Child advocate is an exceptionally extensive term that may refer to a number of people who work to protect children and advocate on their behalf. These people may do this work professionally or they could be amateurs, albeit highly experienced. Numerous state agencies have some form of child advocacy service, and some private organizations offer child advocate services too. Perhaps, the very nature of children creates the need for adults to protect them in many settings.
In households where children are treated with dignity and fairness, their number one advocates are their parents. Parents may intervene at schools, in relationships with friends, or in many other ways. Children are, to an extent, voiceless, and they need the loving protection of their parents to get the best care and remain safe. These are the amateur advocates, but many are quite skilled in making decisions in the best interest of their children.
Another group of advocates for kids are teachers, and again, they have to be skilled teachers that are working in the best interest of their students. They may actually advocate for student’s rights with parents. Both parent and teacher advocates must work hard to find happy mediums where child development and child well-being are tantamount.
At the school setting, others advocate for children too, including those who take part in special education evaluation. A child advocate at this level can analyze particular strengths and advocate for or recommend modifications to curriculum or accommodations that may help that child learn better in the school setting. It’s also important to note that most school employees advocate for children that are being harmed in another way. Should they suspect sexual or physical abuse, they’re often legally bound to report it.
When abuse of any kind is reported, children continue to need a supportive child advocate. This might be someone from a department of social work or other family oriented organizations that helps to protect and preserve the child’s interests through investigatory processes and thereafter. Children who then enter “the system” of foster care need at least one person, and preferably more, on their side should they encounter problems, which is not unlikely.
In the US, many states have special child advocate programs that are separate from any form of social services or child welfare department. People employed in these programs could listen to concerns raised by children, by their foster parents, or by social workers that review foster parenting. Social workers also have advocacy roles and sometimes the ability to remove children from different types of care if the child’s needs are not adequately met.
Private child advocate types may come in different forms. Attorneys who represent children accused of crimes are these children’s advocates. Some non-profit private organizations may step in different steps of the process to see that children are given adequate support.
It is often stated that it takes a village to raise a child, and this raises the question of who should not be a child advocate. Children cannot, in large part, insist on getting what they need from parents, education systems, legal systems, or social services. This would suggest that potential, and perhaps responsibility, exists in each person to be a child advocate, whether that role is small or great.