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:
- Family Inclusion Strategies in the Hunter (New South Wales, Australia):
Help for Parents and Parent Peer Support
- The Family Defense Center (Illinois, USA):
Understanding and Responding to Department of Children and Family Services’ Abuse and Neglect Investigations in Illinois and Self-Representation in DCFS Administrative Expungement Hearings (Appeals of Indicated Reports): A Manual for Self-Help by The Family Defense Center
- Child Welfare Organizing Project (CWOP) (New York, USA):
The Survival Guide to the NYC Child Welfare System: A Workbook for Parents by Parents
- The Spokane Parent Advocacy Network (Washington, USA):
Island County Dependency 101
- Organisasjon for Barnevernsforeldre (Norway):
Handbook for Parents
- Positive Powerful Parents (Australia):
Info for Parents
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.