Following is a list of tips you can use to become a better self-advocate.

1. Believe in yourself.

You are worth the effort it takes to protect your interests and your rights. YOU CAN DO IT!

2. Realize you have rights.

You are entitled to, equally under the law, inform yourself by asking questions and using resources. Insist that explanations are clear and understandable.

3. Discuss your concerns. 

Talk directly with your agency either by telephone, writing a letter/email or in person. You may bring someone for support.

4. Get the facts.

Problem solve by gathering information. Get the facts in writing. Ask for the policies, rules or regulations being cited to you. People sometimes settle for a quick verbal decision that may not be accurate. Hold agencies accountable for the decisions they make.

5. Use the chain of command.

Use an agency’s chain of command to make sure a supervisor or someone else with authority has an opportunity to work with you on the problem and the resolution.

6. Be assertive and persistent.

Keep after what you want. Remember that effort moves bureaucracies.

7. Use communication skills.

Have a plan outlining your concerns. Stay calm and express yourself clearly. Be willing to listen because what you hear may be as important as what you say.

8. Ask for help.

Link up with an advocacy organization, such as the National Foster Parent Association or your local/state foster parent association. Another source of help is the foster parent liaison with your local agency.

9. Follow up.

Don’t give up without using your skill. Agencies are accountable for the decisions they make. You are entitled to know and exercise all your options to obtain the assistance you need. Remember to say “Thank You,” a little gratitude and recognition goes a long way the next time you need assistance.

Parents, do you have any tips on how to be a better self-advocate? Please feel free to share!

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LaShaun Wallace contributor

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