WATERTOWN — It’s been a few years since Susan A. Sovie decided she wanted to be an advocate for children, but a few things — the big things — remain the same.
“I remember standing in my driveway in a purple shirt, which I realized I have on today, too, and just saying, ‘There’s got to be an attorney to help children,’ and that’s the path I set on and it’s ... I love my job. I love what I do,” Ms. Sovie said during an interview Thursday at Times offices.
During an hourlong conversation, Ms. Sovie spoke about the challenges involved in taking over the Family Court, which is the busiest in the county, and the special challenges involving in working with children who come into contact with an imperfect system very early in their lives.
“I’m hoping, in a process where everyone’s working together, that the child feels like everyone’s in that to try to help them and try to help their family, rather than tear them apart,” Ms. Sovie said. “There is a lot of distrust, unfortunately. There’s so much overturn in all of the agencies that we have ... They have countless different caseworkers, countless therapists, people in and out of their lives”
Ms. Sovie said she would like to see the creation of a better process in which social workers, mental health professionals and other care providers can feel as is they are making a difference.
She also spoke about the rise in heroin abuse in the north country.
“It’s a terrible problem, and it’s definitely not seen in any singular population,” Ms. Sovie said. “It seems to be affecting everyone. The age range, from what I’m seeing, does seem to be in the 20s and 30s, but every socioeconomic population that there is out there.”
Ms. Sovie said that public education regarding the potency of heroin and the dangers surrounding the drug, as well as public education about sexually transmitted diseases, has been mysteriously absent from the community. And she said a push for more public outreach might help curb the problem.
Ms. Sovie also spoke of the potentially devastating challenges that social media present for her clients.
“The cyber-bullying ... the things that the kids have to go through today, it’s a huge issue,” Ms. Sovie said. “It’s just, it’s so sad. That’s a huge area of concern that I think definitely needs to be addressed.”
Ms. Sovie, a Watertown native who now lives in Sackets Harbor, was 10 years old when she made that pivotal decision in her family’s driveway. Now she is the lone Democratic candidate in the race to replace retiring Family Court Judge Richard V. Hunt.
She is the only attorney in Jefferson County to receive the Fourth Department’s Michael F. Dillon Law Guardian Award for outstanding representation of children. She was nominated for the award in 1998 by Surrogate Court Judge Peter A. Schwerzmann and again in 2001 by Judge Hunt.
Ms. Sovie is a graduate of Hartwick College, Oneonta, and the Syracuse University College of Law. She was a founding member of the county’s now-defunct Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and is a member of the state Fifth Judicial District’s attorney grievance committee and serves on the board of the state’s Office of Indigent Legal Services.
Republicans Eugene J. Langone Jr., Watertown, and Kathy L. Quencer, Brownville, are facing each other in a primary Sept. 9. The winner will move on to challenge Ms. Sovie.
All three candidates for Jefferson County Family Court judge will appear at a forum at noon Wednesday at the campus dining hall of the Children’s Home of Jefferson County, 1704 State St.