Advocate for Change
Are you ready to help make change in local or state systems? We need parent voice and experience to help decision-makers improve many systems, for example, educational, health care, child welfare and legal systems.
What inspires you? What area are you most interested in working in? Your experience can help other families. By getting involved, you can connect with others to build a better community.
In this section you can learn about the power of advocacy and where you can begin. Our communities need champions at all levels, you can start where you feel comfortable. Share your story to help others in similar situations to feel seen, heard and understood. Your advocacy can inspire, enlighten and create connections. Start your journey today!
Often at meetings, parents are interested in sharing their personal stories, concerns and feelings with other parents, especially about their experiences in trying to get the best possible services for their child. Give other parents an avenue for their voice and to share concerns outside of a formal business meeting by establishing a Support Group. Parents attending these more informal support group meetings can share information, resources and provide direct support one-on-one. For a parent who feels uncomfortable at a public meeting, these small groups are the right fit.
You do not have to do this alone – Invite people to start a support group with you!
Take some time to read about advocacy and learn some tips to be effective. Mass NAELA has published a nice online toolkit where the first few pages discuss How to be a Great Advocate.
Parents are needed to lead and volunteering is a great way to gain experience. Parents are also needed to advise local and state boards in many fields.
- Volunteering is a great way to get connecting to a cause or group. Many groups in your community have opportunities to step up to a leadership role -PTO, SEPAC, or ELPAC for example
- The MA Early Intervention system has a road map of opportunities for families to take a leadership role
- Many state agencies have advisory boards and are looking for parent representatives. There is usually a process to be considered for these advisory boards. You may have to complete an application or Write a Letter of Interest to Join an Advisory Board
- MA has over 700 boards and commissions dealing with virtually every state department and public policy area. You can review these State Boards and Commissions to see if one is a good fit for your interests, and can search specifically for Advisory Boards and Working Groups
- Our state Board of Education has 13 Advisory Councils which have parent representatives
- Many cities and towns have a Local Disability Commission which may have opportunities for family members and self-advocates to participate
- Have you thought about running for election to a leadership position? Check out this Guide to seeking local elected office
- Let your elected officials know what is working or what is NOT working in your community. They need to hear from you! Here is how to find your legislator
- Op-Ed articles – share your opinion to reach people, change hearts and minds and maybe even reshape policy. Get some tips on how to write an article
- Offer to write an article on a topic of interest for an organization that aligns with your interests. Showcase your thought leadership and earn valuable exposure. maybe even make some new connections.
- Maybe starting a Blog is right for you – Check out some tips from Blogging.org. Once you’ve found your niche, be original, interesting and honest!
- Facebook is an option – anyone with a Facebook account can Create a Page, build content, and ask friends to share in their networks.
You may need to build your knowledge in a content area. Rules and regulations often change or are updated. It is hard to stay up-to-date.
- If you are interested in better understanding the special education system in MA check out the learning opportunity at the FCSN Parent Consultant Training Institute
- Join an online group with a topic you are interested in, for example over 3,000 parents and professionals are talking about post-secondary transition and sharing resources on the Facebook group, Massachusetts Transition to Adulthood
- Talk with others to make new connections
- Review state agency websites to get a background on their focus and who is in leadership positions
- Check out our Leadership Learning page for more options
Empowered parents are uniquely motivated to create positive change and build a better community for their children and others. Connect with others to bring more power to your voice – remember, build trusting relationships!
You can start by reviewing some FCSN Presentation videos and handouts: