Adding advocacy to a child who needs a family can make all the difference.
Kidsave Family Visit Model Advocacy has several unique attributes:
An ability to speak to others about the child.
A familiarity with the child to speak from the heart.
People can meet the child in a fun, safe environment.
Our child welfare system is designed to protect children who have been separated from their families. It traditionally has meant keeping their stories private, not identifying them as youth in foster care and keeping them protected in a foster family. This works up to a point. But when kids begin to get close to puberty, many in the public — and even some social workers — do not see the idea of a teenager as an attractive candidates for adoption. This is when it is important for people to meet the kids.
Advocacy is used when an adoptive family is needed, when a child is older and has had time to receive therapy for his or her trauma and when reunification efforts have failed. At that point the chances of finding a child a family are far better if a family has the opportunity to get to meet that child in a non-threatening situation. People need to hear about this child through advocacy. Advocacy goes beyond the work a social worker normally does to promote a child for adoption.
It includes such things as
- Empowering a member of the lay public to meet and talk about that child to others,
- Offering a child the chance to meet people in the public and let the word out that he or she needs a family,
- Inviting the media to do a profile of the child,
- Putting the child’s photo on a website that focuses on children who are in need of a family,
- Assigning people to be advocates for a specific child and conduct activities that focus specifically for that child, and
- Introduce that child to others in casual, nonthreatening situations so others will know about the child, consider helping, and also share information with others.
Advocacy vs. Recruitment
Advocacy is recruitment, but it intensifies it and multiplies what can be accomplished.
Traditional recruitment includes placing the child on a child-placing website, in an adoption exchange and presenting that child to families who are ready to adopt. Advocacy involves a broader conversation with people interested in helping. These individuals have been vetted for security purposes, to speak on behalf of the child — and meet the child.
Advocacy and child-specific recruitment are very similar. Advocates focus on one child rather than a group of children. In the ideal situation they get the word out about that child through personal channels and the media to attract attention by people who might be likely to take interest in that child. Advocates provide additional arms and legs to social workers whose case loads are overwhelming.
Advocates and case workers can work together to target recruitment efforts so that people that may have interests similar to a child come forward.
Possibly a host family for a child who likes soccer or sports can help a child meet families who like soccer, meet soccer promoters who can get the word out through local publications, or participate In a soccer camp where people can get to know him.
A strong advocacy program engages people who truly care about supporting older youth. These individuals like the opportunity that getting to know a child provides. Some host families, who are a child’s advocates, will engage another person to also be that child’s advocate and seek additional opportunities for getting the word out. Advocacy means never giving up.
Weekend events are a unique part of advocacy. These events are different from conventional matching events in that they seek engagement between people in the community who are interested in becoming host families and kids who are interested in being hosted. The events allow observing on both sides. Events are managed so that young people and adults can be comfortable together.
Prior to each event an orientation is conducted that helps the families know what the hosting program involves and what is expected at a weekend event. The weekend events enable families to meet kids without home studies and clearances. Events are carefully managed for safety. After the event both child and visiting family have the chance of indicating their preferences of individuals they might want to get to know better, possibly through hosting.