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I’ve been asked to be part of a Parent Panel at a Parent Advocacy Event later this month. I’m representing my county.

The agenda includes discussion regarding the social/human services and how they were delivered in the past, services currently available and how they are being delivered and what services are needed in the future, how current services can be improved.

One of the things I’ve discussed with organizers of the event is that we need to focus our efforts, as parent advocates, on getting better trained staff to deliver services. The services that are available, or are supposed to be available are not necessarily inadequate, they simply aren’t delivered properly.

There are service providers who advertise that all their staff members have a Bachelors Degree, but what they don’t tell families is that those degrees aren’t always relevant to the field. (Ex: Someone who works in Vocational Services as a Rehabilitation Specialist has a degree in Studio Art. Someone working as an Habilitation Aide with a degree as a Para Legal.)

Many agencies employ college students who take these positions because of the flexible hours, as a way to earn income on their way toward the career they truly want.

I’ve met some staff persons who complain that they received no “on-the-job-training”, were simply handed case files and expected to step in and pick up services.

I’ve experienced agencies making the excuse that they can’t hire qualified, trained individuals because they can’t pay their staff well enough to attract people with education and experience.

We’ve encountered agencies that don’t hold their own staff accountable for their agency personnel policies. When a parent does hold them accountable, their retort is “other parents haven’t complained.”

We need to educate parents about their rights, as well as what their child’s rights are. We need to educate them as to how to appropriately advocate and to arm them with resources and information that will help build their confidence, help them to find their voices, give them a network of parents to communicate with that will help them feel empowered. We need to get them engaged.

I’m excited for this Advocacy Event and to be part of establishing a chapter of an agency that has as a priority helping parents with advocacy and support.

I created the invitation letter that has been sent to the Commissioners of four counties and all the local representatives, asking them to attend and participate with parents and families, so they will understand what our needs are and stand with families in our area.