On the front lines of child advocacy: 1 woman’s ‘why’ for stepping up


Dawn Goerdt. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed


Dawn Goerdt. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed


Dawn Goerdt. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed


Dawn Goerdt. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed


Dawn Goerdt. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed


Dawn Goerdt. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed


Dawn Goerdt. PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

“I don’t know how you do your job every day.”

“I have children. I couldn’t do it knowing kids are being hurt.”

“How do you do this work day in and day out?”

People who work in child welfare hear these comments often. But my answer is always the same.

“If I don’t do it, then who will?”

And that “I” encompasses all the volunteers, social workers, attorneys and judges who work in the child welfare world.

My path to working in child welfare is full of twists and turns. As a graduate from Clarke University in 2003, armed with a bachelor of science in psychology and elementary education, I was prepared to make a difference as a teacher.

After several years of substitute teaching, I became a prevention educator with the Riverview Center and through it discovered a passion for advocacy work, transitioning to become a medical and legal advocate.

I went from teaching in a classroom to spending nights in emergency rooms, courtrooms or police department interview rooms supporting survivors of sexual violence as they told their stories.

From there, a position as a family team meeting facilitator with Lutheran Services in Iowa brought me deeper into the child welfare realm, dealing more closely with child abuse and neglect.

While there, I became a mother, and that increased my motivation to continue doing this work because every child deserves to grow up healthy, secure and safe.

My three children continue to be my “why” and inspire me to continue working with families to overcome obstacles and barriers.

In May 2019, I became the program coordinator with the State of Iowa’s Child Advocacy Board, facilitating the Court Appointed Special Advocate and Foster Care Review Board programs in Dubuque County. The dedicated members review cases of children who are in foster care to assure that appropriate steps are being taken to assure health, safety and permanency.

As the program coordinator, I recruit community members from a variety of backgrounds to become trained advocates for children involved in the juvenile court system due to abuse and neglect. These advocates become the eyes and ears of the judge, providing pertinent information on the strengths and needs of the family to help ensure decisions are made in the best interest of the child.

Every child deserves to have such an organization at their side when their family is in crisis and involved in the child welfare system.

Right now, approximately half of the children involved with the juvenile court system in Dubuque County do not have this. It is my mission to have it assigned to every child, and I know there are many dedicated and compassionate members of our community who would be an amazing asset to the program.

To learn how you can get involved, visit childadvocacy.iowa.gov or submit an application.

Dawn Goerdt is the program coordinator with the State of Iowa’s Child Advocacy Board, facilitating the Court Appointed Special Advocate and Foster Care Review Board programs in Dubuque County.

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