Let’s talk about advocacy, the heart of the work of ProKids.
Every single one of us is an advocate in some form or another — although we may not yet identify that way.
Advocacy is defined as a coordinated set of actions aimed at influencing a decision.
This can be really informal. We may be chatting with our partner or family to sway what to have for dinner that night. It can also be more formal: lobbying the government for a particular policy. Advocacy can be used to influence what we think is in the best interest for a great number of people or it can just be about what is best for ourselves or another individual.
Some of the most important advocacy, though, is when we work to influence the decisions being made on behalf of someone who is too vulnerable to advocate for themselves. This is the type of advocacy ProKids staff and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Volunteers do every day. Together, we advocate for the best interest of children who have been abused and neglected so badly that a court has become involved in their life and must decide who will raise the child.
These child protection cases are where ProKids comes in. When a ProKids CASA Volunteer is appointed, they work to learn about a child and their needs. Then, working with ProKids staff, they make recommendations to the court that help guide that child into a safe, permanent, and nurturing home. To help inform these recommendations, we meet with the child and the adults in their life, we look over medical records and school reports, attend meetings, and coordinate with other professionals in the child protection system. This advocacy happens over months, and even years, to help guide the best decision for the child. And, the actions we take as advocates, ultimately leads to a safe environment where a child can grow and thrive.
ProKids started advocating for kids 40 years ago because we believe every child is inherently worthy of a safe, permanent and nurturing home. Ram Dass, an author and psychologist, once said “we’re all just walking each other home” to talk about the need to take care of one another.
At ProKids, our staff and volunteers are working every day to walk our community’s children home.
To be an advocate, all you need is the willingness to learn, listen, and use your voice. Advocating is something the majority of us do every day, in both big and small ways, without even realizing it. When we decide to use those advocacy skills for the welfare of others, we can have tremendous impacts on the community we share.