Ask a Mentor: Prioritizing the Child's Needs

Volunteer Question

I just finished my first visit to the two children in my case. I am just overwhelmed with the long list of needs which the caregiver identified and I don't know where to start. The list includes everything from clothes to diapers and a bed for the three-year-old. The caregiver also wants help getting Medicaid for the children. This is my first case and I'm not sure how to handle all of this.

Mentor Answer

The first thing you must do is remember that you are not a social worker or the dependency case manager (DCM)—your commitment is to advocate for the children. Working on these needs is primarily the responsibility of the DCM. Call the DCM and ask her about the things on the list and see what she is handling. If there is something the DCM says the agency just cannot provide but which you feel is important, talk with your volunteer supervisor about possibilities for finding a way to meet that need.

A part of your advocacy for children includes knowing their needs and knowing who is obligated to respond to the needs. Then you keep monitoring whether or not the needs are being met. Gradually as you become experienced, you will become more and more familiar with resources and how to make use of them when you believe there are needs—such as a tutor—that the guardian can help meet. You probably remember from your training that Child Advocates II, the nonprofit which supports our work with children in this circuit, is one such resource.

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