It’s not unusual for a child with a mouth ringed with chocolate to insist that they haven’t eaten your cookies. Many teachers have balked at receiving a permission slip hastily signed “mommy” in a child’s sloppy script.
In other words, children are not always reliable or trustworthy.
Even so, some high-stakes situations demand that adults look at a situation from a child’s point of view. When a child has experienced abuse or neglect, they may need to speak in court, and advocacy is necessary. A child advocate’s role is to ensure that the child’s story gets told in a clear, fair, and honest way.
Do you have what it takes to speak for vulnerable children?
If you’re interested in early childhood education but don’t want to work in a classroom setting, child advocacy might be the right field for you. Keep reading to learn more about this essential role.
What Is a Child Advocate?
If you want to be a child advocate, you’ll need to decide whether you’re more interested in the legal system or social work. A child advocate in the legal system is a trained, barred lawyer who represents children in the courts. A child advocate in the social services system will specifically advocate for the overall needs of the child as they navigate the legal system.
Some advocates work on the micro-level, with individual children or groups of children. An individual lawyer or social worker might support a child during a legal case. A child’s development might require special explanations or care from an advocate.
Other advocates work on the macro-level, lobbying for changes in child welfare. They fight for changes to harmful systems. Their goal is to change government policies that impact the day-to-day lives of children and their families.
How to Become a Child Advocate
To become a child advocate, you will have to pursue a degree in education, social work, or law. If you will be working to defend children in court, you will need to pursue an advanced law degree and pass the bar.
If you wish to lobby for legislation change, you don’t need any special education. You will want to have a background in child development and current welfare policies. If you’d like to hear more about this path, there’s more information here.
Most career child advocates work with CACs, or child advocacy centers. These are holistically responsible locations where children receive services during legal proceedings. As an advocate, you will be part of an interdisciplinary team of other professionals who care for children.
Other advocates work for social service agencies or larger organizations such as UNICEF.
Make Child Advocacy Your Career
The world needs child advocates to speak on behalf of the most vulnerable citizens. For the legal system to work, it needs to be accessible to all Americans. If you work in child advocacy, you can ensure that children always have access to fair and appropriate legal protection.
There are plenty of other ways to advocate for children. Check out the rest of the blog for more ways to support kids, whether you’re a parent or a professional.