McNelis, Ailish Marie - Court Advocate for Children

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Court Advocate for Children (Ailish McNelis)


[edit] General Overview

Children and adolescents are said to not have the mental and developmental capacity to understand and maneuver through any social system, never mind a legal system. Child advocacy and child advocacy for the courts was designed so that children do not need to endure any emotional, psychological or even physical trauma that may be associated with their situation. Child advocates protect children from situations that may be stressful (psychologically, emotionally) or confusing for a child. It is the job of the child advocate to make sure that children are being psychologically, emotionally, physically, and legally protected and that their needs are being met. Advocates are there to help take the burden off the child while providing them with safe and supportive environments.

[edit] Job duties and responsibilities

Child advocates are employed to provide information, guidance, support and a safe environment for children and adolescents who may lack these necessities in their daily lives. It is up to the child advocate to make sure that the child/adolescent is being protected and their legal and human rights are being met under the Criminal Code of Canada and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The duties and responsibilities of a child advocate of the courts includes: Filing legal papers, appearing in court, driving client(s) to court and or appointments with legal counsel, speaking to judges, law enforcement, and legal counsel on behalf of the child/adolescent Case management Staff meeting participation

[edit] Typical workday

Full time positions Monday-Friday 32-40 hours per week; Part-time position 15-30 hours per week, workdays are as per need basis. A typical day’s hours: 8:30-4:30 plus driving time for client A typical workday may include the advocate picking the child/adolescent up from their place of residence and take them to court. The advocate would discuss the proceedings with the child/adolescent and fill them in on potential outcomes as well as any pertinent information the child/adolescent needs to know about their case. During court the advocate will make sure that the child/adolescent is being represented fairly and with due process for their case; advocates role in court is determined on case to case basis. Depending on case the advocate will drive child/adolescence back to their residence. Advocates also spend time collecting information for each individual case to help ensure that the child/adolescent is being protected. This may require speaking directly to law enforcement officers, legal counsels, teachers, parents etc. Meetings with clients (child/adolescents) is also required as advocates need to know who they are protecting and why. During the day an advocate may meet with co-workers to discuss specific cases, funding, or any changes in laws or procedures, making sure they are up to speed with anything that may affect their clients. (

[edit] Educational requirements and other qualification

  • Post-secondary education from a recognized University or College; educational background emphasis on child/adolescent development, an understanding of family dynamics, ability to manage negative behaviours in children/adolescents (
  • Some agencies require applicants to be in possession of MSW/BSW minimum (website for universities in Canada that Bachelor/Masters of Social Work Programs:
  • Depending on agency and type of advocacy position legal experience may be required
  • Between one to three years of recent work experience in related field (dependant on company)
  • Previous experience working with children/adolescents amount of time dependant on company hiring)
  • Current, Valid CPR, Emergency First Aid and Heartsaver certifications
  • Valid driver’s license and insurance

There are some other requirements that may be expected during the selection process which may include:

  • Job related testing, IQ testing, screening (Police)
  • Medical examinations
  • Fitness testing, testing of one’s abilities
  • Interview(s)
  • Training sessions with employment based on contingency

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[edit] Related skills, interests and abilities

  • Previous experience working with children and or adolescents (any setting, position)
  • Patience, understanding and empathy are assets when working with children as these qualities help the advocate remained focus on tasks that need to be done. Having a level of understanding and empathy towards the children and adolescents on their cases allows the advocate to make sure the needs of the children are being met without any judgment or stigmatism.
  • Must possess excellent communication skills (listening, written and verbal). Advocates must possess excellent communication skills so they can gain all the knowledge they need in order to put their client’s case files together. They are also important to ensure that all the child’s/adolescent’s needs are being met and rights are being held up without any errors.
  • Problem solving is important so that advocates can make sure that proper solutions are being made in order to meet each child’s/adolescent’s needs on a case per case basis.
  • Flexibility and reliability are significant in an advocate as it is impossible to know when something may come up unexpectedly. When working in conjunction with the legal system there are many changes that occur on a daily basis and it is up to the child advocate to be able to work with these rapid and unexpected changes in order to ensure the children/adolescents needs are being met. It is also important for them to be reliable since many of the children who require child advocates do not have many adults in their lives who are able to stand up for them and protect them. Often times trust is hard to gain from children/adolescents who do not have adult figures in their lives so it is important for child advocates to make sure that they are going to be where they say they are going to be, and do what they say they are going to do. They need to show up or they lose the trust and cooperation of their client.
  • Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint
  • Must have an understanding of the law in regards to Young Offenders Act, Canadian Criminal Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • An understanding of how the system works (social, legal, political etc).

[edit] Relevance of psychology undergraduate degree

Having an undergraduate psychology degree is an asset for a child advocate because it gives you a better understanding of the children/adolescents in your care. An undergrad degree in psychology teaches the foundation needed to understand human behaviour. Having this information provides the advocate with an advantage on how to better accommodate the child/adolescent and their behaviour(s). Throughout the psychology undergrad degree students are taught many different psychological theories which would be beneficial to know as a child advocate. A few of these theories include Piaget’s Cognitive Theory, Erickson’s Psychosocial Theory and finally Attachment Theory. Having this knowledge will benefit the advocate as they will have a better idea of what the child/adolescents understanding of the situation is. If the advocate has a better understanding of a child’s development and or attachment style, the advocate will be prepared with how to base their own behaviours toward each child, on a case to case basis. By utilizing these theories, the advocate will be more prepared when gathering information for their client. They will be able to gain some insight into the child’s background which may in turn benefit the child/adolescent. Having this information on hand better prepares the advocate in meeting the child’s/adolescents needs prior to court.

[edit] Salary potential

Salary ranges are based on level of education (possession of BSW will earn higher than Undergraduate degree and MSW will earn higher than BSW) as well as full-time versus part-time employment. Full-time employment is generally paid out in form of a base salary which can range from $46,500-$52,000/year. Many companies offer part-time employment and offer employee’s an hourly wage that ranges between $22-29/hour. (Higher pay scale is contingent on education levels). (

[edit] Job outlook

Child advocates for courts does not have a large demand, however, there are many other child advocate positions that are in demand. Some other advocacy positions may include working or volunteering in women shelters helping abused women and or children, working for agencies such as Family and Child Services and homeless shelters.

[edit] To know more

To find out more information on becoming a child advocate please refer to the following links: Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services- John Howard Society of Niagara- http://www.jhs-niagaracom/

If you or anyone you know would like to volunteer with an organization that advocates for children in and out of court, please click the one of the following links: Volunteer with YWCA- Volunteer with John Howard Society of Niagara- http://www.jhs-niagaracom/ Volunteering not only gives you the needed experiences necessary to obtain employment when your education is completed, it is also a great way to network and make important contacts for your future. The following links are filled with information about child advocacy, in and out of the court room: Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth- Ontario’s Association of Children’s Aid Society-

[edit] References

Indeed job posting ( Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services ( Canadian Canada’s Higher Education and Career Guide John Howard Society of Niagara- http://www.jhs-niagaracom/ YWCA of Niagara - Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth- Ontario’s Association of Children’s Aid Society-

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