Judge asks for help with abused childrenPublished 11:14am Monday, August 20, 2012
By BETH CHAPMAN / Community Columnist
While most things have decreased in the past year’s economy, there is one thing in county government that has increased — juvenile court cases.
Judge Jim Kramer said, “There is no shortage of cases or of children and families who need assistance.”
There is only one Juvenile Court Judge in Shelby County, one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation.
Sadly, with greater numbers of families comes greater numbers of child abuse and neglect, domestic violence and other situations that end up in court.
Judge Kramer utilizes the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to assist him in his overloaded courtroom and said he needs more of them. Kramer said CASA Volunteers are his “eyes and ears” in court cases. “CASA Volunteers can go where I cannot — into the home of the children in my court,” Kramer said.
CASA Volunteers complete a 40-hour training program which qualifies them to do the job at hand. It is a job that Judge Kramer credits with improving the quality of life for children and families and saving the county “hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”
Once they complete training, CASA Volunteers are sworn in by Judge Kramer and become official officers of the court. They advocate for the best interests of the children they serve including monitoring their interaction at school and at home.
They investigate all aspects of the cases which they are assigned by Judge Kramer. They write court reports and are accountable to him in presenting the facts of the case.
Kramer worked with CASA prior to being a judge and realized the importance of the program. He said now, as a judge, he sees that importance in an even greater way.
“CASA Volunteers provide me with valuable information about the daily lives of children and their home lives that I would not know otherwise. They provide me with the information I need to make the best decision for the children in my court,” Kramer concluded.
CASA training will begin in September. For more information, download an application at Casaofshelbycounty.org or call 980-4466.
Beth Chapman, Alabama’s secretary of state, is a Shelby County resident and writes a weekly column for the Shelby County Reporter. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.