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How Tips4choices Advocates work with Parents

All Tips4choices Advocate will have the following skills to work effectively with a parent in Child Protection:
  • Specialist knowledge and experience of Child Protection laws and practices, and the local policies and procedures in the area, so as to enable them to advise the parents about the risk to the child/ren, their rights in the process and the options open to them.
  • An ability to listen, counsel and relate to the families in a non-threatening, non-judgemental and culturally sensitive manner.
  • An awareness of their own value base and reality;
  • An ability to understand the parents’ reality and how it differs from their own where the parents and advocate are from different ethnic origins;
  • A commitment to equality of service provisions for all families, and to identify and challenge any form of discrimination they encounter in a case, for example on grounds of race, ethnicity, gender and disability;
  • An ability to manage conflict;
  • Communication skills so that they can communicate in a confident, assertive but non aggressive manner;
  • Negotiating skills so that they can promote partnership between the parents and local authories in a diplomatic and constructive manner;
  • An ability to be objective, detached and child focused so that they can understand the risk to the child;
  • A professional approach in order to have credibility with, and can be trusted by the local authorities, without losing sight of their primary function which is to empower parents.

Tips4choices will provide training from trainers of sufficient quality and independence, who are drawn from approved course providers.  The organisation will be working closely with the local area ACPC.  All advocates will be given in house training as well as training from the ACPC and other relevant organisations.  Tips4choices advocates will receive specialist training in Child Protection research, laws and practices, as well as advocacy skills and ethics in this context.  This may include joint training between advocacy organisations, social services and multi-disciplinary child protection team.

Supervision of advocates
Tips4choices advocates will be given individual supervision fortnightly and group supervision monthly.  Individual supervision is where the advocates can discuss personal issues and their case loads.  Group supervision is devised to enable the advocates to learn from each other, where they can discuss difficult clients/case load and how they are managing them.  All advocates will have access to a supervisor, on an emergency basis if necessary to ensure that their work is supervised.  They will have support to resolve urgent practices issues; they will also have access to a counsellor to resolve difficult issues pertaining to the clients or supervisor.

Working with a client

Referrals to Tips can be made by Social Services, Doctors, Health Services, Solicitors and the parents themselves.

Upon receiving a referral the parents will be contacted via phone, an appointment can then be made.  Conformation of the appointment will be sent by post.  The advocate will visit the clients at home within 48hours of receiving the referral.

This appointment will last 1 hour where an assessment will be made of the client’s needs.  At the start of this appointment the advocate will start to build trust between them, using the skills noted above.

The first meeting

At this meeting the advocate will explain to the family:

  • who we are,

  • what support we can offer,

  • that our service is independent from social services, even though it may have been the social worker who contacted us to request support for the family;

  • we work within a child protection policy which means that we cannot keep a confidence if we became aware that there is or could be a child at risk;
  • that everything they tell us is in confidence, which means that we will not share the information unless they ask us or give permission to do so;

The confidential nature of the advocate’s work underpins the parent’s ability to trust him/her, because it creates a private environment in which the parents can explore their issues, and possible solutions to the child protection concerns without jeopardising their position with the local authoriies

The advocate will ask the parents to sign a consent form which confirm that they are aware of and understand Tips Child Protection Procedures.  The consent form also gives the advocate permission to liaise with other professionals on their behalf.

The client will be assessed holistically, which means the client’s lifestyle and the environment, for example housing, as this could have an impact on the Child Protection process.

An hour assessment may not be enough for a client, depending on how many children in the family or whether the client has learning disability.  Another appointment will be made and confirm with the client before they leave.  Before the appointment the Advocate will read relevant reports and notify social services of the named worker working with the client.  The social worker can then be asked for any relevant report/issues that need to be worked on.

The client and advocate will be able to telephone each other between appointments with any relevant issues.  At this appointment the client’s issues will be dealt with in msore details, the advocate will explain the Child Protection process and the laws pertaining to Child Protection in greater detail.  The client will also be made aware of what professionals expect from them, depending on where they are at within the process, for example if the child/ren is accommodated what are their legal rights regarding contact?  The issues of contact will be explored.
The reports from social services will let the advocate know whether the client has learning disability.  In this case the process will be discussed slowly and repetitively.   This way the advocate will ensure the client fully understand what is going on.

An appointment will be made with the client to discussed what to expect and possible recommendations that may be made at the conference.  The client’s opinion and how to convey it, respectively and without aggression, will be discussed.  Work will be done with the client if they are sounding angry or aggressive before the meeting. Advocates will advise parents on how to present themselves and encourage them to listen, challenge constructively and not offer what could be viewed as excuses for their behaviour.  If the client appears to be too angry to attend, the advocate could convey their opinions to the meeting for them with their permission.
Advocates will meet with the clients after the conference/meetings to ensure they understood what was said and the way forward.
If the children’s names are to place on the Child Protection Register the advocate will continue to support them through the implementation of the Child Protection plan.  For example if parenting classes and counselling  is part of the plan the advocate can refer the parents in house where support will continue.

We also try and help the family resolve other issues that may have an impact on the Child Protection Process such as housing, debt management, drug or alcohol abuse, relationships, or domestic violence. Overall, we work in partnership with the parents, social services and other agencies to assist the parents to work towards the Child Protection issues being resolved and the children’s names being removed from the register.

If the local authority decide to initiate care proceedings:

If the Local Authority issues care proceedings, we ensure the family have a solicitor who understands family law. We talk them through the procedures for the court, the different hearings, the courts’ time tabling and what the court may require of the parents in-relation to expert advice and co-operation.  Advocates will encourage parents to participate in the proceedings at all levels, and to challenge constructively through their legal advisors. We help and encourage them to resolve any issues that may be having an impact on how they are behaving as parents. This could include people they may be associating with, such as a known schedule one offenders.

Telephone support is available to the client between hours of 10-5pm  Monday to Friday. 

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