Big City Advocacy…Lessons Learned Along The Way
Joe Boyle – CASA Educational Decision Maker (EDM) – April 2021
I’ve been with CASA of Philadelphia for just over three years. While not new to advocating in educational settings, I was new to working in a big city. Philadelphia has a complex child welfare system and a complex educational system; there is plenty to learn! Throughout these three years I have continued to learn: new people, places, terms and acronyms.
As I reflect on these three years, I come back to a few strands that repeat and amplify the experience:
- ·The basics of advocacy remain the same. The basics include gaining direct and detailed information about the client’s circumstance and needs. They also include developing a plan for advocacy and communicating the plan to all the stakeholders. Seeking autonomy and self-determination for each client guides advocacy each step of the way.
- The children that CASA advocates for have been deprived of so much. They have not had families who are able to support them. In many cases they have not received an appropriate education. The agencies designated to help them can be divided and lack the integration that leads to smooth and consistent services. The CASA advocate is well placed to bring these agencies and services together in support of the child.
- Above all else, advocacy requires tenacity. Each of the children I have served has experienced reverses and setbacks. Schools and agencies have “dropped the ball” and failed to provide for them. While we all get discouraged, the child welfare team and CASA have assisted me in finding a new path or an alternate way to get each child’s needs met. These children deserve nothing less than the best advocacy that each of us can provide.
So, volunteering for CASA has been a great opportunity for me. If you like challenges, learning and advocating for children, CASA is the place for you.