Child advocate is a broad term that can refer to a variety of individuals who work to protect children and advocate on their behalf. These people could be professionals or amateurs with a lot of experience in this field. Child advocacy services are available through a variety of state agencies, as well as some private organizations. Perhaps the very nature of children necessitates adult protection in many situations.
Children’s parents are their most powerful advocates in homes where they are treated with dignity and fairness. Parents can intervene in schools, friendships, and a variety of other situations. Children are, to some extent, voiceless, and they rely on their parents’ loving protection to receive the best care and stay safe. These are the amateur advocates, but many of them are quite capable of making decisions in their children’s best interests.
Teachers are another group of advocates for children, and they must be skilled educators who are working in the best interests of their students. They might even speak up for students’ rights in front of their parents. Advocates for both parents and teachers must work hard to find happy mediums where child development and well-being are equally important.
Others, including those who participate in special education evaluations, advocate for children in the school setting. At this level, a child advocate can assess a child’s strengths and advocate for or recommend curriculum or accommodation changes that will help the child learn more effectively in school. It’s also worth noting that the majority of school employees fight for children who are being harmed in other ways. They are often legally obligated to report sexual or physical abuse if they suspect it.
When any kind of abuse is reported, children still require the assistance of a child advocate. This could be someone from a social work department or another family-oriented organization who assists in protecting and preserving the child’s interests during the investigation and afterwards. If a child enters “the system” of foster care, he or she will need at least one person, preferably more, on their side if problems arise, which is not unlikely.
Many states in the United States have separate child advocate programs from any form of social services or child welfare department. People working in these programs could listen to children’s concerns, foster parents’ concerns, or social workers’ concerns about foster parenting. Social workers also serve as advocates for children and, in some cases, have the authority to remove children from various types of care if their needs are not being met.
Different types of private child advocates exist. These children’s advocates are attorneys who represent children accused of crimes. Some non-profit private organizations may intervene at various points throughout the process to ensure that children receive adequate care.
It is often said that raising a child takes a village, which begs the question of who should not be a child advocate. Children cannot, for the most part, demand that their needs be met their parents, educational systems, legal systems, or social services. This suggests that everyone has the potential, and perhaps the responsibility, to be a child advocate, whether in a small or large capacity.