Legal advocacy refers to a state of exerting influence with legal or political power on behalf of an individual or organization. Various issues in the society call for legal advocacy. For instance, an unfair treatment of children in families or the denial of their rights calls for legal advocacy. All over the world, guardians are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that all the rights of children under their care are observed. Even so, some guardians are not in a position to protect the rights of these children. Legal advocacy is important for these children who undergo mistreatment in that it promotes observance of their rights and advocates for the improvement of their care by finding helpful solutions for challenges these children face.
Mary May is only nine years old and lives with her eighty-year-old grandmother and her forty-two-year-old uncle. Unfortunately for Mary, her parents died when she was still very young. The grandmother then took her in to take care of her. Marys uncle has no family of his own and he has been living in his mothers house since he was born. He works as a truck driver for a certain company, but he also has a drug addiction problem. He has been arrested several times for minor offenses, which can be attributed to his drug problem. Additionally, he has lost his job several times and is only holding on to the current job because a friend of his mother has taken pity on the family. Moreover, despite the numerous times he has been taken to rehabilitation centers, he has always left before the period required was over. The uncle also has a gambling problem where he accumulates so many debts that the grandmother has ended up paying for them on several occasions.
With only the uncle as the breadwinner, the family is very poor since the grandmother is too old to work. Mary, in turn, is inherently economically weak since she does not have any job skills or physical strength, which are variables that limit her opportunities for earning money. The uncle is very unreliable on most occasions as he ends up spending all his earnings on buying alcohol and other drug substances. Marys grandmother struggles to ensure the family has food on a daily basis as she engages in small-scale businesses such as selling vegetables and food in their neighborhood. Sometimes, Mary is forced to help her grandmother look for income to feed their family. Additionally, their neighborhood is a low economic area where the living conditions are below standard.
With high levels of poverty in Marys family, there are numerous issues that could affect her well-being. Recently, Mary has been frequently missing school and teachers have been complaining about her grades. Additionally, she seems to be depressed and withdrawn. Mary does not socialize with other children and teachers have realized that others constantly bully her due to her small stature. On one or two occasions, Mary has been violent when she has beaten up other children who bullied her. The teachers have tried to ask about Marys problem, but they have not been successful since she starts crying whenever she is asked. Recently, one of the teachers noticed that Mary had wounds on her hands. On investigating further, he found that she also had burns on her back. Mary also seems to be malnourished and weak due to the lack of proper dietary conditions.
Further investigations reveal that the uncle has been constantly punishing Mary whenever he is drunk. This occurs whenever the grandmother is not around. The uncle has also been constantly threatening to kill both her and her grandmother if she reported the issue to anyone. This form of punishment that Mary has been undergoing can be defined as corporal punishment. This method of punishment has been an issue of concern in the society, especially in the past when it was acceptable worldwide (Gershoff, Purtell, & Holas, 2015). The method has been widely accepted because it instills an immediate compliant behavior among children. The method is highly associated with physical abuse and this is evident in Marys case.
Over the past two decades, there has been a shift in the perspective concerning the use of physical means to punish children in the society. Results of various studies have shown that a relationship exists between negative developmental outcomes among children and such physical punishment. The United States has been among the first countries to ban the use of physical punishment for children in the society. Today, many countries have also prohibited the use of physical punishment on children due to the awareness of negative implications it brings about (Gershoff et al., 2015). This prohibition has been a result of research, as well as reforms of the law and conventions. The current reforms of the law have contributed positively to a slight reduction in the number of children being affected by the issue with statistics showing a 70% drop in the number of cases (DSouza, Russuel, Wood, Signal & Elder, 2016). However, despite the provisions of the law, corporal punishment is still the most widely used method of punishment in the society, hence putting many children at risk. This is more common in areas associated with low income, high poverty levels, increased crime rate, and = abuse of alcohol and other substances (DSouza et al., 2016). This is the case for Marys family and their society, especially when referring to the uncle who is an addict of both drugs and gambling.
In the case of Mary, legal advocacy would be very beneficial not only for her, but also for the grandmother and the uncle. Both the state law and the international law on the rights of children prohibit the use of corporal punishment as a method of eliciting behavior change among children. The law provides that children should be protected against any form of abuse under any settings (Gershoff et al., 2015). Therefore, legal advocacy would ensure that Mary is protected from all forms of abuse through taking action against the uncle (Svevo-Cianci, Hart, & Rubinson, 2010). It would also guarantee that she has access to basic needs, including high-quality education. Additionally, the grandmother will be taken under the elderly care where her special needs will be fulfilled by the government. The uncle will be taken into rehabilitation services that will ensure a positive change in his life and allow him to be a productive member of the society. Legal advocacy will, therefore, be beneficial in terms of the self-determination of individuals in this case (Melton, 2012). The individuals will be empowered in different ways, consequently allowing them to freely make their own choices without external compulsion.
Legal strategies available for the individuals include reporting the case to the child and human rights protection agencies in the society (Melton, 2012). These people will ensure that they conduct an investigation into the case of Mary and take her into child protective services. The officers will then make sure that her needs are taken care of through counseling and enrolling her in the right programs (Svevo-Cianci et al., 2010). The grandmother will also be taken care of under the elderly care program, while the uncle will be taken into custody. However, the human service professionals may encounter various challenges when dealing with the individuals in this case. They may lack all the information concerning the abuse since the grandmother does not seem to be aware of it. Mary may be aggressive and may refuse to cooperate with the officials when taken into child protective services (Svevo-Cianci et al., 2010). However, these challenges can be overcome using various channels. For instance, the challenge of Mary being uncooperative can be easily overcome. By keeping her in a safe environment and assuring her security, she may become willing to cooperate and give the required information for the case. As she is the victim in this case, she is the only party that can provide the required information. The challenge regarding the lack of sufficient information for the case can also be easily overcome by the human resource personnel. By involving the legal team, investigations can be carried out to substantiate the case on Marys abuse.