Six Steps to Successful Child Advocacy: Changing the World for Children


Amy Conley Wright & Kenneth J. Jaffe

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    For the children around the world who have been our inspiration, the colleagues who have been our partners in creating change for children, and our families who have provided steadfast support.


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    A book, like an advocacy project, benefits from the support of allies. We would like to express our appreciation to those who have supported the writing of this book.

    Child advocates from around the world have contributed their wisdom and experience to enhancing the book. Our appreciation and admiration go to Alejandro Acosta Ayerbe, Caius Brandão, Margaret Brodkin, Maysoun Chehab, Radziah Daud, Dr. Jane Goodall, Maggie Kamau-Biruri, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, Vijaya Murthy, Kerstin Nash, Bonnie and Roger Neugebauer, Dr. Alan Pence, Liew Sau Pheng, Evelyn Quartey-Papafio, Deepak Raj Sapkota, Traci Siegel, and Dr. Sarah Taylor.

    Ken Jaffe developed the six steps to successful child advocacy over the course of 30 years of training child advocates. This approach to advocacy has continued to develop based on feedback from their experiences. He has worked with grassroots organizations and national governments to try to change the world for children, including the Sonoma County California Child Care Planning Council, National Movement of Street Children in Brazil, Fundación Paniamor in Costa Rica, the National Child and Family Institute of Ecuador, National Association of Early Childhood Care and Education Malaysia, and many more. The joy of hearing about advocacy successes from those who have been trained provides encouragement for those of us in the field to continue our work.

    Amy Conley Wright has been teaching a community service learning course on child advocacy for the past 3 years, in collaboration with the Children's Defense Fund California; Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth; Fight Crime, Invest in Kids; International Child Resource Institute; Parents for Public Schools; Parent Services Project; United Way of the Bay Area; and W. Haywood Burns Institute. The process of training undergraduate students to become child advocates for life has helped to inform the content of this book. Two examples of applied advocacy in the text are drawn from student work.

    San Francisco State University provided Amy with a research and writing leave through the Presidential Award for Professional Development of Probationary Faculty. Thanks in particular to Dr. Rene Dahl for her ongoing support and for reviewing initial book materials. Erin O'Donohue and Dr. Sheldon Gen also provided valuable feedback on the book proposal. Amy also thanks James Midgley for mentoring on book development and referral to SAGE.

    The International Child Resource Institute family has been supportive and encouraging of this book effort. Thanks in particular to Ambri Pukhraj, ICRI Operations and Programs Manager, for her assistance with contacting contributors and assisting with the book production process.

    Our own families have also supported us as we developed the book. Ken is grateful to Ellen and their children, Michael and Laura. His children provide constant inspiration in his work and make him feel like the luckiest father in the world. Amy thanks her husband, Andrew, and parents, Megan and Donald, for their continual love and encouragement, and her newborn son, Henry, for being a reminder about the importance of child advocacy.

    We appreciate the fine work of SAGE in bringing this book to publication. Kassie Graves, Senior Acquisitions Editor, expressed interest in the initial proposal and worked with us to improve the book project through gathering multidisciplinary reviews. Elizabeth Luizzi provided excellent help as Editorial Assistant. We are grateful to Beth Hammond for her careful work as Copy Editor and Brittany Bauhaus for oversight as Production Editor.

    Amy ConleyWright, San Francisco State University
    Kenneth J.Jaffe, International Child Resource Institute


    Dr. JaneGoodall

    Since 1986, I have spent roughly 300 days a year travelling around the world trying to raise awareness about some of the grim environmental issues facing our world today. They are many and interconnected. And they affect us all, especially the most vulnerable—young children. Some of the more obvious threats to our future are from deforestation (leading to soil erosion and often desertification as well as releasing CO2 into the atmosphere); shrinking freshwater supplies; pollution of land, water, and air (through industrial, agricultural, and household emissions); depletion of fish stocks due to overfishing in increasingly polluted water; and increasing CO2 emissions from our reckless burning of fossil fuels. CO2 and methane contribute significantly to the so-called greenhouse gases that result in global warming and climate change. Methane is released as the permafrost melts. It is also produced in increasing quantities as a result of intensive farming of animals as more and more people eat more and more meat. And all of the above lead to the loss of biodiversity—the many life forms that have evolved into a complex and interrelated web of life that maintains the health of a given ecosystem. These factors have led to an environment in which the threats to human health, particularly children's health, seem to be accelerating.

    Over and above all of this are the many social problems that threaten not only children's health but their very lives. Poverty leading to malnourishment and a weakened immune system; child abuse, often the result of dysfunctional families; alcohol and/or drug abuse by the parents; unwanted pregnancies; child trafficking whereby children are sold or abducted for slave labor, prostitution, or as child soldiers. Diseases caused, or possibly caused, by increased use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and fungicides in industrial agriculture, urban gardening, and golf courses. Welfare systems that put children into foster homes where, only too often, they are neglected or abused. There are unacceptable levels of bullying in many schools, and many children are caught up in gang culture. Moreover, even in developed countries, early childhood education programs are so often among the first to suffer from cuts in government spending.

    All of this means that thousands of children worldwide are deprived of a good start in life. This is a tragedy, as there is much evidence pointing to the tremendous value of positive experience in early childhood, especially during the first 2 years of life. Young children who grow up surrounded by stable loving relationships, learning by example, and through imaginative unstructured play, are more likely to be successful later in life.

    I feel particularly strongly about this as a result of our long-term study of chimpanzees (over 50 years), our closest living relatives. Their DNA differs from ours by only just over one percent. The anatomy of the chimpanzee and human brain is almost the same—ours is just bigger—and chimpanzees are capable of many intellectual performances once thought unique to us. And there are similarities too in many aspects of behavior. Like us, chimpanzees kiss, embrace, pat one another in reassurance, beg for food or comfort with outstretched hand, swagger or shake the fist in threat, and are capable of brutality and violence on the one hand, compassion and true altruism on the other (as when a nonfamily member adopts an orphan).

    Of particular relevance here are findings on the importance of early experience, especially the type of mothering and structure of the family, in shaping subsequent adult behavior. Thus, an infant with a good mother—affectionate, protective but not overprotective, tolerant but able to impose discipline, and above all supportive and willing to risk being beaten up by a more dominant individual in order to rescue the child if he or she gets into social difficulties—is more likely to be a confident and assertive adult and will probably rise to a relatively high social rank. The male can then potentially sire more offspring and the female will be a more successful mother. As far back as the mid-1960s, child psychiatrists John Bowlby and Rene Spitz were interested in this aspect of chimpanzee behavior since it supported their conclusions about the importance of early experience in shaping adult behavior in our own species.

    This is why, when I began Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots in 1991, I was anxious to involve young children. The program is now in more than 130 countries with members of all ages from preschool through university and beyond. And increasingly we are involving family members and communities.

    I started Roots & Shoots (R&S) because as I traveled around the world, I met many young people—high school and college students especially—who seemed to have lost hope for the future. Some were apathetic, not seeming to care about anything except themselves. Some were depressed. Some were angry, even violent. When I talked with them, they told me that this was because we had compromised their future and there was nothing they could do about it.

    Without doubt we have compromised their future. I look at small children and think how we have damaged the planet since I was their age, and I feel ashamed and angry. I often hear people quoting, “We have not inherited this planet from our parents, we have borrowed it from our children.” But this is no longer true. We have not borrowed their future, we have stolen it.

    But I do not believe it is too late to turn things around. The core message of Roots & Shoots is that every individual matters and makes a difference—every day. Each group choses three projects to make the world a better place: one for people, one for animals, and one for the environment. Running throughout Roots & Shoots is the theme of learning to live in harmony not only with each other—with different cultures, religions, and nations—but also with the natural world on which we depend for our survival.

    Projects undertaken by R&S groups around the globe, by children of different ages in different situations, are many and varied. Let me give an example. In 2004, a Roots & Shoots group was started in the Sokoine primary school in the Kigoma region near the border of Gombe National Park in Tanzania. This school, though poor in terms of material possessions, has extensive land where many trees from the original forest still remain. Thanks to a far-sighted headmaster, the Roots & Shoots group began a project to learn about their forest, to protect the trees that were there, and to start a tree nursery with indigenous seedlings to restore areas where the original tree cover had been destroyed. Today the forest has recovered to a large extent—so much so that the school has been given a small grant for further work by an organization interested in carbon trading. Smita Dharsi, a teacher at a primary school in New Jersey, started a Roots & Shoots group there. She had moved to the United States as a child but had spent her early years in Kigoma and wanted to do something to help the children there. The members of her New Jersey Roots & Shoots group helped to raise money for the purchase of laptop computers for Roots & Shoots members of the Sokoine school. The two groups are now linked electronically and learn about and from each other.

    Cross-cultural learning of this sort is very beneficial for fostering world citizens of the future who care about each other through understanding and have learned to take action to help each other. They learn that the problems suffered due to rural poverty in the developing world are very different from those suffered by children in deprived areas of the developed world.

    I first met Ken Jaffe in 1997. When he told me about the International Child Resource Institute, it was immediately clear, to both of us, that some collaboration between our organizations would be beneficial since we both understand the importance of early childhood experience and we both believe in the importance of working not only with the child but with the family and the community. I was very impressed with the major success of Ken's program in different countries and the improvements in the lives of both child and family that could be demonstrated.

    In the natural world, about which I know more, all life forms in a given ecosystem are interrelated, each depending on the others to create a healthy environment. The same is true in human societies. There can be little point in offering a child a marvelous early experience in school if the child must go back to a dysfunctional family. And working to improve things for one family is equally pointless if efforts are not also made to improve the situation if that family is part of a violent or depressed society. Yet no one organization can do everything.

    This book provides a simple and clear step-by-step approach to helping people around the world make the lives of children healthier and happier everywhere. The authors and I share a passionate belief in the importance of forming collaborations between organizations working to improve conditions for youth. We must work with volunteers, parents, social workers, teachers, and community leaders to improve the condition of the entire community.


    A Call to Advocacy

    The present moment is one that demands advocacy on behalf of children. Children are facing major challenges around the world resulting from economic recession, globalization, war, and other issues. Since the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, economic problems have pushed more families into poverty and created a challenging future for youth seeking independence. In the name of fiscal austerity, budget cuts have sliced apart social safety nets intended to meet basic needs. These conditions have incited fears of a lost generation, with children exposed to a toxic mix of poverty, poorer quality services, and reduced opportunities.

    The reality is that the world cannot afford a lost generation. Children's early experiences establish the foundation for their life courses and influence whether they will make contributions or become drains to their societies. During these years, as children are dependent on adults, they are especially vulnerable to risks such as poverty, poor nutrition, violence, and inadequate care. Because of their need for services such as education and health care in order to thrive, they are also disproportionally impacted by the actions or inactions of government.

    Children need champions—people who care about them and are willing to fight on their behalf. Child advocates are people who speak up and speak out on behalf of children, whether it is an individual child, a group of children within a community, or a category of children affected by a social problem. Choosing to become a child advocate means making a passionate commitment to children and translating it into action. This book will prepare people willing to be champions for children to become skilled advocates acting on their behalf.

    About the Authors

    Six Steps to Successful Child Advocacy: Changing the World for Children emerged from the authors' recognition of the need for a comprehensive and methodical approach to child advocacy. Amy Conley Wright teaches an undergraduate course in child advocacy at San Francisco State University and conducts research on child advocacy. From more than 30 years of applied advocacy work and trainings, Ken Jaffe has distilled the process of child advocacy into a series of six steps that build on each other in a logical sequence. Combining their experience and expertise, this book emphasizes advocacy as a systematic process and cultivates the skills necessary to conduct each step of an advocacy plan.

    Amy Conley Wright (MSW, PhD, University of California, Berkeley) is an Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Development at San Francisco State University. Her teaching, research, and practice experiences are in the areas of child advocacy, child and family policy, family support, and child maltreatment prevention, both domestically and internationally. From 2000 to 2001, she was the director of Romanian Children's Relief, where she managed three programs in hospitals and orphanages that promoted children's healthy development in institutional settings and transition to foster care. She has published a number of peer-reviewed articles in national and international journals, on the topics of birth parent peer support, child maltreatment prevention, child care as a social investment, and strategies for policy advocacy. With James Midgley, she is the coeditor of Developmental Social Work: Investment Strategies and Professional Practice, translated into Japanese, Korean, and Mandarian. Her current research focuses on policy advocacy by nonprofit organizations and advocacy by parents of children with special needs. She is a board member of the International Child Resource Institute, advisory board member of Romanian Children's Relief, and frequently provides consultation to community organizations.

    Kenneth J. Jaffe (MA, University of California, Berkeley; JD, John F. Kennedy University College of Law) developed the six steps to successful child advocacy and has implemented them in more than 40 countries. He is the Executive Director of the International Child Resource Institute (ICRI), which he founded in 1981. ICRI is a nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of children and families throughout the world through technical assistance and consultation, resource dissemination, and the establishment of model projects. ICRI has now worked in 57 countries on projects serving children and families. Ken currently oversees ICRI offices in Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, India, Nepal, and Sweden and 10 project sites in the United States. He is the author of numerous articles on making change for children and coauthored the book Straw Into Gold, translated into Haitian Creole, Nepali, and the Ga dialect of Ghana. He has chaired numerous commissions and planning bodies worldwide, including the California Governor's Advisory Committee on Child Development, and was a founding member of the World Forum on Early Care and Education. He has improved more than 400 children's programs worldwide and has advised the governments of 15 countries on child and family policy. He has presented hundreds of seminars and keynotes to audiences of students, national leaders, and professionals worldwide and has lectured at universities around the world.

    Overview of the Book

    This book presents a series of six steps to achieve positive change for children. Along the way, the book identifies and cultivates key skills needed to carry out successful advocacy, including planning, research, and persuasive communication. Advocacy examples and words of wisdom from noted international child advocates are included throughout the book to illustrate concepts. Each chapter concludes with a suggested activity to aid readers in meeting their advocacy goals. Readers who complete each chapter activity will have an advocacy plan and tools for an advocacy campaign by the end of the book. The book is divided into three parts with a total of 10 chapters.

    The first part of the book consists of three chapters that provide an overview of child advocacy and why individuals and organizations may choose to engage in advocacy. Chapter 1 offers an introduction to child advocacy, discusses why children are in special need of advocacy, and presents theoretical frameworks to guide the work of child advocacy. Chapter 2 describes the parameters of child advocacy and introduces key concepts like the levels of advocacy and the roles of allies, gatekeepers, and decision makers that are explored in depth throughout the book. Chapter 3 highlights the importance of formulating an advocacy plan and provides a detailed overview of the six steps approach.

    The second part of the book lays out the six steps of successful child advocacy. Chapters 4 and 5 prepare readers to better understand their advocacy issues and conduct research for background and impact. Chapter 6 guides readers to prepare effective materials, using methods of persuasion and various mediums to spread their messages. Chapters 7 and 8 explain how to organize meetings that work with decision makers and the gatekeepers who may control access to them and how to conduct strategic follow-up with decision makers and fellow advocates. Chapter 9 describes methods to reinforce advocacy successes through recognition of key supporters and how to use monitoring and evaluation for accountability and learning from successes and failures.

    The third part of the book consists of Chapter 10, which encourages readers to become lifelong advocates for children and develop partnerships with child advocacy organizations to advance a long-term advocacy agenda.

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