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What is advocacy?

Advocacy is the building of relationships between government officials and those they serve. The purpose of advocacy is to advance a certain viewpoint, group of people, or cause by changing or enforcing public policy. Because policy is enacted, interpreted, and enforced at the local, state, and national levels, grassroots advocates work with legislatures, executive branch personnel, governmental agencies, and courts at each of these levels.

The four most common targets for advocacy are:

Legislatures. Because legislative bodies enact laws, they are the primary targets of most advocacy efforts.

Agencies. Administrative agencies have responsibility for implementing policy. Once laws are adopted, advocates must also see that the agencies charged with adapting rules or implementing laws do so.

Courts. If the executive branch fails to execute a law, advocates can turn to the courts. In addition to compelling other branches of government to execute laws, courts often interpret laws, or stop government action that would interfere with the execution of public policy.

Media. Often the strongest tactic that grassroots groups have is to generate media exposure and public attention to their issue.

Advocates are also educators and negotiators. To be effective, they must be able to achieve credibility with policy makers by demonstrating their expertise and eliciting empathy and support for their issue.

What type of advocacy is needed in elder abuse prevention?

Professionals in the field of elder abuse across the country have advocated for statutory reform and needed resources at the local, state, and national levels. The following list provides a sampling of the issues they have addressed:

  • The need for more resources for adult protective services
  • Clearer mandates and guidelines for the reporting and investigation of abuse
  • Greater accountability by fiduciaries, persons with powers of attorney, and guardians
  • Tracking and monitoring substantiated perpetrators
  • Increased penalties for abuse
  • Better enforcement of restitution
  • Statutes to facilitate prosecution
  • Special provisions to encourage the reporting of abuse by certain professionals and institutions, including banks

How can I learn more?

Information on state laws related to elder abuse are available on the website of the National Center on Elder Abuse. To visit the website, click here (you will leave this site).

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