Every person deserves a happy childhood. However, that is not always the case. Roughly 5,000 children go into foster care a year in Virginia. Each of these children are assigned an advocate, or someone who speaks on their terms. These people are known as child advocates or child advocate attorneys. Like many careers, child advocate attorneys require an education, reasons why I want to pursue the career, and once they’re advocates they have specific guidelines and specialties.
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People may ask what a child advocate is or what exactly they do, a child advocate is someone that is legally speaking for a child. Child advocates are also people that are responsible for making sure that children have someone to stand up for them and make sure that their voice is heard in certain trials in their life. Many people think that child advocacy does all of the same thing. However, in child advocacy you can pursue different kinds of advocacy. Depending on the type of work you want to do, you can work with victims of trauma, neglect, abuse, adoption, and much more. Each of the fields that you can pursue as a child advocate leads to different responsibilities. The responsibilities of a child advocate include: evaluating a child’s environment, providing care to the children, providing counseling, and helping introduce children into stable homes. The overall focus of a child advocate is for them to speak up for the needs of the child or children that they are advocating for.
There are many challenges in the legal field that child advocates face. In the Urban Institute cite, they say “Child Advocates face myriad challenges in their attempts to get their issues on the public policy agenda- competing ideas, organizational self interests, limited resources, and indifferent (or sometimes hostile) political environment”. (Urban Institute) Each and every child advocate faces many different challenges in their field. All of the challenges are different and can be more dangerous than others. One of the challenges that can be extremely difficult in law is getting their “issues” to the public policy agenda. Dean G. Kilpatrick says “Public policy can be generally defined as a system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of actions, and funding priorities…”. (Kilpatrick) This is a challenge to child advocates and other attorneys because you need to be granted your case and you need to make sure that it fits the constitutional laws.
In order to become a child advocate and be able to actually speak up for the children that need help, there are certain levels of education that one must obtain. Child Advocates often require the same education that any lawyer or attorney would need. Child Advocates need a state attorney license which would be after going to law school. After law school, they are required to take the state bar exam which would give them their state attorney license. However, before that, they are required to have a bachelor’s degree. In order to get into law school you can have a bachelor’s degree in anything but they prefer something law based, psychology based, english based, or history based. The degree that you choose to get before law school doesn’t really matter, however it’s better to get a degree that will help prepare for law school. Along with the college and law school that is required for child advocates, they are often required in the state of Virginia to do training and work in a law firm before being eligible to be a child advocate. Many child advocacy places require child advocates to have some type of experience with advocacy groups, social working, legal aid, or counseling. This ensures that the advocates will know how to work with victims, children, and legal work. The work environment can be hostile and dangerous at times which is why they require training on certain topics like child abuse and victim services.
I’ve always been interested in the legal field and because of my adoption history, I want to be a child advocate because I will be able to relate with the children that I will be working with. Being able to help a child have a voice is important to me because I want the children to know that there is someone that is always going to be on their side. Many children that grow up in abusive homes are afraid to speak up and that is why I want to be able to speak up for them. It is often hard to speak up in times of difficulty and I want the children I work with to know that there is always going to be someone there for them and to help them in those difficult times. It is important to advocate for the child’s best interest and to see all sides because you do not want to place a child in an environment that could worsen what has already happened to them. Through my personal experience, I know that going through adoption helped better my life and helped me grow as a person. I want to be able to do the same thing for the children that I am working with even if their case is not an adoption case.
In order to accomplish the goal of being a child advocate attorney, I am going to start with attending college. The two colleges that I want to go to are John Tyler Community College for my first two years and then transfer to University of Virginia. To accomplish the goals that I have, I’m going to get my associates degree in Criminal Justice and a certificate in paralegal studies. This way I will be able to work while continuing my education at University of Virginia. Once I graduate with my bachelors degree, I want to continue to law school at University of Richmond. Some of the difficulties I know that I will face in achieving these goals is paying for my education. However, my plan to tackle those difficulties is to apply for as many scholarships as possible and to obtain a job while I’m in college. It might be stressful to try and balance my studies and my work, but I believe that my hard work will pay off and I will be a successful person. With the guidance of my parents, friends, and other loved ones, I know that I can do this.
Child advocate attorneys require an education, have specific guidelines and specialties, and those are the reasons I want to become a child advocate attorney. It is important that children have a voice and have someone stand up for them when going through tough times. Every child needs someone in their lives to speak up for them and to advocate what is best for their lives and what will help them succeed the most in life. Everyone has a voice and has the freedom of speech, so that is why it is important that children are heard.
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