COLUMN: Finding ways to move forward

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

To say the novel coronavirus has changed the way we do things is a vast understatement.

This ruthless pandemic has touched every facet of our lives and has caused us all to re-evaluate traditions, routines and practices we didn’t give a second thought to before this year.

In this social-distancing era, we’re seeing couples opt for private wedding ceremonies, parents hold drive-by birthday parades for their kids and people conduct virtual meetings for all kinds of reasons – work, school, medical and many others.

One lesson we’ve learned through this is life must go on; we can’t put every single thing on hold indefinitely.

As disruptive as COVID-19 has been to all of us, we have found ways to move forward, to keep our households, workplaces and communities functioning, even if we have to get creative in how we do so.

An example of this forward momentum is the recent swearing-in ceremony for the Shelby County Court Appointed Special Advocates, a non-profit organization whose mission is to prevent child abuse and neglect, as well as to recruit and train volunteers to go through the court process with children who are victims of abuse and neglect.

CASA normally holds a special ceremony at the courthouse in Judge Jim Kramer’s chambers to swear in new volunteer advocates, but an in-person ceremony wasn’t feasible this year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

So, CASA used technology for the first time in the organization’s history to swear in five new volunteer advocates on Tuesday, July 21.

“In our 23-year history our goal to prevent child abuse and neglect has never changed, but now COVID-19 has made us change some of the ways we do it,” CASA Executive Director Beth Chapman said. “We have had to adapt in many ways, and cut back in others, but not in our service to the abused and neglected children in our community. We will always find a way to serve them and meet their needs.”

After volunteers complete CASA’s five-week training program, they are sworn in by Kramer as official officers of the court.

Volunteers are then assigned court cases to follow through their entirety, becoming the court’s “eyes and ears” by going into the homes of the children they serve and providing information to the judge he cannot get otherwise.

In addition, volunteers become children’s voices in court by advocating for their best interests.

Just as these children’s needs cannot be put on hold, CASA’s vital work cannot be delayed.

Thanks to the willingness of all involved parties to participate in a different type of swearing-in ceremony this year, children in Shelby County will continue to receive the support they need from volunteer advocates.