I’ve come across this word ‘advocate’ many times over the years that I’ve been involved in adoption. It’s a word we use early on to talk about what we will have to continually do as parents for our children. We advocate for them – a person who puts a case on someone else’s behalf, when they cannot speak for themselves. They may not be able to for many different reasons; they may be too young to understand or speak out, they may not be able to voice their anxieties due to fear, they may not be aware of what they feel and certainly how to make others understand.
As key workers in school you may advocate for vulnerable children too – with other staff members, agencies, professionals and parents.
As an adoptive parent though, sometimes weary from the battling and the relentless advocacy, it can be hard to find the strength to continue. This question has been on my mind for some time – who advocates for us? When we can’t carry on, through loss of strength, too close emotionally to the situation or just lack the knowledge needed to advocate for our children. Who advocates for us?
It should be social services and sometimes it is. It might be a therapist or counsellor, and sometimes that really helps. But there are times when something else may be needed. A peer support, an advocate who knows us and our family and also knows the challenges our children face. An advocate can be detached enough to see both sides and to speak for the child and the family.
I’ve just attended a meeting at a school when just this was beneficial. I didn’t say anything the parents probably hadn’t said already, but having a person outside of the situation speak and support the family can be helpful. I have needed this sometimes too. When we can’t see the wood for the trees, someone else alongside us with a map can really help.
This is an unusual subject for me to blog about I know as usually it is about something I’ve observed or learnt about my children. However, it’s something close to my heart and something that needs to be talked about more openly.
If you’re a parent in a similar situation, then finding an advocate to support you in important meetings may help. We can provide this service for a small fee, but it can be just as useful having a friend who you know can speak up when needed. Knowing what you don’t know is hard! Having people who have trod this path before you and can help you navigate is essential.
For schools and education settings encouraging your parents to find advocates can be helpful too. It’s not always about apportioning blame but about partnership. Many times, in our work, we have been the bridge between school and home and have been a reassurance to both parties that things are actually ok, and the best is being done for the child involved.
Also, I’d encourage you in whatever capacity you play in a vulnerable childs’ life to look for the opportunities to advocate for them. What is the anxiety or fear underneath the behaviour? How can you help to really hear the child when they can’t articulate their needs to others? What could you do to alleviate some of the pressure for the child and for their family too?
So, as you go about your week, think about those around you who need advocating for. It may be children and young people, but it may also be your colleagues, friends, other adults around you. We all need someone to speak for us when we can’t speak for ourselves.