Nov. 6, 2006

New assistant county attorney will fight for Wright County children

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

Wright County’s newest assistant county attorney is excited about the opportunity to work in an area that will allow her to help children.

“This is something that seemed right for me, “Thomera Karvel said.

She was hired Oct. 23, to work in the juvenile division of the Wright County attorney’s office on child protection issues.

While she was growing up, Karvel divided her time between her father’s home in Minnesota, and her mother’s home in Yuma, Ariz.

“The population of our town (Yuma) doubled every winter,” Karvel commented.

After moving to Minnesota in 1997, Karvel worked at Camp Friendship in Annandale.

Her experiences there made her thankful for what she had, and made her want to help others.

This, in turn, helped to shape the career path she took.

“It is a humbling thing to see someone with a severe mental or physical illness get up every morning and enjoy what they have. It makes you appreciate the things you have, like the ability to see, walk, or have a conversation,” Karvel commented.

Karvel graduated from Apollo High School in St. Cloud, before moving on to the University of St. Thomas.

After graduating from St. Thomas, she attended St. Thomas Law School, where she was a member of the school’s second graduating class.

While in law school, she participated in an externship with the Coalition for Crime and Justice.

During her third year in law school, she served as a law clerk for Hennepin County child protection.

Karvel said that the experience she gained while in law school helped her to refine her idea of what she wanted to do after graduation.

She participated in a mentor program with the Hennepin County public defender’s office, where she spent two years observing cases and learning more about juvenile law.

“It is a very rewarding area of law,” Karvel commented.

After she passed the Minnesota State Bar Exam, she took a job as a law clerk for District Court Judge James Hoolihan in Benton County.

She spent 14 months in that role, and enjoyed the experience, but left that job to take her new position in Wright County.

When she is not working, Karvel enjoys spending time outdoors. She said she used to enjoy rock climbing, but the time demands of law school put an end to that.

She also enjoys spending time with her family and friends, including two nieces, two nephews, and her cat, Elvis.

Karvel is excited about her new position, but would prefer not to be too busy – if she is busy, it is because children are in trouble.

“I am quite happy when no new cases come in. It is a small victory if no children are abused in Wright County today,” Karvel commented.

Child abuse is just one element that Karvel will have to deal with.

She explained that she will work with human services to look out for the best interests of children.

Karvel said there are generally three ways a child can enter the court system:

• through police action, which could result from truancy or runaway issues, or because their environment endangers their health or welfare.

• as the result of a court order,

• as part of a human services investigation.

The goal of the human services department is to reunite children with their families, Karvel said, but this is not always possible.

“We need to fix whatever made the situation unsafe for the child in the first place,” she explained.

There is a voluntary track, where families can work with human services to resolve issues, but in some cases where people are not cooperative, or there are law enforcement issues, cases are referred to the courts.

If a child cannot be reunited with the family, a long-term solution must be found.

This might include transfer of custody to another family member, termination of parental rights, adoption, or long-term foster care.

“There are a whole bunch of people working together to do what is best for the child,” Karvel explained.

One of Karvel’s responsibilities will be to participate in the Children’s Justice Initiative, which she described as a collaborative effort between judges, attorneys, and social service workers. The goal, according to Karvel, is to discuss and rethink juvenile issues.

“I am looking forward to working with other professionals on these issues,” Karvel commented.

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