Citizen Advocacy of Atlanta & DeKalb is a diverse community-based organization that creates and supports relationships between an ordinary citizen who is living a “good life” and a person with a developmental disability who is vulnerable to isolation or exploitation. We have initiated and supported these relationships in Atlanta and DeKalb County since 1977. Local people make up our board of directors and staff.
How does Citizen Advocacy Work?
A valued citizen, who is unpaid and independent of the human services system, is invited by citizen advocacy coordinators into relationship with a person who is living with a disability and is vulnerable to abuse, neglect, or social isolation.
With the coordinators’ support, the citizen advocate learns to understand, respond to, and represent that person’s interests as if they were the advocate’s own, thus bringing the person’s gifts and concerns into the circles of ordinary community life.
Friendship, social support, and social change can all emerge from these intentional relationships. By supporting these ongoing, potentially life-long, relationships, citizen advocacy fosters a community where all people’s gifts and talents can be shared and celebrated.
The priorities of Citizen Advocacy of Atlanta & DeKalb, Inc. in initiating citizen advocacy relationships are:
- Protect people who have developmental disabilities from, and pursue solutions for, incidents of abuse, neglect, and social exclusion
- Advocate on behalf of students with developmental disabilities for inclusive, quality education in their neighborhood schools
- Advocate on behalf of people with developmental disabilities for life in their communities, not in segregated programs, facilities, or institutions
- Advocate on behalf of people with developmental disabilities who have other human and legal rights concerns, e.g. financial exploitation, guardianship concerns, etc.
There are many ways that a citizen advocate can be involved.
Some examples are:
- Spokesperson — to vigorously represent a person’s best interests and to help them acquire necessary services and supports.
- Friend — to begin an ongoing, hopefully life long relationship that may develop into a true friendship over time.
- Ally — to stand with a person during good times and bad times.
- Monitor — to evaluate and hold human service organizations accountable for their actions.
- Mentor — to offer guidance, affirmation, and direction through your presence, personal example, and advice.
- Opportunity Maker — to arrange for a person to take advantage of new or better opportunities in our community in work, education, civic involvement, neighborhood involvement, or leisure.
- Red Tape Cutter — to help cut through policies and procedures that can sometimes overwhelm.
- Representative Payee — to assume responsibility of a person’s finances and to help the person with planning a monthly budget and saving for the future.
- Adoptive Parent — to provide a forever family.
- Legal Guardian — to assume court-sanctioned responsibility for a person’s major personal or financial decisions.
- Crisis Advocate — to respond and be present to a protégé immediately on a short term basis until a long term advocate can be recruited, oriented and matched.
- Advocate Associate — to offer your skills, talents, expertise, and influence to a citizen advocate who is advocating for his or her protégé. Advocate associates are needed in the areas of networking, political savvy, law, journalism, financial planning, housing, employment, medical, and education.