A Guide to Self-Advocacy-DNP

What is self-advocacy?

Self-advocacy means speaking up for yourself and taking charge of your life so you can handle your own problems and make sure you get the results you need.

Why would you want to be a self-advocate?

Many people face serious legal problems such as eviction, credit problems, problems with Medicaid or Medicare and utility shut-offs. As a self-advocate, you will know what needs to be done to take care of these legal problems and many other problems before they become too serious.

How can you become a self-advocate?

You can become a self-advocate by following a four-step process. The steps are easy to follow and will bring you success as you take control of your life and take charge of getting what you need. The four steps to self-advocacy are:

Step 1: Be Organized

Step 2: Develop a Plan of Action

Step 3: Take Action

Step 4: Ask for Assistance When Needed

Step 1: Be Organized

Keep all important papers.

Be sure to keep:

  • Documents from a court or a lawyer
  • All pieces of paper sent to you by a welfare agency
  • All rent receipts with landlord’s name, signature and amount paid
  • Any contract you’ve signed
  • Bank agreements
  • Records of money you paid, receipts, band statements, cancelled checks
  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Marriage licenses
  • Birth certificates and social security cards for yourself and your children
  • Copies of letters sent by you to anyone

Keep a record of all important phone calls.

Make sure to write down the:

  • Name of the person (very important!)
  • Date
  • Name of the organization
  • What the person told you to do
  • What the person promised to do and by when.

Keep your papers and records organized.

Use a folder to get organized:

  • Group your papers and records under names like House or Medical.
  • Within each group, organize your papers by date. Start with the most recent.

Step 2: Develop a Plan for Action

Focus on the problem and what you need to happen. Take some time when you can work without interruptions.

Write down the possible solutions to the problem that will get you the results you need.

Write down all ideas without judging.

Choose the option that works best for you to get the results you need.

Keep your list of alternative ideas or solutions to use in case your first plan does not work.

Step 3: Take Action

Be prepared! Before you call someone or meet with someone about your problem:

  • Focus on why you are taking action and what you need from the person you are contacting.
  • Have the important papers and records with you that the person you are contacting will need in order to help you resolve your problem.
  • Know what your next step will be if the person you contact cannot get you the results you need. (refer to your Action Plan)
  • Ask the name of people you are speaking with.

Be Calm! Don’t let your emotions get in the way of getting what you need. Don’t accuse, insult or yell. You will be able to convince the person you are contacting to help you get what you need if you are willing to listen and remain calm while explaining your problem. (Remember, you can get more bees with honey than vinegar.)

Don’t give up! Speak up and ask questions. Make sure you will get what you need. If you are not getting what you need, ask to speak to a supervisor. If the supervisor is not helping you, speak to the supervisor’s supervisor.

Step 4: Ask for Assistance When Needed

Think of your support networks—family, friends, church and community organizations.

Community Legal Aid Services, Inc.

which provides legal information and advice. Take action immediately. Call Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. at (800) 998-9454 when:

  • You receive any legal papers either from a lawyer or the court;
  • Your benefits are terminated or reduced;
  • You receive a utility shut off notice;
  • You are threatened with eviction, either a 3 day notice or a termination notice
  • You have lost your Medicaid or Medicare or are in fear of losing medical insurance; or
  • You have a question or you do not understand the law or how to handle your legal problem.

This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated May 2012. CE-SH-F271-CLAS