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Child Advocacy Corner

It is that time of year again. I hope that you, your family and your clients had safe and productive summer months and that your child clients are prepared for the new school year. As you check in with them this month, please keep in mind all the tangible items that help make a school start successful, or really that the lack of such things make a start stressful or embarrassing. For example, you may check to be sure they have all of the required school supplies, books, computer access codes and uniforms/dress code. There are many organizations in our community providing supplies for children starting school so if you feel that your child is missing something, please reach out to me and I can put you in touch with an organization that may be able to help. While it is the responsibility of the case management agency to make sure each child in dependency is ready for a new school year, sometimes just asking the question will reveal an important school item that is still missing. Often a child will not know how to speak up to ask for things so our guidance and voice can go a long way in terms of readiness for school. For teenagers entering senior year, ask if they have all of the forms for graduation, class ring, senior photos, etc. Many of these deadlines (and therefore advance check requests from the agencies) will be at the beginning of the school year rather than at the time of the event.

There are also the intangible components to starting school. You may ask your child, or his foster parent or case manager questions such as: Is there an IEP (Individualized Education Program) in place for a learning difference and is it being adhered to in this new class schedule; does the child know how he is getting to and from school; are there after school activities he wants to participate in but needs forms/uniforms/gear to participate and will there be transportation after the activity; does the child know how he is getting lunch and will there be breakfast for him at home before school. While these questions might come naturally to us there are also those questions we just would not have thought about, such as… is she sitting in an assigned seat where she cannot see the board well, or where she is easily distracted by misbehaving peers; did she take the proper pre-requisite class preceding the current course; does she need medication during the day and does the nurse or homeroom teacher know about it. Perhaps as you prepare your own children for school or talk with friends and relatives, you may identify areas where you can advocate for your child client’s education and normalcy needs.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me at nikki.weisburd@gal.fl.gov with any questions, concerns or to talk through the best ways to advocate for a successful school year. I have found that a seemingly small inquiry will make an immeasurable difference in a child’s success, confidence and emotional well-being. Thank you for being there for children in dependency and insuring their wishes and needs are represented.

If you or an attorney you know would be available for a new pro bono child advocacy case, please let me know. Knowing of interest in advance enables us to make a well-fit and timely match.

Thank you for your support.

 Nikki

Nikki S. Weisburd, Esq.
Senior Attorney/Pro Bono Coordinator
Dade Legal Aid Child Advocacy Project