The definition of "child advocate" is one who helps protect the rights of children who have been abused or harmed. A child advocate may be a lawyer who specializes in children's issues or a court-appointed counselor or legal aide who lobbies on behalf of the child in a legal setting.
An individual interested in a career in child welfare may wonder how to become a child advocate. Becoming a child advocate generally requires completing an introductory training course and undergoing a background check. There are several organizations that have been formed specifically to provide child advocacy services to a particular municipality or region. Those individuals who have completed a criminal justice degree may be able to attain a paying position within such a group once they have completed the initial orientation course. However, the vast majority of child advocates are volunteers.
Children's advocates can choose to work either on an individual level or on a group level. Working on an individual level involves getting to know the case history of a particular child. This frequently involves contact with specific legal professionals and time spent in courtrooms. Those who choose to advocate on a group level will often spend time attempting to influence policy decisions on a legislative level. This will involve attending community meetings, meeting with local elected political representatives and researching the overall living conditions of a particular neighborhood or community.
The more legal training a child advocate possesses, the better he will be able to lobby on behalf of his particular case or group. Those individuals who possess a criminal justice degree will be able to interface more effectively with other lawyers and legal professionals. This is highly beneficial to the child. Needless to say, child advocates should also possess great understanding and patience. Children require specialized care, especially those children who have been subjected to trauma or other abuse. Child advocates should consider taking a few basic courses in psychology and sociology in order to equip themselves for this aspect of their role.
Those individuals who choose to attain a law degree may act on behalf of children specifically, although technically this makes them a lawyer, not a child advocate. Lawyers who advocate on behalf of children can expect to juggle several cases at one time. They should be mentally and emotionally prepared to work long hours. A voluntary child advocate can work on cases as he sees fit.