A court of good news

In most courtrooms, it’s unusual to hear those in attendance burst into cheers and applause.

But those sounds were warranted Friday as Webster County Family Treatment Court celebrated the graduation of a client, Vaneesha Al-Hameed.

Al-Hameed, the first graduate of Family Treatment Court, said she voluntarily enrolled after she lost custody of her son due to her own substance abuse.

“I wanted my son back,” Al-Hameed said. “I was desperate to do anything.”

Family Treatment Court, which started in Webster County in October 2013, is a voluntary court designed to help rehabilitate parents who risk having their parental rights terminated.

Al-Hameed said Family Treatment Court provided a support system for her that enabled her to stop her substance abuse and regain custody of her son.

At the beginning of her graduation ceremony, the court erupted in applause after Al-Hameed announced that she has been substance-free for 358 days.

According to Chief Judge Kurt Wilke, of the 2nd Judicial District, Al-Hameed also has a job, lives independently and never relapsed during her time in Family Treatment Court.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Al-Hameed said after the ceremony.

Her successes were lauded by Wilke and other members of the Family Treatment Court team.

“In prosecuting cases, there are things we do that aren’t very pleasant,” Wilke said. “This Family Treatment Court, as far as I’m concerned, is the complete opposite of that.”

When Family Treatment Court started, Wilke said he was unsure how successful it would be. While there have been some clients who weren’t successful, Wilke said the positive results shown by Al-Hameed and others have been inspirational.

“I’m so happy we’ve done this,” he said.

He said clients and the treatment court team work very well together.

“We had a mission to inspire,” Wilke said. “Vaneesha, you and others have inspired us. You are focused on being the best parent possible.”

Jordan Brackey, assistant Webster County attorney, also commended Al-Hameed on her successes.

“You’re the one who made the decision to put your child first,” he said. “You did everything you needed to do. You’ve got custody back, and now you’re graduating.”

Brackey added that it took hard work for Al-Hameed to get where she is today.

“We have a really good team working to facilitate a safe home for kids,” he said. “Everybody here is doing extremely well and we’re very proud of their progress.”

“I’m extremely proud of the program,” Brackey added.

Al-Hameed’s cousin, Lisa Newsome, said she has seen positive growth as well.

“She’s a good role model for me,” Newsome said. “She helps me keep my head on straight, and we level each other out.”

State Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, witnessed a Family Treatment Court hearing when it first started, and was very impressed with what he saw.

“I was so impressed, I asked our judicial chair to invite Judge Wilke down,” Beall said. “He brought two support people with him and they talked about the success stories. I wanted my fellow legislators to hear from them.”

Beall said he believes Webster County can serve as an inspiration for the other 98 counties in Iowa.

“I see this as a pilot that can be repeated all around the state,” he said. “It gets to the root of the problem, which is often substance abuse. That’s why it’s so successful.”

Family Treatment Court currently has 10 clients; seven others have gone through the program.