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SAC’s Model of Advocacy

Definition of Advocacy

The exclusive and mutual representation of an individual, family, or cause in a forum, attempting to systematically influence decision making in an unjust or unresponsive system(s).

Schneider, R., & Lester, L. (2001). Social Work Advocacy: A new framework for action. Belmont, CA: Brooks and Cole.

Explanation of Terms:

Exclusive: The relationship between an individual/family and the advocate is singular, unique, focused solely on the family, primarily responsible to the family, and centered on the family’s needs. SAC is focused on the student and the student’s needs.
Mutual: The relationship between an individual/family and the advocate is reciprocal, interdependent, equal, joint, sharing the same level of the relationship with each other, exchanging ideas and plans jointly, and having a commonality between each other.
Representation: The activity of the advocate that expresses the case and concerns of the individual/family to a decision maker.
Forum: The venue(s) of the information and decision-making process: a school meeting, a public hearing, special commission, board meeting, staff meeting, the media and internet.
Systematic Advocacy: The application of knowledge and skills in a mindful, planned change process, using practice principles and a base of the wisdom accumulated from experience.
Influence: To modify, change, affect, act on, or alter decisions that impinge upon a family by persuading another person or group who has authority or power over resources and/or policy making.
Decision Making: The object of the effort to influence decision makers such as school staff, administrators, elected officials, board members, grassroots and nonprofit organizations, councils, or committees in a forum.
Unjust: Not in accord with laws or rules or other principles that promote justice. Fairness, equity, and righteousness are absent to some degree and someone’s rights are being violated, resulting in hardship.
Unresponsive: Persons or institutions that fail to respond, reply to, or acknowledge correspondence of any form requesting their attention within the domain of their civic, professional, or institutional responsibilities.
System(s): The interrelated organizations, groups, and individuals, which work together under legal, formal, or socially sanctioned mandates to deliver to eligible persons human services, resources, enforce laws and judgments and be responsible for areas of society’s interactions and resources.

SAC Advocacy Values and Principles

1. Family involvement: There is greater chance for success when families help plan the intervention and participate in its ongoing efforts. Moreover, when families are involved, they are more likely to use and value their outcomes and resources, outcomes and resources are more likely to be appropriate to the person and situation when families have direct involvement, and families experience efficacy and empowerment when clients are able to reach their goals.
2. Collaboration: Teams of practitioners can collaborate to ensure effective services and implementation.
3. Know your limits: Advocates should acknowledge when they do not possess the particular knowledge or skills required of a situation.
4. Timing is important: Advocates should understand good timing to determine which issues to advocate and which to defer.
5. Advocate not attack: Advocates do not need to be adversarial.
6. Listening is key: An advocate should listen attentively to a family and most importantly, to the student.

So what does an advocate do?

Student Advocacy Center advocates do the following when they open cases:

  • Assess strengths, past successes, needs, school setting and effectiveness of various interventions, etc. This is done through record review, as well as conversations with students, caretakers, school staff and community providers.
  • Clarify and help set achievable goals.
  • Provide guidance on educational rights and options.
  • Assist families in writing letters to their child’s school or district.
  • Prep students and families for educational meetings, including disciplinary hearings. Prep meetings often include the use of restorative questions and informal role plays.
  • Serve as an advocate at educational meetings, including disciplinary hearings, special education meetings, behavior plan meetings, etc.
  • Partner and coordinate with the family, school and if needed, service providers, to improve the student’s educational experience.
  • Assist with school enrollment.
  • Monitor educational success and conduct follow-up as needed.

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