Citizen Advocacy promotes and protects the needs and interests of people with a disability by connecting them in one-to-one, freely given relationships with competent, concerned citizens.
Citizen Advocacy programs build long, lasting relationships between ordinary citizens (citizen advocates), who are unpaid and independent, and people with intellectual disability (protégés). Citizen advocates are asked to make a commitment to represent their protégés rights and interests as if they were their own. A citizen advocate may assume one or more advocacy roles, some of which may last for life. Having people who know and care about us, and speak on our behalf when necessary, enhances and provides security to our lives, as with a protégé.
Citizen Advocacy is not a service. Rather, it is an invitation to people leading full lives in our communities to get to know people who have an intellectual disability and who have been or who are at risk of being excluded from their community. Citizen advocates voluntarily enter a relationship, which is independent of the Citizen Advocacy office and the human service system.
Since many people with an intellectual disability are isolated, alone and hidden, it is important for Citizen Advocacy programs to actively seek out these individuals. Citizen Advocacy staff look for people in need for protection and representation according to guidelines that have been established by the program. They meet the person with an intellectual disability to discover their needs and interests and then seek out a suitable potential citizen advocate who is given extensive orientation in the principles and policies of Citizen Advocacy. Only when the citizen agrees to take the responsibility of representing the best interests of the protégé is the match recognized.
The Citizen Advocacy staff, support and offer encouragement to the ongoing relationship. Over time a Citizen Advocacy program supports a growing number of relationships.