The purpose of advocacy is to support children’s participation in decision-making and to protect their rights. I’ve been thinking about this recently, as supporting participation has been the main focus of my working life since I was a young volunteer.
So the concept of participation is well known, especially in youth work – which was my first field – but also generally across children and adult services and citizenship.
Within children’s rights and advocacy, it seemed to me that the approach to participation focussed on decision-making and child-centred practice. The image of “child-centred” can still be a passive one; it conjures up a picture of a room full of adults all gazing at a child sat in the middle. But are they listening to that child and does the child’s voice count?
So I started wondering whether child-led advocacy is the ultimate development in children’s participation in decison-making. And if it is, what does that look like? Are there models to draw on, examples of good practice principles and practical applications?
My research didn’t uncover any written-up examples of child-led practice in the UK care sector, although there is a lot of material in the education and play services, where the apporach goes back to Victorian times, and is not without its critics. I did find one interesting course on child-led practice in domestic violence in Australia. Please do share in the comments to this post if you know of any other examples.
So I reflected on experiences from my own practice and reports of child-centred approaches in children’s advocacy that I was aware of. These reflections led to some thoughts about principles for child-led practice.
We’ve been wanting to add podcasts to our courses for some time, and this seemed a great opportunity to try this out, as my musings were better suited to the spoken than the written word. Very fititng too that the first topic should be participation!
So please do head over to our new podcast page at Podomatic for a listen. Don’t forget to let us know what you think. Is this an approach you use? What are your main principles for children and young people’s participation?