Every Child Needs a Champion

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Once upon a time, not so long ago, children spent their entire day surrounded by family, neighbors, and friends. Things are different now. When they are very young we send our children to school. And most of us-men and women alike-go off to a job. We seldom even see our children during the work day.

This is a big change from the past, but no one is certain whether the change is good or bad. We do know that our relations with others are now more complicated, more numerous, and more impersonal.

Laws, regulations, and "official" actions govern behavior more than they did a hundred years ago. For this reason, parents sometimes take a "hands-off" view of relations with teachers, principals, social workers, and health workers. These people are authorities. After all, don't they know what's best?

In an impersonal sense, they often do. But children are not impersonal beings. Laws, regulations, and official actions sometimes get in the way of children's best interests. This observation applies to most children at some time, particularly when a child gets into difficulty. At such times, especially, children need an advocate.

An advocate gives voice to the child's best interests. Advocates can help raise issues that have been ignored by the school; they can go with parents to school meetings; they can bring like minded people together to consider common problems and solutions.

Some form of advocacy is an essential part of children's education. And children- particularly those facing unusual difficulties- are not usually good advocates on their own behalf. They need champions to help the system pay attention. Successful advocacy can help children and youth learn to assert their own needs in ways that are effective.

It's ideal if parents can play this role. They have the biggest stake. But this is not always possible. There are no easy ways to make sure every child has a champion. Being a champion, after all, requires courageous personal action in an impersonal world.

The best strategy for finding -or becoming - an advocate is to talk to other concerned parents and teachers. Professional advocates, moreover, are often available to work with parents of handicapped children. To find out more about advocacy -or virtually any topic related to education and raising children, call the ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools (ERIC/CRESS) toll-free at 1-800-624-9120. We can help you get materials and put you in touch with organizations that are concerned. To find out more about the ERIC system and its services, call ACCESS ERIC at 1-800-LET-ERIC.

Credits: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Sc

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