What is a Youth Advocate?

Vanessa Sharp

A youth advocate typically is a person who speaks for a child who is or has been under duress. Sometimes, children cannot communicate to an adult that terrible things are happening — a child might be neglected, homeless, hungry, or abused. A youth advocate's role is to determine if a child is in some danger or in need, and help determine the necessary steps to remedy the situation.

Youth advocates may work directly with children who are homeless or live in extreme poverty.
Youth advocates may work directly with children who are homeless or live in extreme poverty.

Youth advocates typically serve in the best interest of a child. In many situations, a youth advocate is the only person whose main concern is the welfare and interest of the child. Not all youth advocates work directly with children, though. Sometimes, youth advocates work to develop federal policy changes in Washington, D.C., or work in their own state making local changes to policies dealing with children.

A guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court to work with and advocate for abused and other vulnerable children.
A guardian ad litem may be appointed by the court to work with and advocate for abused and other vulnerable children.

Another type of youth advocate is a guardian ad litem. Appointed by the court, a guardian ad litem is a youth advocate who works closely with a child. He or she invests time, energy, and concern in a child, ensuring that someone looks out for what is in the best interest of the child.

Youth advocates may step in on behalf of a child who is not receiving adequate food.
Youth advocates may step in on behalf of a child who is not receiving adequate food.

A youth advocate that works directly with children typically will have many different responsibilities. One main task will be to learn about the child's life and communicate with all parties involved. An advocate will spend time talking to family members, doctors, teachers, and any other adults that have contact with the child. Generally, an advocate will take detailed notes on his or her findings that could be presented during a formal court hearing.

Advocates may work on behalf of teens who have fallen through the cracks due to substance abuse issues.
Advocates may work on behalf of teens who have fallen through the cracks due to substance abuse issues.

An advocate is to be present at any meeting, court hearing, or conference that has to do with the child he or she is representing. During such meetings, it typically is the youth advocates responsibility to ensure that all facts presented are in the best interest of the child. Following up on a judge's ruling also is a duty of a youth advocate. An advocate makes visits to the home, school, and other places where the child spends time to evaluate compliance of rulings; in turn, he or she usually reports the findings to the judge.

A youth advocate may work with children who have been abandoned.
A youth advocate may work with children who have been abandoned.
A youth advocate may spend time talking with a child's doctors.
A youth advocate may spend time talking with a child's doctors.
Advocates may develop sports programs for at-risk youth.
Advocates may develop sports programs for at-risk youth.

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