Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Citizen Advocate?
A Citizen Advocate is a fully trained volunteer who is matched with an adult with an intellectual disability. Their aim is to ensure that person’s voice is heard and provide long-term independent advocacy.
What does an advocate do?
An advocate becomes a friend to an adult with an intellectual disability, visiting them frequently to help build a positive relationship that has strong communication. The advocate offers support and ensures that their friend’s voice is heard and that their rights are respected, but does not try to influence their choices and decisions.
As an advocate how much time will I need to spend with my partner?
Every match is different.
In the beginning, the Citizen Advocacy staff will talk to you about your schedule and how much time you think you have to offer. You will then be matched according to the time you have available.
Some advocates get together with their partner only once a month, while others see their partner about once a week. Typically, we encourage new matches to meet for a couple of hours every other week, to get to know each other sooner.
If you are a busy person and have less time available we will match you with a person whose needs are not great and who requires less time with their advocate.
I am interested in becoming an advocate. How does the matching process work?
To start, Citizen Advocacy staff will spend time with you getting to know you and your interests. They will then introduce you to a potential partner with whom they think you will get along. The three of you will meet several times and both you and the potential partner can say at any point that you don’t think that the match feels right. Sometimes matches just don’t work out.
If everything goes well and you feel that it’s going to be a good match the Citizen Advocacy staff will stay involved until you feel comfortable making your own arrangements to meet.
The Citizen Advocacy staff may also introduce you to other people or services which are involved in the life of your partner. When you and your partner feel ready you will be formally considered a match.
How long do matches last?
We always hope that your friendship will last a long time.
PEI Citizen Advocacy has helped make matches that are now over 20 years old. Life happens, however, and sometimes advocates have to move to another province, or their partner’s life drifts away from theirs and the relationship ends.
If you wish to become an advocate but you know that you cannot be available over the long term, you can become what we call a “crisis advocate.”
As a crisis advocate, you would be matched for a shorter period of time in order to support your partner through a particularly difficult time in their life.
Do I need any qualifications to be an advocate?
The short answer? No.
The purpose of Citizen Advocacy is to connect adults with intellectual disabilities with regular people in the community from all walks of life. No experience is necessary, but a criminal record check and three references are required for the safety and peace of mind of those involved.
What about training and support?
When you first become an advocate we will organize a training and orientation session for you and you will be given a resource manual.
The Citizen Advocacy office will provide ongoing support and resources to you and your partner for as long as it is needed. Citizen Advocacy has a roster of experts who are prepared to offer advice to our matches.
As a person with a disability, I worry about being matched with someone I don't get along with. How does the matching work?
Once you tell us that you would like to have an advocate and the staff agree to find one for you, the staff will meet you a number of times over a number of weeks to get to know you. They will ask you what kind of things you like to do, why you want an advocate, and what your interests are.
Once they know you better, they will start to look for someone. Once they have found someone whom they think you might like, they will invite you to meet them. If you decide you don’t like them or that you are too different from the potential match, just say so and they will continue to search.
There is absolutely no pressure to agree to a relationship that you are not sure about.
The matching process goes slowly. You can take your time to decide whether you will get along with the person we have introduced you to. There is no rush.