Advocating for Children and Families by Penny Webb

2nd March 2017

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I often use the words ‘advocate’ and ‘advocating’ when describing myself and the work that I do.

However, what do I mean by those words and how do I advocate for children and families? In this blog I want to try and answer those questions, and also reflect on if my advocating is successful and worth doing.

The dictionary says ‘to advocate’ means to actively support a particular cause or policy’. I think this is a good description of what I do. In my case, my ‘cause’ is children’s rights and needs for developmentally appropriate environments and activities. This can be broken down into two main aspects;

  • ensuring that every child is able to flourish through adults understanding child development in terms of how children learn, and respecting that every child is unique and develops in his or her own way and at their own pace.
  • Listening to children to ensure their voice is heard in relation to things that impact on themselves.

For both aspects, anyone advocating for children and families needs to fully believe in what they are advocating for and to be passionate about bringing about changes, because being an advocate can be an uphill battle, very time consuming and at times can feel like no one is listening.

So how do I advocate?

First, I listen;

I listen to real children and families, those who are experiencing difficulties caused by government policy, actions of others and systems (including funding) that just do not work for them. This is not to suggest that all families and children have difficulties with the same things because as I often say ‘one size does not fit all’ and so what doesn’t work for some, does work for others well or ‘good enough’. In my opinion, a big part of the problem is the ‘one size fits all’ systems and lack of flexibility for those who really care about children and families and who are doing their best – to adapt things so that individual needs can be meet.

I listen to those individuals and organisations who are trying to support children and who find their hands are tied by lack of flexibility and lack of funding.

Second, I read and get involved;

I read research, media articles, reports from organisations.

Where possible I become actively involved by attending meetings and conferences, and through completing consultations.

Third, I write about things;

I do this via my personal blog, (and blogs / articles like this one), and social media to raise awareness, to start debate, to join with others who share my concerns.

I do all of this for free and don’t usually even claim expenses when I am able to because I feel it is very important that I am completely independent, that there are no actual or perceived hidden agendas about why I do what I do.

My final reflection for this blog is around if my advocating is successful and therefore worth doing. Let’s just say some ‘battles’ have been won in that others are listening and some changes have been made, but more importantly a greater number of people are now coming together and all doing what they can to help make this world fit for children.

However, the ‘war’ has not been won and I think we have a long way to go before I can even begin to think of retiring my soapbox and to stop advocating – in fact, the more I become involved in different aspects of children’s lives, the more I realise there is to do before children are at the heart of everything we do, and EVERY child is able to flourish.

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