What is Advocacy
Advocacy comes in two forms.
Systems advocacy is an effort to create visibility and awareness to effect change for groups of individuals who share similar problems.
Individual advocacy is working to effect change for an individual by assisting with needed resources and supportive care to empower them.
Components of Advocacy
There are several necessary components to create an effective advocacy campaign: organizing, researching and educating.
Organizing provides a way for the community to mobilize around those suffering the effects of a broken system. It helps create awareness of the obstacles to protections faced by many. One example would be organizing small groups to develop outreach events for those suffering in our communities.
Researching involves collecting real data on the effects that access to justice issues have on individuals and our communities. It enables a better understanding of where obstacles exist and paves the way for possible solutions.
Educating is about providing fact-based evidence and real stories to our legislators about justice issues affecting those in our community. Education can be accomplished through letter writing campaigns, attending Town Halls and working with community leaders. With this, we can inspire change for women and children and empower those who are most vulnerable.
These are just some of the situations
we are advocating to change:
Poverty and Justice Awareness
Many believe the United States provides free legal counsel to those suffering abuses. This is untrue. When the most vulnerable in our society are without legal assistance, meaningful access is denied. Low wages, childcare, healthcare, and transportation costs contribute to approximately 40% of single moms with a child under the age of six to be below the poverty line. These financial obstacles lead many to abandon protection of their rights.
Access to justice issues are exacerbated by burdensome delays in our family courts. This leads to poor outcomes for women and children. Without justice, mothers may become homeless or forcibly separated from their children. They become another statistic of a single mom and child, the largest group in poverty. This has also led to increasing instability for children who may then be placed in foster care.
It is vital that we educate our legislators on the issues facing women and their children. Family courts have wide ranging autonomy and the party with the least resources face further obstacles when seeking justice. When appeals are taken, family courts are often given broad discretion. One of the biggest problems facing women and their children in the justice system is the never ending series of court hearings that deplete savings and ultimately hope.
This crisis in our courts not only needs to break into mainstream consciousness but into the church’s dialogue. Every day women and children are entangled in a dysfunctional system that is destroying lives. Through advocacy, we can and must bring these issues to light.
Right to Counsel
The landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright, decided in 1963, provided for the right to legal counsel in criminal proceedings. Gideon held that it was an “obvious truth” that providing counsel to those too poor to afford it is “fundamental and essential to a fair trial.” The Court concluded that “in our adversarial system of criminal justice, any person hauled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.”
This is just as applicable to the adversarial civil and family law cases affecting health, safety, children and home. The most vulnerable cannot hope for a “fair trial” when facing off alone in adversarial proceedings against a party with an attorney.
The simple fact is when an already vulnerable party does not have representation inequitable decisions may be made. This creates further drain on already limited resources for the most vulnerable and force them to access food stamps, welfare programs, government funded shelters or hospitals. Protection of constitutional rights become subject to the whims of state budgets.
Providing counsel protects the interests of the most vulnerable against deprivation. It helps effectuate the purpose of statutes governing such proceedings, while expediting stability for children. Finally, it increases public faith in the fairness of the judicial process when basic human needs are at stake.
Electronic Court Reporting
Few people know that court reporters are not regularly provided for in civil or family law proceedings. Even in highly contentious custody cases, courts often do not provide such recordings. The failure to have a transcript and record of a proceeding in effect obstructs the ability to appeal a decision. In areas that affect basic needs and rights such as housing, civil rights, domestic abuse and custody, the lack of stability created for a vulnerable person or their children is an unacceptable reality. Many lose housing and even their children. This is an issue we all share as this has a significant impact on the stability of our communities.
Unlike California, most states use electronic court reporting that provides needed oversight of court proceedings. Electronic recording would increase access to justice for many who cannot afford a court reporter. Additionally, it would create needed transparency. Through advocacy, we can encourage this cost-effective solution and create better access to justice.
Why Emmy’s Place?
Help and Hope.
The brokenness of our justice system often falls on the most vulnerable in our society: women, children, the poor, the disabled, and minorities. Many are victims of some form of abuse and often at risk youth are moved from one foster care home to another. We seek to create visibility and recognition of the challenges race, ethnicity, poverty and education have on those caught in our legal system. Emmy’s Place was founded through personal experience of the broken court system. We work to close the visible gap of silence that permeates the community in addressing these issues by providing hope and help.
We are partners and advocates of justice. Emmy’s Place prays for transformation as we seek to restore what is broken. We don’t do what others have the capacity to do for themselves. Instead, we encourage and provide support to raise and empower people to take agency over their own lives. Only when a person is empowered can total healing take place.
Women, minorities and the poor continue to experience abuse and oppression in various forms. We only need look at the news. Lack of access to justice that disproportionately affects these groups, perpetuates a cycle of hopelessness, homelessness and at-risk youth. The Christian community has had a strong voice in other areas of justice and care, it’s time a voice is raised around issues that are threatening the most vulnerable who feel compelled to sit in silence. It is crucial to have a biblical understanding of how the church can protect and care for those who are at risk.
The Bible clearly calls people of faith to fight for justice and mercy for all. “Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.” (Zechariah 7:9-10) We are called to advocate for fairness in our courts. “Render just verdicts in your courts that lead to peace.” (Zechariah 8:16) Jesus’s teachings and example show us that proclaiming the good news of Christ’s saving work should be accompanied by tangible acts of love, service and mercy towards our neighbors.
Caring for and responding to those at risk is an opportunity for Christians to tangibly apply their faith to our neighbors who are most in need. By helping the hurting, we provide an alternative community centered on Jesus and show the transformative power of the gospel. Jesus said people would recognize you by your love. (John 13:35) This love should compel you to work together to serve victims of injustice. We must visibly and tangibly demonstrate the power of Christian love in ways that work alongside our justice system towards a common goal of providing justice for all.
Use Your Voice
In more than three-fourths of civil cases at least one litigant does not have an attorney. Tragically, these cases include family law, domestic violence and housing where basic needs and safety are at risk. Many cases of financial and emotional abuse go unidentified leaving the victim feeling retraumatized and disempowered.