Bradley County Juvenile Judge Dan Swafford also attended the luncheon to explain the important roles CASA volunteers play in the lives of many children and teens.
Anderson was also promoting CASA’s fundraiser, the Red Shoe Gala, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Cleveland’s Old Woolen Mill.
The Red Shoe theme represents Dorothy’s shoes in “The Wizard of Oz” and the role in the journey to find her home. CASA’s mission is to find safe, permanent homes for children in need, and training and supporting community volunteers.
CASA has helped hundreds of abused and neglected children in Bradley County.
Those participating in the Red Shoe Gala are encouraged to wear red shoes for the evening’s activities.
“CASA is one of the organizations we have where we try to work with and on behalf of children,” said Swafford. “I have the pleasure of having some of the best people to work with, and they make me look good.
“I came into office in 2006, and CASA came to me and offered to help,” said the county’s juvenile judge. “They’re advocates for the child, and their assistance is so important to me.”
The judge said his caseload is about two-thirds at the Bradley County Courthouse, and one-third at the Bradley County Justice Center. “I have a very big caseload, with approximately 40 (juvenile) cases per week,” Swafford said. Some of my cases may take two minutes, while others will take four days.”
“There is also Environmental Court, Small Claims Court and other responsibilities,” Swafford said.
The judge explained that some of these juvenile cases are very difficult, and CASA’s assistance can be invaluable. “Often there is a father who is in prison, or a mother on drugs, and I have to decide where this child (or children) will spend the night,” he added. “Our advocates can come back from talking with family members with a preliminary report to help me decide what to do.”
“The advocates have the authority to visit the homes, review court records and advise me,” he added. “Sometimes it is the best of two worst worlds.
“When parents fail the child, we have to make decisions,” the Bradley County judge emphasized.
“We have many good programs in Bradley County, but CASA is one of the best,” Swafford continued. “The CASA volunteers are an asset to the community and we need to value them. Children of the community would be in a much worse situation without these people. There are many people in this community who have a heart for volunteerism, and we can include the CASA volunteers.”
Program chairman Matthew Tolbert introduced Anderson, who in turn introduced Swafford.
Anderson explained that CASA works in the court system in the role of child advocacy.