Vol. 7, No. 1 November 2002
Resource Spotlight: Advocates for
test of the morality of a society is what it does for
its children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
this simple yet powerfully insightful quote as its rallying cry, Advocates
for Childrens Services (ACS) is fighting for childrens rights
in North Carolina. A special program of Legal Aid of North Carolina,
ACS provides free legal representation to children across the state
who need medical, psychiatric, special education, or foster care/adoption
services. Priority is given to children who are involved in the foster
care system, and emphasis is placed on securing the services promised
to children under three federal government programs:
- The Medicaid
program promises early and periodic screening, diagnosis, and treatment
- The Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) promises a free, appropriate,
- The Adoption and
Safe Families Act (ASFA) promises speedy, permanent placement
succeeds in getting children appropriate services and a safe, permanent
home. But, because the promises of health care, special education, and
safe, permanent families have never been fully funded at the state or
national level, and because children are denied lawyers to assert their
rights to such services, there are many stories that end sadly despite
ACSs and others efforts.
to being concerned with the effects of underfunding childrens
services, ACS also finds it disturbing that current social policy sanctions
the exclusion of children themselves from the dialogue surrounding their
rights under the 3 big federal promises. Favoring a grassroots approach
to action on behalf of children, ACS urges the young adults affected
by this unwritten policy of exclusion, along with those adults who support
them (such as foster parents, family members, social workers, and educators),
to stand up and be counted.
how you can help a child have a voice in decisions that affect his or
her own life?
- Ask a child what he or
she wants before making any decisions that will seriously impact his
or her life, and seriously consider any requests he or she makes.
- Help ensure that all
children involved in the foster care system attend all their court
hearings and all other meetings at which important decisions
are made about them. Help children prepare to participate in the hearing/meeting
by discussing with them what to expect and how to best express their
- There is strength in
numbersjoin the North Carolina Foster Parents Association and
your local foster parent association and figure out how to advance
your agenda together. If there isnt a local chapter, start one.
- Encourage foster children
you know to join SaySo (Strong, Able Youth Speaking Out, <http://sayso-nc.tripod.com/>),
the wonderful statewide advocacy organization for young adults involved
in the foster care system.
- Contact a group such
as ACS any time you or a child suspect a childs rights have
these things you will be empowering a child today and laying the critical
foundation for independence later. A child who knows how to advocate
for him or herself possesses the most powerful tool there is for success
information about Advocates for Childrens Services, call (919)
865-7200, e-mail [email protected],
write PO Box 26087, Raleigh, NC 27601, or visit www.LegalAidNC.org.
ACS welcomes your comments.
is an Americorps Volunteer with ACS.
2002 Jordan Institute for Families