I recently created a two-hour course designed to teach basic educational advocacy to CASA volunteers who work with children in the child welfare system. The class was so popular that several nearby agencies ended up adopting it as well. The class is broken into three sections:
- The first section is a look at why educational advocacy is so important, with special attention being paid to what they can and should be doing for each age group.
- The second section examines how they do all of this. Who do they get in touch with? What do they need? How often do they need to be in contact with the school? This includes practical tools for being strong educational advocates.
- The third section is a practice session, where they take the techniques discussed in class and brainstorm ways to help a child be more successful in school. This is followed by a discussion about what they have learned, tricks and tips for managing all the information they gather, and a reflection on why educational advocacy is important.
The following is an outline of the class, with selected slides from the accompanying PowerPoint:
Why is it important for our advocates to be Educational Advocates for their kids?
- Foster kids and school stability stats
- Trauma and Learning
- The CASA Difference
What you will be doing for and with your kids is very child and age specific. Here is a broad overview of the kinds of things you might be doing by age group:
Pre-School Aged Kids:
- Getting them into an educational preschool setting, when they are old enough
- Making sure they are tracking developmentally, or are getting help if they aren’t (health assessment at 60 days, make sure child find happens if recommended, and recommendations are followed)
- Helping their caregivers integrate reading and other school prep activities into their routines
School Aged Kids:
- Getting in touch with and staying on top of their attendance, performance, and other official metrics at school monthly
- If needed, looking into and facilitating the acquisition or updating of an IEP
- Helping the kids identify their strengths and points of joy at school, and helping them build on those
- What to do when kids have to change schools
Transition Aged Kids:
- Get them thinking about and applying for college or vocational training
- Encourage them to finish school strong
- Help them plan for their futures, including specific skill building
- Get in touch with the right people
- Monitor progress on a regular basis
- Getting in touch with CWEL’s
- Visit the pre-school or daycare monthly, visit other schools every other month or so (by need)
- Use a strengths based approach to problem solving
- Actively measure school successes
Given a short description of a child and a list of their strengths and interests, brainstorm ideas for getting them to engaged with improving their grades and attendance
When it comes to education, CASAs Advocate for:
- School stability
- Building on strengths and meeting needs
- Helping kids dream of a better future
Why are these things important to a child’s overall success?