Child Protection Advocacy

What the person’s situation before working with Advocacy Focus? 

Ellis is a 14-year-old boy who came to the notice of children’s social care after being placed at risk of harm due to his mum’s alcohol misuse.  The local authority had concerns that Ellis had not only witnessed his parent displaying risky behaviour, but the behaviour had put Ellis at actual risk. The local authority also had concerns that Ellis and his siblings had witnessed arguments between mum and dad, and that inappropriate information was being shared with them.  Mum had made attempts to harm herself and previous rehabilitation efforts had been unsuccessful.  All of this gave rise to concerns that the children were at risk of serious emotional harm.  In addition to the family circumstances, Ellis was coming to terms with his gender identity which had caused some conflict for him. 

What did advocacy do to help the person? 

Ellis was supported by a Child Protection Advocate who ensured that he was placed at the centre of the process. Ellis’ advocate met with him several times at his preferred location, his school. On other occasions, Ellis’ advocate met with him outside and they would go for a walk in the local park.  

Right away Ellis demonstrated an openness and willingness to communicate and express himself to his advocate, implying that he felt comfortable opening up to his advocate. Ellis’ advocate engaged in discussions with Ellis about gender identity to establish preferred chosen names and pronouns. Furthermore, Ellis’ advocate also sought out additional training around transgender awareness, delivered by The Proud Trust to ensure that they were able to support his needs effectively.  

As well as the difficulties surrounding his mother and her alcohol misuse, Ellis had to face negative attitudes to his gender identity from his family. Ellis’ mum often said that he was “attention seeking” and had always been a “girly girl”. Ellis also indicated that he felt some professionals were not respectful of his identify and expressed frustration at them sometimes unwittingly using his birth name and “she/her” pronouns.  Ellis’ advocate listened to him carefully and represented his feelings at conference and core group meetings. Furthermore, Ellis’ advocate also challenged inappropriate comments and language communicated by his mum, and sometimes professionals, as necessary.  

What was the outcome?  

Ellis’ mum has started to engage in rehabilitation again, which Ellis reports is proving successful and Ellis has raised that his relationship with his mum is much more positive. Ellis explains that things are much calmer at home and arguments between his parents have reduced, with his parents no longer sharing inappropriate information with the children.  

Ellis and professionals have recognised that relationships within the family have improved and they are close to achieving all aims within the child protection plan, indicating that this will not be in place for much longer.  

How has advocacy impacted on the person? 

Since Ellis’ advocate has raised awareness amongst his parents and professionals of his wishes and views around his gender identity and the impact that deadnaming* and misgendering* have on him. Ellis has reported that his relationships with his family and professionals have improved, and he feels that people are more respectful of his identity. 

Ellis’ advocate has supported him to access The Proud Trust, who are supporting him and have provided him with a network of peers. Ellis’ advocate continues to support him to navigate the ongoing child protection process and ensure that his voice is heard and placed at the centre of the process. 

Why was advocacy support so effective? 

The involvement of an advocate allowed Ellis the opportunity to express himself freely and talk things through with an independent person. Prior to advocacy involvement, Ellis stated that he had not felt accepted or taken seriously, but that this had changed once he had the allyship of an advocate. Ellis has reported that he feels more comfortable with his gender identity and having the support of an advocate has helped him build the confidence to challenge inappropriate attitudes and language, when necessary, thus resulting in increased ability for Ellis to self-advocate in the future. 

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