Case advocacy is acting on behalf of a client (individual, family or group) in order to access needed
resources, services, or to influence policy change. Keep in mind client consent and involvement in the process. Additional
end goals should be client empowerment and assertiveness taught through modeling. Advocacy is what sets social work apart
from other professions. As social workers, we generally work with the most vulnerable and oppressed populations, which are
the people most likely to need the services of an advocate.
Advocacy falls along a continuum of involvement and commitment.
Knowledge needed for effective case advocacy:
Agency’s policies, regulations,
and administrative structure
Agency’s appeal procedures
Available legal remedies
Agency’s formal and informal
External forces that the organization
Consequences (for client and
others) of escalating issues (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2000, p.475).
Knowledge // Skills needed for effective advocacy:
Skilled in interviewing and engagement— Attentive listener— Good observer— Understand
nonverbal communication—Being empathetic—Being supportive - Acknowledge resistance to change—Understand
decision making in groups—
Be knowledgeable about the issue— Have good problem solving skills—Be non- judgmental—Teach
people to be assertive by modeling—Know the rights of the client and avenues of redress
What sources of power do advocates have available to cause change?
Legitimate power- when person
A believes person B has the right to influence him/ her
Reward power – to provide
positive reinforcement to another
Coercive power- ability of someone
to punish or use negative reinforcement
Referent power- one person is
influenced by another because of admiration for that person
Expert power- available to those
we consider to be authorities in that area
Multiple sources of power can exist in an individual or organization (Kirst-Ashman &
Hull, 2000, p.482).
Questions to ask before advocating:
Is the goal to acquire new resources
or improve existing ones?
How long has the problem existed?
How serious is it?
How many people are affected
Is there any history of advocacy
efforts that would add information to the current assessment?
If past efforts failed, what
were the reasons for the failures?
Has anything changed that would
make the decision to advocate more likely to succeed?
In the end, can you influence
the decision maker? (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2000, p.483)
Questions relating to the client:
How important is this issue
to the client?
Is it an emergency or less pressing?
Does the client have any ability
to compromise, or is the issue too basic?
Will this effort cause problems
for the client at some later point?
What resources does the client
have (verbal skills, determination, social skills...)?
Does the client have any other
sources of power? (Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2000, p.484).
Guidelines for advocacy:
1. Serve as an advocate only with clear permission of your
2. Acknowledge to the client and yourself that acting as an
advocate can affect your relationship with other people and organizations.
3. Advocacy is appropriate only to help the client, not to
pursue your personal agenda.
4. Get the facts first. Do not go into a situation unprepared.
5. Always enter an advocacy situation with a clear list of
questions and concerns.
6. Look at the issue from both sides.
7. Keep a record of things that are said in meetings that
relate to your goal.
8. Always find out who makes decisions at the next higher
9. Record all steps you take to resolve the issue.
(Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2000, p.486).
NASW Standards for Social Work Case Management
“Advocacy is often required to ensure that the agency meets its commitment to provide access to
and adequacy of services, the services are actually delivered, the needs of the client are recognized, and the client is not
prematurely discharged by the service providers. It also is the case manager’s responsibility to present agency executives,
community leaders, and government and consumer representatives with documented information about resource limitations and
other major case management problems, and recommend solutions. The case manager has a responsibility to participate in community
needs assessments, community organization, and resource development to see that the needs of clients are identified and understood
and that community action—public, private, or voluntary—is initiated to meet particular needs.”