Judge Kramer swears in CASA volunteers

From left, Judge Jim Kramer, Kim Do, Karen Stamps, Karen Sewell, Glenda Stinson, back row: Linda Hill, John Driver, Jill Driver and Mac Stinson. Not pictured: Belinda Anderson, Laura Littleford and Helen Dean. (Contributed)

By BETH CHAPMAN / Community Columnist

Juvenile Judge Jim Kramer recently swore in eight new Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers. The graduating class is comprised of the following new CASA volunteers:  Kim Do, Karen Stamps, Karen Sewell, Linda Hill, John Driver, Belinda Anderson, Laura Littlefield and Helen Dean.

The Shelby County CASA Program started 14 years ago through the efforts of local child advocates who wanted to provide additional advocacy and support for children involved in the court process.

They wanted to provide assistance to an overcrowded population — the juvenile court system and abused and neglected children in it.

CASA provides additional advocacy by recruiting and training volunteers to go through the court process with abused and neglected children.

Volunteers are required to pass a thorough background check and a 40-hour training program.

Their training consists of classes that are taught by Judge Kramer, representatives from the legal community and the Department of Human Resources in Shelby County who are involved in the court system.

CASA trainees have to attend court, make observations of actual cases, go on fact-finding missions and learn how to write court reports.

The court reports are critical to the information Judge Kramer gathers in making his decisions.

CASA volunteers are the eyes and ears of the judge, and they go where he cannot go — into the homes of the children they serve.

They can also confidentially interview family members, teachers and counselors in an effort to provide information that will help address the best needs of the child or children they serve.

CASA volunteers, once trained and sworn in by Judge Kramer in his courtroom, become official officers of the court. They have full access to all the information deemed important in the case to which they are assigned.

CASA of Shelby County holds two training sessions a year.

The most recent graduating class of CASA volunteers is now being appointed to individual cases to research and work on and children for which to advocate.

While Shelby County is always named the best place to raise a family, it is not without child abuse and neglect.

Fortunately, it is not without people who are willing to be trained to work in their best interests. That is what CASA is all about.

For more information about CASA, visit Casaofshelbycounty.org.

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 bethchapman@bellsouth.net.