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.