The Role Of A Child Advocate
What Is Child Advocacy? Its Basic
(Thank you to the United Voices For Children for this information!)
Webster's dictionary defines an advocate as one who pleads the cause of another, or one who is friendly to and a defender of another person, group or cause. Because children have neither voice nor vote and little political influence in our country, child advocates are needed to ensure justice in the provision of both protection and services to children. Simply stated, the role of the child advocate is to do whatever can reasonably be done to focus attention and action upon the needs of children.
This means making the commitment to advocate for a nurturing environment for each child at the family, community, state and national levels, working to assure that families have the essential resources needed in caring for their children.
II. Practicing Child Advocacy
1. Educational advocacy
The challenging part of this task is finding opportunities to share this information in ways that will sensitize advocates on what needs to be done to maintain effective support systems for the nurture of all our children. Organizing advocacy events, giving presentations, printing articles in church newsletters and community newspapers, holding public meetings, writing letters to the editor, communicating information on the Internet, using local public access television are just a few of the many ways to get across the message.
2. Service Advocacy
If there are gangs and drugs in the neighborhood, child advocates can mobilize community effort to address this challenge, working closely with law enforcement and neighborhood community groups.
If the neighborhood elementary school needs help with children who are below grade level in their reading scores, child advocates can volunteer time tutoring young students.
There are as many ways to help as there are needs and challenges. It takes creative thinking and collaboration to get it done. A child advocate can get it started!
3. Legislative advocacy
Child advocates can often lift the level of discussion beyond partisan politics and political rhetoric. It has been said that if kindergartners could vote, much more attention would be paid to children's issues. Because children can't vote, it is our responsibility as child advocates to be sensitive to their needs and speak on their behalf, raising those concerns that can be translated into effective legislation and the administration of public policy.
Child advocates can write, phone, fax and e-mail their legislators, speak at school board meetings, attend city council and county board meetings, write letters to the editor of newspapers, call in radio talk shows, and meet personally with legislators and their program staff.
Child advocates can provide opportunities for effective dialogue by holding legislative forums and "coffees" in their churches, inviting legislators and public officials to attend, to explain their positions, and hear the viewpoints of child advocates. Many examples can be cited where a concerned minority has had a profound influence on the direction of public policy and legislation whether it is community, regional or national.
The power and influence of even one child advocate to effect change is significant and compelling. Someone has said that the bad news is that our children are in trouble. The good news is that doing something to help our children is not that complicated.
III. Grass-roots Legislative Advocacy Strategies — A few guidelines to get you started when you meet your legislator
1. Select only one
or two issues that affect your children.
2. Recruit others
to your cause.
3. Carefully pick
the persons you need to influence.
4. Plan your strategy.