Advocating for Yourself

An advocate is someone who publically supports or recommends a specific cause or policy.  Advocacy looks different depending on who is doing the advocating, the issue that is being raised, and the audience you are speaking to. Advocating for yourself or others is one of the best tools you can use to help your voice be heard and create changes in your personal life, as well as in the larger child welfare system.

The child welfare system can seem big, with lots of professionals involved in planning and making decisions for youth and families.  This page gives tools and information to increase youth’s knowledge, understanding and readiness to advocate for themselves or others, and to make plans and decisions for their life. These include:

  • Family Team Meeting Prep Tool YLAT has created a prep tool for youth and adults to use together to help young people focus on the goals most important to them and identify the steps needed to work towards these goals.
  • YLAT “Dos & Don’ts of Advocacy”: When you are trying to get what you need, think about these helpful hints when advocating for yourself (or someone else). When you are preparing to speak up for yourself think about the advice in this DO & DON’T list. Most of all, remember that you have a right to ask for help! 
  • Making Healthy Choices is a guide that was created by advocates, policy makers, youth in care, alumni of foster care, and the medical community.  It helps to create greater understanding about psychotropic medication and can help youth decide what’s best for them.
  • Making a Choice is a simple guide created by Maine youth and DHHS.  This guide  provides youth with information they need in order to have ‘informed consent’ when making medication decisions about antipsychotic medications.  Many of the people from Maine helped work on the Making Healthy Choices guide (above).
  • Youth Voice in Court Proceedings these digital stories include the voices of youth reflecting on their experiences in court and custody hearings.  Do you want your voice heard in court?

Know that youth have control over many things, even though it feels like everyone else has control! You can control:

  • Who you contact to ask for help or support.
  • Using the chain of command to ask for help when you are not getting what you need.
  • How you speak your truths and share your story.

Learning about your personal rights shows you that you have a right too. What you can or can’t do and know you have choices.

"It's really done a lot. Being a part of YLAT makes you feel stronger; knowing you're making a difference makes you feel good about yourself." - YLAT Member