A child advocate is the individual who works with and represents the interests of the child during legal proceedings such as family disputes, welfare proceedings or abuse cases. A child advocate job description includes the unique personal qualities that allow the individual to function as a child counselor as well as the professional qualities of a social worker and legal advocate.
A child advocate works within the legal and welfare systems and in conjunction with local Departments of Child and Family Services or child welfare organizations to provide a voice for children in proceedings they are ill equipped to handle alone.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities of a Child Advocate
- Provides caring, steady support for children and youth as they go through court proceedings and counseling sessions.
- Offers crisis-counseling for children and youth who have experienced trauma, domestic violence, sexual assault, mental health problems, or other challenges.
- Furnishes families and interested parties with contact information and access to basic services such as job training, life skills training, physical and mental health care, parenting assistance, and more.
- Conducts detailed assessments of the child’s mental, physical and emotional states using diagnostic tools, interviews, and psychological testing tools.
- Evaluates the child’s environment, reviewing potential dangers with caregivers and teaching ways to minimize threats to the child’s well-being.
- Maintains current records on all clients and follows up on active cases to ensure the safety of the child.
- Provides comfort for children during medical exams, interviews, and other diagnostic exams.
- Collaborates with outside organizations to provide ongoing support for reintroduction of children into stable home lives.
Required Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
- Must possess exceptional people skills and be able to work with children and adults from all walks of life.
- Must have excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Must be an exceptional listener, able to ask questions and extract information that the individual may be reluctant to share.
- Must maintain good judgment in crisis situations.
- Must be familiar with child psychology and be able to identify warning signs of abuse, trauma, physical and mental instability, and substance dependency.
- Must be sensitive to different cultures and be willing to learn about different approaches to family structure, behavior, and communication.
- Must be familiar with a wide range of community resources, especially those that tend to children and youth needs.
Education and Experience
- Bachelor’s degree in child advocacy, family counseling, psychology, behavioral sciences, or social work.
- Must have experience either as a volunteer with child advocacy groups or have a background in social work, legal aid, or counseling.
- Must receive training in victim advocacy and child abuse and victim services.
- Time will be spent working with children and families in the child advocacy center, courthouses, psychologists’ and counselors’ offices, and in the home.
- Must be willing to work with hostile and sometimes dangerous individuals in order to protect those who might not be able to protect themselves.
- Must be able to work flexible hours and be on call 24 hours a day for emergencies in their assigned cases.
- Must have reliable transportation and means of communication.
- Median yearly salary $33,000.