Use Your Power to Choose

Interview with Digna Denis, parent advocate at Children’s Aid, by Rise’s Keyna Franklin

Parents have the right to choose their services. You don’t need to wait on that agency referral. You have to learn how to work the system, because the system will work you over like you don’t know what hit you.

In court or in doctor’s offices, look for flyers. In the agency, ask, ask, ask other parents. If you hear from other parents, “This was good,” go there. Find out if they take your insurance. Tell your caseworker about the service. Find out what documentation you will need to prove that you completed the service.

Try it out to see if you like it. But if you’re not comfortable, it
won’t be productive. You won’t learn anything, and it’s going to tick you off. Then you’ll say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and once you’re labeled, forget it—you can come in a three-piece suit doing the rosary, but people are going to look for something you did wrong. Keep looking for the right place so you get the help you need.

When a service is high quality, you can feel the difference. Parents say, “That therapist really taught me how to deal with my child when she’s crying.” Parents are proud of themselves too. They tell me what they learned.

It can give you a sense of empowerment to take control. A lot of parents tell me, “They are not telling me everything I have to do. I’m doing something for myself. I’m trying to figure out how to solve this problem that I got myself into it.” That makes a big difference.

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