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As a former foster child, my passion is advocating for and with foster care youth, publicizing the challenges that they face and addressing their developmental and emotional needs through workshops.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I Speak for This Child: True Stories of A Child Advocate by Gayle Cortier.

Before being accepted into the Guardian ad Litem training program, Gayle Courtier and her classmates submitted applications and references, and were subject to thorough background checks.

In their classes:
-An attorney shared an outline of dependency law.
-A psychologist outlined the milestones of child development, cycles of abuse, and the issues of attachment, separation, loss and permanency.
-A presentor used slides and films to cover the topics of physical and sexual abuse.
-A representative from the rehabilitation department explained their services.
-A seasoned Guardian ad Litem shared her personal experiences.

But it was by working as a guardian that Gayle received her true education:
-Seeing HRS separate teenage siblings, with no attempts to keep them together.
-Seeing a healthy teenage boy discriminated against because he came from a "tainted"family.
-Watching HRS place that teenage boy in an authoritarian home with military-style rules that were in direct opposition to the laissez-faire environment of his childhood.

In her role as Guardian ad Litem, Gayle serves as a voice for foster children. Fortunately, she is perceptive enough to recognize the needs of the children whose lives she is entrusted with, and courageous enough to fight for what they desire. She also maintains a teachable spirit, and is willing to learn new things, such as the predictable levels of adjustment that children go through at each new placement.

When displaced children enter a new placement, they typically experience a "honeymoon," wherein they try to understand the rules, structure and latitude of their new living situation. During this time, the child merely watches and conforms. When a child (or teenager) becomes more comfortable, limit-testing might take place.

Too often, foster placements collapse when a child enters the stage of resistance:
1.) A caregiver gets involved in a power struggle with the child.
2. ) A cycle of conflict ensues .
3.) The foster parent or institution rejects the child.
4.) The child (or teenager) is sent to a new placement.
5.) The cycle starts again.

The truly sad aspect to this cycle is that, if a foster placement or institution is willing to weather the resistance period, that stage is followed by 'beginning trust and achievement.'


Blogger Danielle said...

Hi, Lisa. I was a child advocate in Arizona. I only did one case, and it ended rather quickly (about four months). After that, I didn't do another one, because I was planning to move here to Houston. But it was a very rewarding experience. I have to tell you, though, the first time the judge called on me in court, I froze for what seemed like an infinity. Then, I got my tounge back and spoke. The child advocate program here in Houston is different. I went to their training, "Child advocacy University", and it was VERY educational, but I did not volunteer. Something about it this time didn't seem right.

Have you thought of doing it? You'd be a great match for an older child. (Oh, but wait- they might have issues with you being a former foster child-)
Something to think about, tho

7:09 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I would definitely think about it, Danielle...

Only problem is that -- don't they require flexibility with my work schedule?

I don't have that...

4:42 PM  

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