A child advocate is an individual or an organization which actively promotes the health and welfare of children. They work to protect children’s rights and act on behalf of abused and neglected children. Essentially, their mission is to serve as a public voice for children’s needs.
Although there are no formal child advocacy degrees, there are numerous related certificates and degrees which can provide the skills and knowledge which will prove useful in pursuing a career in this field.
Child advocates perform numerous duties in the service of minors. The essential goal of the child advocate is to pursue measures to ensure that children have and enjoy their right to a safe, healthy childhood. They accomplish this by addressing issues such as mental health, education, and legal or medical issues which have a direct affect on children.
Most advocacy groups specialize in some specific aspect of children’s needs, focusing on children with special health needs, for instance, or working to provide comprehensive health care for all children, including therapeutic and rehabilitative services, psychological treatment for the trauma of abuse, or necessary appliances such as eyeglasses. They might provide the parents of children with disabilities with information, assistance support, or all of these.
Some child advocates are individuals who are appointed by a juvenile court judge. They work with the court system to prevent abuse, or to place neglected or abused children in a safe living environment, such as a foster home.
Advocacy of any sort also involves raising public awareness of issues and often involves effecting policy changes. Some child advocates and advocacy organizations work with the public, disseminating information, soliciting contributions, or lobbying for legislation that will benefit children.
Most child advocates are volunteers, and require minimal training. Volunteers need to possess a genuine interest in the well-being of children as well as other vital interpersonal skills, such as good communication skills Court-appointed advocate volunteers need to be objective, responsible, and committed.
Since most child advocates are volunteers, they usually work for minimal or no compensation. However, the position can be very rewarding, as one works to alleviate pain and suffering and to ensure that children at risk have the advantage of a safe and healthy existence. Numerous organizations exist nationwide where interested parties over the age of 21 can volunteer.