Individual Parent Advocacy

Parent advocates providing individual peer advocacy offer hope, helping parents feel less alone and showing by example that you can get through your child welfare case. Peer advocacy involves being with and supporting parents emotionally; providing information and strategic advice to help parents so they can self-advocate; and advocating on their behalf. This section of the toolkit highlights resources that have been used by parent advocates to support parents in all those critical ways.





The Impact of Peer Advocacy, Scotland

Parent Advocacy and Rights (PAR)

In “Why Advocacy Mattered to Me," Taliah Drayak, parent advocate and trustee for Parent Advocacy and Rights, reflects on the difference advocacy made for her family.



Providing Information, Australia, The United States, Norway

When parents become involved in the child welfare system, they may feel powerless to protect their families from a system that can decide their futures. Child welfare and family court officials know how the system works, while parents often lack basic information about the system, their rights and whether they can safely assert their rights. Above all, they don’t know what will truly keep or bring their children home.

One of the most important roles parent advocates play is in providing parents with information to better understand the child welfare system.

Here, you’ll find sample resources developed for parents that you can adapt to the context of your child welfare system:



Advocating for Parents within Agencies and Systems, The United States

Parent advocates working to support individual parents help to redress the immense imbalance of power parents face within the system and bring back an emphasis on the fact that children need their parents, families and communities. By attending meetings, conferences and court with parents, parent advocates also empower parents to take an active role in decisions being made about their children and their cases, and help child welfare and court officials see and hear parents’ strengths, insights and efforts. Research shows that parent advocacy improves outcomes for children and shortens the time they spend in foster care.

Helping Parents Be Heard in Child Safety Conference, The United States

New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)

In New York City, parent advocates are hired by the child welfare system to support parents during Initial Child Safety Conferences, where decisions are made about whether children will remain at home, be placed with family or be remanded to foster care. It’s a high stakes and high pressure meeting. Parent advocates are tasked with ensuring that parents are supported; understand the proceedings; that their strengths are shared; and that their own solutions are an integral part of the conversation. A pilot project expanded advocates’ roles to include follow up with parents after the conference.

The PowerPoint presentations below provide an outline for the training received both by parent advocates and child welfare officials who regularly participate in Initial Child Safety Conferences. The training starts with an overview of the need for parent advocates, focusing on the vast racial disproportionality of New York City’s child welfare system. Later parts of the training breakdown the various roles parent advocates play.

Enhanced Family Conferencing Initiative Training
A One Day Training Review of Core Concepts: Topics 1-3 and Topics 4-5


Providing Emotional Support and Guidance, Canada and England

One of the many ways parent advocates help parents to navigate the child welfare system is by providing emotional support. This includes providing hope, offering tools for managing difficult emotions, and offering guidance so parents can fight strategically.

Because parent advocates have been through it themselves, they bring a different understanding and empathy to the work that can help reduce shame and empower parents to continue fighting for their families.

Helping Parents and Workers Manage Strong Emotions, Canada

Fearless R2W

In Winnipeg, Canada, Fearless R2W provides emotional support through weekly groups as well as individual advocacy, helping parents to understand how to self-advocate while also providing support and advocacy at meetings with child welfare officials. Advocates for Fearless R2W know that within the field of child welfare, it’s not just parents whose families are at stake whose emotions can run high. So can the emotions of lawyers, judges and frontline workers.

This resource offers a roadmap for how parent advocates can help parents and everyone around them manage their emotions.

Providing Online Guidance, England

Surviving Safeguarding

Surviving Safeguarding: A Parent’s Guide to the Child Protective Process offers emotional support and strategic advice from a parent who shares her own journey through England’s child welfare system in the service of supporting other parents.

Read her personal reflections and advice on Meetings and Conferences–How to Prepare; How to Survive Court; and Newborn Removal–how it was for me, how it may be for you and how to survive.

“Like a sudden death, the trauma of newborn removal rocks you to your core. As such, eating, drinking and sleeping become secondary to the grief. But in order to survive, in order to get through, in order to fuel your fight, your body needs you to take care of it.”

Read her story as told to The Guardian.


Additional Resources


The Family Justice Resource Center:

FJRC is a collaboration of parent advocates and lawyers with expert knowledge in medical misdiagnosis cases, provides support and expert advice to families facing wrong allegations of abuse and neglect from medical professionals. In medical misdiagnosis cases, the authority of doctors in family court is so strong that parents typically need both expert legal and medical advice and the guidance of parents who have faced similar accusations in order to prove their innocence.

Parent Advocates and Rights:

PAR published guidance for parents in Scotland on concerning practices where children’s social work has made blanket decisions to end contact between children in care and their parents during Coronavirus. It argues that these decisions are breach of legal duties and gives advice on what affected parents can do.

Spokane Parent Advocacy Network, Protein Project:

In Washington State, The Spokane Parent Advocacy Network worked to make sure that parents in family court had access to one of the most basic human needs: food. Their Protein Project educated parents about the ways that eating protein could help them manage the stress and trauma of family court, while advocating to make sure that protein-rich snacks were available to parents in the courthouse.

National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health:

The Australian government’s National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health developed this worksheet to provide frontline workers and supervisors with ways to address the heavy emotional toll of working with families with complex needs. Their suggestions may be helpful to parent advocates providing individual peer advocacy. Their suggestions include recognizing that you alone are not able or expected to meet all the needs of any one family and encouraging the development of a reflective practice in partnership with your supervisor that is neither shutdown to feelings nor overly intrusive, but that feels comfortable to you.

Emerging Minds: Supporting children in families with complex needs: Nine tips for practitioners who feel out of their depth

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