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Advocacy


Advocacy at the OCYA includes a number of activities that are aimed at ensuring the rights, interests and viewpoints of Alberta’s vulnerable children and youth are affirmed and acted upon. These activities include:

  • Providing education on the rights, interest and viewpoints of children and youth,
  • Reporting to Alberta’s Legislature on any matter related to the rights, interests and well-being of children and youth involved in designated services,
  • Communicating on the work of the office, including systemic issues that are affecting vulnerable children and youth,
  • Engaging with children and youth, their communities and others to collaborate on ways in which to address issues affecting children and youth,
  • Conducting research related to improving designated services,
  • Conducting investigations into systemic issues arising from the serious injury to or death of a child or youth receiving designated services,
  • Advocating on behalf of individual children and youth receiving designated services,
  • Providing legal representation to children and youth receiving services under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act or the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act.

 

What happens when you call to request an Advocate?

 

Call received by intake worker
(if message left, call is returned within two working days)

Intake worker will ask questions to determine whether the call is about a young person within the scope of the OCYA and whether there is an issue in which a young person may benefit from advocacy services.
The caller may be provided with some ideas to advocate on their own.
The caller may be referred to another organization that can better meet the identified need.

If it is determined that a young person is in the scope of the OCYA and:

  1. The young person would like the help of an advocacy; or
  2. If the young person is unable to say whether they would like an advocate (e.g. an infant), it appears that there is an issue that is occurring for the young person where the assistance of an advocate could be beneficial, the young person will be referred to an individual advocate.

An advocate will begin gathering information within seven days. Typically, the first point of contact for the advocate will be the young person.

 

What do our Advocates do?

 

When a young person receives services from Individual Advocates, the Advocates:

  • Work diligently to ascertain the young person’s viewpoint, and empower the young person to speak for themselves and to decide on the activities of the advocate.
  • Are led by the views and wishes of the young person.
  • Work exclusively for the young person.
  • Are accessible, accountable, timely and consistent regardless of the young person’s location or circumstances.
  • Encourage and respect diverse opinions.
  • Use a problem-solving process that includes:
    – Collecting and analyzing the facts;
    – Using persuasion and access to progressive levels of decision makers;
    – Including the child in the process as much as possible; and
    – Not dictating the outcome.
  • Use an informal, non-intrusive style in an effort to negotiate collaborative strategies at the organizational level closest to the young person instead of using formal or adversarial processes.
  • Do not seek to replace a young person’s relationships with their natural support system.

 

What is Advocacy?

 

Advocacy is “intervention on behalf of children and groups of children in relation to those services and institutions that impinge on their lives”. Advocacy is defined by “the concept that individual children, categories of children, or all children, have special rights and needs, and that prevailing circumstances require that they be given support to assure their access to entitlements, benefits, and services. Such support may involve making individual practitioners or agencies more responsive in specific instances or seeking larger system changes that affect classes of individuals over time” (Kahn, A., & Kamerman, S. (1972). Child Advocacy, Report of a National Baseline Study. Children’s Bureau, (LHEW-OCC-73-18), 183-183).

Advocacy must be independent to ensure the Advocate has sufficient autonomy to carry out the Advocates’ legislated responsibilities and has a voice independent of the related ministries and their designated service systems.

 

Privilege

 

All information that a young person provides to the Advocate in confidence is considered privileged and cannot be released without the consent of the young person. There are two exceptions to this:

  1. Any disclosure about a child possibly in need of intervention as per the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act must be reported; and
  2. If information is shared that a person may come to grievous harm, that must also be reported.

 

Directed Advocacy

 

Advocates assume a young person can direct advocacy efforts unless there are factors present that preclude this, such as:

  • The young person is unable to express personal wishes, wants or needs regarding the issue because of some limiting condition, which may include:
    – Being preverbal, or
    – Having a significant mental impairment.
  • Because of the complexity of the issue being addressed and the young person’s developmental abilities, the young person cannot reasonably be expected to direct the advocacy efforts.

 

The advocate will:

  • Ensure that the young person understands the role of an advocate and how that is distinct from the role of others in the young person’s life.
  • Ensure the young person wants the help of an advocate.
  • Align with the young person and assist them with advocacy efforts.

 

The young person will:

  • Determine the issues and agree to the advocacy strategies employed.
  • Determine their level of participation in the advocacy strategies. (i.e. attending meetings, writing letters, contacting decision makers).

 

If an advocate is not taking direction from a young person, the advocate will:

  • Focus primarily on inquiry of the young person and their circumstances.
  • Will introduce any new information for the decision-maker to consider.
  • Ensure that the young person’s rights, interests and viewpoints are considered in decisions made about the young person.

 

Mandatory Notifications

 

There are critical points in the lives of young people receiving designated services under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act or the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act, during which there may be barriers to their rights, interests and viewpoints being fully considered when decisions are made on their behalf. CYFEA policy requires the director to submit a mandatory notification to the OCYA in the following circumstances:

  • a young person disagrees with a significant decision that pertains to them,
  • the needs of a child are not being met,
  • significant persons in the child’s life have competing perspectives that are not focused on the child, or
  • an allegation of abuse or neglect of a child in care is made.

 

Once a mandatory notification has been received by OCYA, it will be responded to in the same way as any other written inquiry or referral.

 

National Advocacy Standards
 

THE CANADIAN COUNCIL OF CHILD AND YOUTH ADVOCATES
 
The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA) is an alliance of
legislatively mandated advocates for the rights of children and youth. These advocates
may operate under various titles (e.g. Advocate, Representative, Ombudsman,
Commissioner), but all are official representatives in their particular provinces and
territories.
 
PURPOSES OF THE CCCYA NATIONAL ADVOCACY STANDARDS
 
The CCCYA National Advocacy Standards describe the minimum expected level of
service in member organizations. The standards are implementable and measurable
service targets. The means by which the standards are met and the criteria used to
determine compliance with the standards are to be established by each CCCYA
Member individually, in accordance with their provincial or territorial mandate.
The CCCYA National Advocacy Standards provide a guiding framework for operations,
to ensure consistent quality of work. They also provide: a basis for accountability; a
direction for staff training; and a means to evaluate service.
 
Read the CCCYA National Advocacy Standards here.