Child Advocacy in Education

Children constitute some of the most vulnerable groups in society. As they are unable to fight for their rights, children need people to sensitize the society on their needs, rights, and interests. Children advocates seek the establishment of requisite systems and structures to support all areas affecting kids. However, most advocates have ventured into addressing legal and health issues and forgotten the education aspect. The main aim of this paper is to address child advocacy in relation to education issues that concern children.

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Experiences at school can be positive or adverse. However, school plays a significant role in shaping the lives of children. First, school is an institution in which children spend a crucial proportion of their lives. Furthermore, when outside the school compound, especially at home, children spend a proportion of their time preparing for activities related to school (Barrett, Lester & Durham, 2011).

Considering that children spend most of their time in school, it is crucial for teachers to develop supportive systems. Apart from school assignments, children encounter various social problems. Therefore, teachers and school administrators assume the responsibility of implementing systems that encourage children to expand their thinking and creativity, which enable them to try new things (Bemak & Chung, 2008).

Furthermore, parents contribute to the shaping of academic lives of their children. From the time children retire to their homes after school, parents assume the roles played by teachers at school. For example, teachers play the supervisory role by ensuring that children adhere to the rules set by school coupled with completing their work (Taylor, 2006).

At home, parents should ensure that children have done their homework by supervising them to avoid procrastination. Furthermore, both teachers and parents offer encouragement to children to facilitate learning. With the help of parents and teachers among other adults, children develop both communication and analytical skills. Apart from formal education, school equips children with the ability to appreciate people with different personalities, thus embracing diversity (Bemak & Chung, 2008).

However, in the process of schooling, some children encounter different challenges that prevent them from competing at equal levels with one another. Some challenges include learning difficulties coupled with developmental disorders and medical disorders among other impairments. However, the systems of education bear the responsibility of incorporating the needs of these children to ensure that they access education (Trusty & Brown, 2005).

Although the government has established a welfare system for children with special needs, these children lack standard education compared to that offered to children without special needs. Apart from lacking the support and attention of adults, most children under the system of children welfare experience additional challenges as opposed to their counterparts in other systems of learning.

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With reference to these challenges, a person may wonder whether to blame parents for subjecting their children to child welfare program (Trusty & Brown, 2005). Although these programs cater for the education of children with special needs, parents should enroll these children to normal system given the challenges that children with special needs encounter with the welfare programs (Toporek, Lewis & Crethar, 2009).

First, research indicates that most children in the welfare programs lag behind in school as opposed to students in other systems (Bemak & Chung, 2008). However, parents shoulder the blame for failing to enroll their children in school early enough on attaining school-going age. Parents may also err in their supervisory role based on the failure to monitor school attendance of their children coupled with offering encouragement. Some family setups contribute to children acquiring psychological trauma that affects the learning process (Trusty & Brown, 2005).

For example, some parents expose their children to domestic violence and child labor. In such an environment, victims focus on problems at home and the chores awaiting them; thus, devoting less time for their studies. However, child welfare programs are not solutions to these challenges. When studying under these programs, children develop psychological stress after being separated from their parents. Mostly, the society treats children under welfare programs as foster, which contributes to stereotyping and exclusion of these children from social circles. Social alienation further impedes effective learning amongst children schooling under welfare programs (Trusty & Brown, 2005).

On completing studies under welfare programs, a significant proportion of children graduate to adulthood without resources to ensure their independence. With education as their only hope for economic stability, they fail to compete equitably as children who undertook the normal system of learning with the help and support of parents. However, children from welfare schools need additional support, despite being subjected to a system perceived to solve their problems (Bemak & Chung, 2008).

However, for the victims, especially those exposed to domestic violence and child labor, welfare institutions contribute to positive experiences. In school, victims bond with teachers and socialize with other children through participating in extracurricular activities. As administrators of these schools focus on positives of the welfare programs, the system succeeds to some extents (Barrett et al., 2011). With reference to the poor performance of welfare schools, policymakers from the government should work with parents and teachers to improve the program to ensure that children with special needs have access to standardized education (Toporek et al., 2009).

Educational needs of children must be watched with keen attention for children to get support whenever necessary. Such support must originate from the government and teachers in case parents fail to perform their roles. The court should intervene in various circumstances in a bid to improve performance of welfare schools and students eligible for care programs (Trusty & Brown, 2005). For example, the court can issue orders to clarify on the person or entity with the rights to make decisions concerning educational issues that affect children.

However, for children exposed to domestic violence and child labor, the court can appoint surrogate parents, rather than subjecting the victims to welfare programs that may not succeed. Furthermore, the court should have the mandate to evaluate a child’s needs and recommend the type of school to join. Such a move deters parents from subjecting children to care programs without proper evaluation of the underlying needs (Bemak & Chung, 2008).

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A significant proportion of children under care programs encounter general issues in relation to education. Prior to subjecting children to care programs, the court should authorize teachers to gather information concerning performance, attendance, and behavioral patterns of the child in question. Such information can help to highlight gaps that the school can address without subjecting such children to welfare programs. For example, engaging such children in extracurricular activities and increased participation in class activities relieves stress that hinders the process of learning among students (Taylor, 2006).

Researchers highlight stability and continuity of education as a crucial factor to consider prior to subjecting children to welfare programs (Barrett et al., 2011). At the start of the programs to introduce children to welfare programs, courts should decide whether it is possible to retain children in their original schools and introduce changes without affecting other children. Disruption constitutes a major factor that contributes to poor performance among children.

At the time of familiarizing with the new environment, most children may experience culture shock due to separation from their homes, families, and friends at former school. Curricula of the normal system of schooling are quite different from those of welfare programs. Lack of uniform standards across different platforms of education can be confusing and cause students to lose track of their learning patterns. Courts can help schools to implement stability plans in line with the requirements of federal legislation (Bemak & Chung, 2008).

Sharing information regarding performance of a child contributes to his/her success. However, in some circumstances, the system of school may not know forms of information that do not violate confidentiality. Such circumstances contribute to constraints in communicating educational needs of children. Such circumstances require the intervention of courts to interpret different laws in relation to confidentiality (Taylor, 2006).

Apart from addressing educational needs for children in welfare systems, there is also a need to promote education interests of children in the normal system of education. Performance can be improved through parents and teachers creating a culture that demands success. Both teachers and parents should ensure that children attend school regularly to avoid missing instructional time. Irregular attendance of school without imposing punitive measures contributes to the acquisition of perceptions that undermine the significance of school and education.

School systems should establish links that ensure proper communication of the needs of children to the administrators of schools. Through the help of counselors, teachers schedule for informational sessions to address social and academic challenges experienced by children both at home and in school. In such a case, teachers can solve most social problems that go unnoticed amongst children (Toporek et al., 2009). However, there is a need for the schools to maintain proper documents and records pertaining to their students.

In integrated schools, children with special needs require more attention as compared to their normal counterparts. Such children have several records that should be updated from time to time to avoid loss of data. For other students, it is necessary for the school to have a clear policy regarding dissemination of report forms and minutes to the parents. However, communication about student’s performance should occur amongst parents, teachers, and school administrators. Such a move entails the preservation of confidentiality in relation to information pertaining to the welfare of a student (Trusty & Brown, 2005).

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Children have various educational needs that should be addressed through the help of government, institutions, and parents. However, there is an urgent need for the government to ensure equality between welfare care programs and education in the normal system of schooling. Although welfare programs are designed to help children with special needs, those programs have failed to provide students with quality education.

However, the government and other stakeholders can improve the quality of education under care programs through various ways. The government should involve courts in the determination of some educational needs. Such a way ensures that proper measures to assist children are implemented prior to subjecting them to care programs. However, it is also significant for stakeholders to evaluate educational needs in the normal system of learning.

References

Barrett, K., Lester, S., & Durham, J. (2011). Child maltreatment and the advocacy role of professional school counselors. Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, 3(2), 86-103.

Bemak, F., & Chung, R. (2008). New professional roles and advocacy strategies for school counselors: A Multicultural/social justice perspective to move beyond the nice counselor syndrome. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86(3), 372-382.

Taylor, M. (2006). Advocating for Young Children: A Preservice Teacher Education Project. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 27(4), 391-399.

Toporek, L., Lewis, A., Crethar, H. (2009). Promoting systemic change through the ACA advocacy competencies. Journal of Counseling and Development, 87(3), 260-68.

Trusty, J., & Brown, D. (2005). Advocacy competencies for professional school counselors. Professional School Counseling, 8(3), 259 – 265.

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