I am a second year CYCC student at Mount Royal University. We speak a fair amount in the program about advocacy (both for youth and for ourselves as professionals). My practicum placement is in a short term crisis nursery for children under 8 years of age, so it can be difficult to find opportunities to witness or facilitate advocating for youth in the same way I would if I were in a residential or group home setting. I advocate for myself as a student but understand this looks different than as a professional.
I was wondering what advocating might look like for you? Where do you find the most challenges to be when advocating for youth? Is it with helping the youth to identify what and how they need to be advocating for themselves? Are there challenges working around policies, procedure, the law? What about for policy change? Is there a demographic that seems to be the most challenging to advocate for?
What about advocating for yourself? What situations do you find yourself being your own supporter? When do you think it is important to do this and when is it best to just let things be?
Thank you in advance for your replies.
Great that you are asking such good questions. One way to think of advocacy is that it is any action that gives voice to the individual. For young children, like those in your short term crisis nursery, it may be several things including:
- speaking up for them when they can't speak for
- helping them put words to what they are wanting to say
- guiding others in their environment to listen more to them
- teaching them that they do have a voice in what happens to them in life
Advocacy can also happen on an individual basis and in systems, like you mention related to policy level.
On your last question "when is it important to do this?": probably as much as possible in your setting and situation.
Good luck and keep asking good questions!
I think what becomes important when we advocate for youth is to ensure that our youth take the issue of responsibilities very seriously . I'm saying this because most of the time we spend so much time being concerned about what our youth needs and their rights and forget to encourage them about the importance of being responsible.
I think ‘advocating for someone’ means speaking for
someone’s behalf. It means speaking out for someone for the person’s
right and interest. Therefore, for CYCC, advocating youth may mean
working for the protection of their rights, interests, and helping them
to be able to advocate for themselves. So, the first step to advocate
youth will be knowing what their rights are. For the general information
for the youth rights, we may refer to ‘UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child’, ‘Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom’s and other
provincial laws. The challenge in advocating youth can be deciding what
‘benefit’ or ‘best interest’ means to youth in different situations or
with different issues. Then, what things do CYCC need to take into
consideration in deciding what is beneficial for a youth? I think
information such as personal history, developmental level, needs,
relationships and views will be the most important thing to consider in
deciding what the best interest is for a youth. Also, knowing the limit
of our role in advocating a youth will be necessary. Lastly, what are
the things we can do to support youth self- advocacy? I think that good
communication skills and problem solving skills will help youth advocate
for themselves. We may help youth to acquire these skills through
modeling, practicing and by offering resources.
Mi Hwa Park
Advocating can be hard. One thing to keep in mind is teaching self-advocacy for youth - children it looks different.
I have found myself in many situations were advocating for a youth has a negative consequence for myself. So be careful out there. This is one area the child and youth care field needs to work on... Who supports us, who advocates for the work we are doing and I mean this from an agency level. What supports do you have in the place you work if your team leader has to side with the funding bodies and not with you or youth you are advocating for. I say it's a big mess. We are advocating or teaching our youth to advocate for themselves and WE can have negative consequences. Protect yourself first as without awesome youth workers the kids will be missing out!
With all that being said there is an awesome app that teaches youth how to self advocate it's called Rep4Rights. I encourage all youth service providers to use this app and teach their youth!
Be prepared and let the quite voices be heard!