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Exploring the Use of Advocates For Parents and Kids

Exploring the Use of Advocates For Parents and Kids

Sometimes parents are unsure of how to interact with certain systems, such as their child's school or their insurance provider, and get their questions and concerns addressed.  An advocate is any individual who is willing to speak up on behalf of a family or a child or help guide the parent or child through a particular process or for a specific cause. A child or parent advocate is typically someone who is very knowledgeable about a certain topic, such as special education or adoption. In other words, an advocate is essentially a helpful person who acts as a subject matter expert, adviser, and comrade for the parent and/or child when unique circumstances require additional help, support or expertise on how to navigate “a system” with the powers and resources that be. 

Considering hiring an advocate? Here is what you need to know…

There are many benefits to hiring an advocate with expert knowledge to help guide you through a system or process when you are the parent of a child with a disability or mental health challenge. However here are some things to consider before you do:

  • Fees: Advocate fees range from pro bono (such as through a peer parent program) to hundreds of dollars per hour. It is important to carefully vet advocates before hiring them, and understand that in certain circumstances, it may be more prudent to partner with appropriate organizations, licensed professionals or even hire a lawyer. Note that in most cases there is no “required” legal certification program that an advocate goes through, but advocates may have personal experience and specialized training in issues they are advocating for such as special education, disability services, legal childcare aspects, transgender matters, foster care or adoption processes, or immigration laws. 
  • Experience and training: It is important to note that the field of advocacy is generally not a regulated field, so many advocates are not required to receive specific training to represent themselves as a professional advocate, and most states do not require a license or certifications. Advocates are usually individuals who are passionate about and deeply knowledgeable on certain topics pertaining to unique circumstances, potentially from their own experiences, and are thus a helpful and supportive resource for parents and/or children navigating complex processes or situations. While advocates can be an incredibly powerful ally, caretakers should carefully interview advocates and request recommendations and referrals before hiring and paying for an advocate’s services.

Parent/child advocates for hire may be found anywhere, and while there are no agencies that regulate or certify advocates, there are some agencies that have developed contractual agreements between advocates and employers, the court system, or families to provide support. Those systems may require that an advocate receive specific training, such as trauma-informed training, adoption training, or disability training, to name a few. Advocates may also be court appointed such as with Court Appointed Child Advocates (CASA), a national organization that advocates for abused, neglected children, particularly in court cases where parental custody is being determined.  CASA requires their advocates to go through extensive training and they are supervised by staff within the agency.

  • Know what you are getting:  As you interview your potential advocate, ask what specifically you can expect from them.  Get a clear understanding of their role and fees for travel, in-person and virtual meetings, phone calls, and documentation, and ask if there is a contract for their services. If not, you may want to outline expectations in a written agreement before paying for services. 

Find an advocate today

Visit www.KidsTherapyFinder.com and search our directory to find an advocatefor you and/or your child today. If you need any help or have any questions contact us and we'll see if we can help! 

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