With Advocates AnnaFrances Paslay & Margarita Sanchez
by Grace Reinhardtsen
AnnaFrances and Margarita are two of the advocates at the Children’s Safety Center. AnnaFrances has been with the center for a little over a year and a half and Margarita began 10 months ago and is a bilingual advocate. During AnnaFrances’ freshman year of college, she was assigned a project where she had to interview a social worker for one of her classes, and after the interview she loved what the CSC did so much she kept up with what the center over the years and after graduation, she applied for an advocate position and began her job here at the center! Margarita had a similar experience, where she learned about the center through her seminar class. Someone from the CSC came and talked about the center during the time Margarita was looking for a second semester internship. After her internship, she saw a job posting for a bilingual advocate position and she started as an employee at the center!
“I have always described advocacy as wearing different hats” AnnaFrances
Being an advocate is an extremely important role at the CSC. Every child and family that comes through the center requires a personalized relationship with the advocates because every family has different needs. An advocate has numerous responsibilities but the umbrella term that comes to mind when describing what an advocate does is SUPPORT. An advocate works with the child and their family throughout their entire experience at the center and after they leave. They are there to help the family understand the process and support them through it.
Responsibilities of an advocate:
- Build rapport during the initial visit
- Supply families with information and resources that are provided by the center and outside the center
- Home visits away from the center with the children (home, school, park, shopping etc.)
- Phone calls/meetings with parents or guardians
- Attend court meetings and trials
- Long term/constant contact with the families
The typical work week for an advocate is never the same and the inconsistency is something that AnnaFrances and Margarita consider a “highlight” to the job. Some days are note days where they catch up on cases and log information, and other days can be spent rushing to school meetings or court, visiting schools, meeting new clients, providing resources and information to families, but a lot of the work the advocates do at the center is crisis intervention. Crisis intervention is when an overwhelmed parent comes to an advocate looking for guidance or help. This can be in person or over the phone, where an advocate is providing support for a parent through listening, advice, supplying information, really whatever the parent needs during that time.
Margarita described the best part of being an advocate is being able to be a part of helping a family. “It’s a rewarding feeling hearing that you helped a family.” She brought up that it’s difficult to not get lost in the severity of child abuse so hearing a “thank you” for being there for the family goes a long way. Anna Frances said seeing the process work makes the effort worth it and knowing that she was a part of helping these kids be successful past their trauma. When the two were asked about the most challenging part about being an advocate, both agreed that the broken system that they have to work with and unsupportive parents make their job more difficult. They said that sometimes it’s hard to feel the kids get justice legally but they have to be adamant with the families about the realities of the entire process and remind them that they need to put their primary focus on the child’s personal healing rather than the timeline of the legal process and where/when the case might end.
At the end of the interview the girls were asked if they had any stories or experiences that have stuck out to them since their time working at the CSC and they mentioned a mother and daughter who came to the center with stuffed animal donations to thank the CSC for their help and support when they were clients at the center. This act really goes to show the impact of work the advocates do and speaks for the center as a whole.
After talking with AnnaFrances and Margarita, it really testified to not just the amount of work required of an advocate, but the range of services they provide to everyone who comes through the center. Support is one of the best things that can be offered to a child in this situation and it was clear that these advocates love what they do and really just want to be someone who is constantly in these kids’ corner whenever they need it. Thank you AnnaFrances and Margarita for everything you do for the kids here at the Children’s Safety Center!