Why I Advocate

By: Nate von der Embse, NASP GPR Co-Chair

Advocacy means many things to many different individuals. To me, advocacy is the tool we use to improve, an opportunity to enact a belief in better things. One of my favorite quotes comes from Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms (twloha.com), an organization that seeks to help individuals struggling with depression, addition, and suicide. The quote is framed in my house and reads "You'll need coffee shops and sunsets and roadtrips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things." This quote captures so much of what we do as child advocates and school psychologists. We are that other person to the children and families we serve, that person who believes in the potential and possibility of every child.

Yet, we know that children, families, and schools exists within complex and reciprocal systems of influence. Every child leaves schools and returns to their home and community. Every school exists within a broader community, and is governed by state and federal law. To be maximally effective child advocates, school psychologists must consider these systems of influence. We have the skill and responsibility to create and sustain educational systems that ensure access to academic, behavioral, and social-emotional services that promote lifelong success and wellbeing. School psychologists are needed now more than ever to safeguard these high-quality systems and comprehensive models of service delivery; children are experiencing higher rates of mental and behavioral health problems as schools are asked to do more to meet these needs.  

However, there is great uncertainty around the availability of necessary resources for schools. For example, the Trump administration today has released a proposed budget with suggested 13% overall cuts to the US Department of Education while an increase of $1.4 billion for a program of school choice and vouchers including private and religious schools. In addition, Secretary DeVos has called into question key ESSA accountability regulations that has resulted in uncertainty in many state plans. Some of these proposals have the potential to have negative impacts on child outcomes. Although I am unaware of any presidential budget that has been enacted as proposed, now is the time to have an active voice regarding recommended budgetary cuts. Now is the time to advocate, on behalf of the children, families, and schools that we serve, to ensure high-quality programming in schools. Simple steps, like calling your elected representatives (and using NASP resources!) can go a long way towards influencing the inevitable negotiations around funding decisions. Know that NASP will continue to work diligently on your behalf to provide important updates to policy issues, as well as suggestions for engaging in advocacy. I advocate because I believe we can and should do better, and have the responsibility to ensure the potential and possibility of every child. I hope you will advocate too!