that you are continuing your life’s work in this way- any person who has the luxury of insight from your experience will indeed be a better parent, teacher, mentor, foster parent or grandparent.
Susie is Amazing!
So happy she’s back!
So lucky to have Susie back! You are such an incredible person!
Kudos Susie being back in the saddle doing what you love! Your care and knowledge working with these many families and individuals is a bleasing for WESTPORT and surrounding communities💥
Although to many of us from rotary; you never left us🙏🏼
Susie is the wisest most comforting person I know. Anyone who works with her is lucky indeed!
Susie I wish you great success!. She is kind and compassionate and a will be a terrific resource filling a very needed role in town. Big Susie Basler fan here. She is understanding of everyone. Parents and kids and is generous and non-judgmental. Truly. Congratulations Susie!
thank you, my daughter, benefited so many years ago from you and project return