Parent & Family Advocate

Overview of role:

The Parent and Family Advocate  (PFA) has both external and internal (cross-department) responsibilities.

Externally, the PFA is responsible for communicating with families about Apogaea policies, reasonable expectations, and resources for parents and kids. The PFA also serves as a point of contact for Apogaeans who have questions or concerns about children and Apogaea.  On occasion, the PFA may also be called on to interface with external policymakers (planning commissioners, law enforcement, etcetera) to explain how we deal with kids at Apogaea and help dispel any concerns or misconceptions they might have.

Internally, the PFA is responsible for identifying problem policies and other issues that unnecessarily discourage families from attending Apogaea, or make it unnecessarily harder for them while at the event.  That said, this does *not* include attempting to "dumb down" or "sanitize" Apogaea to make everything kid-friendly.  Parents are still expected to take responsibility for their kids, and steer them away from areas and activities that are inappropriate for them.  As an example illustrating the difference, it's not appropriate for parents to take a 9-year-old to a tantric sex workshop, but it is appropriate for the event to allow parents to share child care responsibilities so that the 9-year-old is taken care of by another adult while her parents attend the workshop.

The Parent and Family Advocate works closely with the Youth Coordinator, but the roles are separate and distinct. The Youth Coordinator represents an effort to get kids themselves more involved in participating in the event and does a lot during the event itself, while the Parent and Family Advocate is focused more on year round policy and communication issues that influence whether or not families come at all and doesn't actually have any defined responsibilities at the actual event.

Specific responsibilities / task checklist:

There are a number specific tasks that the PFA needs to address each year:

Beyond that, the PFA needs to "keep an ear to the ground" on the various email lists and social media sites for questions parents are raising, issues they might have, or misconceptions/concerns that others might have about kids at Apogaea so they can be addressed proactively.  The same goes for internal social groups and mailing lists - be sure to review any new policies that are proposed or adopted to make sure they're not unintentionally inconveniencing families.

Historical example of internal policy advocacy:

An example of internal policy advocacy:  Up until 2014 (the first year the PFA role existed), Apogaea's official policy was that parents had to be physically present with their kids at all times.  This was rather draconian (as written, a group of parents literally could not share babysitting duties so that they could take turns having a night out, and even had to accompany 17-year-olds on every trip to the portapotties) and as a result it was also widely ignored (which resulted in some iffy practices, like 11-year-olds babysitting freaked-out 5-year-olds, and might have presented liability issues to the organization).  

As a result of the PFA's involvement, the new policy:

Major policy issues yet to be addressed:

The current ticketing policy is fundamentally broken where youth tickets (13-17)are concerned.  Youth tickets are currently lumped in with scholarship tickets and sold separately much earlier than adult tickets .  What often happens is that kids get tickets only to have their parents fail to get theirs when the adult sale sells out, or that adults new to the community are able to get tickets but then discover there’s no way to bring their kids.  This adds a lot of stress and uncertainty that just doesn’t need to be there.

Our ticketing has done an admirable job of working around it as best we can on an exception basis, but as I understand it, she hasn’t had the latitude to change it to something more sane - it’s a result of a board policy decision made several years ago, and never rescinded.  

It would make *far* more sense to simply allow adults to buy their tickets and their kids’ tickets at the same time during the regular sales.

For many years, our stated sound policy has been completely out of whack with actual enforcement of sound policy, and that’s a huge problem.  

To be very clear, it’s not a matter of whether or not there are quiet hours, or whether or not there are quiet zones, or whether or not there are any volume restrictions - it’s that we historically say one thing and then do another.

As a result, it makes it impossible for a parent (especially one new to the community) to make an informed decision about whether or not their child can handle Apogaea.  Kids can be very sensitive to sensory overload and sleep deprivation, and if they get overwhelmed it can take days to readjust - during which time their parents and anyone in the immediate vicinity are likely to wind up miserable too.  So if we advertise quiet hours, or claim that certain zones will be quiet areas (comparatively, that is), but then fail to follow through, we’re flat out screwing people over.  That’s not OK.

If the actual policy is going to be “we’ll let camps blast as loud as they want whenever they want”, then we should just acknowledge that’s the case and publish that in the policy.  Problem solved.

On the other hand, if we’re going to claim to set limits, we need to be willing to enforce them.  If sound enforcement finds a camp is violating limits, the board member on duty needs to back them up.  It’s not ok for the board member on duty to overrule them because he/she disagrees with the published policy, or because the sound camp belongs to a good friend.  Debate the policy before the event and make whatever adjustments are necessary, but once it is approved by the board, let the lead implement and enforce it.

We also need to get that policy in place and publicized *well before* tickets go on sale, so that everyone involved is taken care of.

Not all parents are going to be able to find sitters for 3-4 days, so if their kids aren’t going to be able to handle it under the sound rules we set, they need to be able to make that call before they spend a couple of hundred bucks on tickets.  Sure, they might be able to sell them off, but we shouldn’t knowingly set that up.

Similarly, sound camps need to know the rules too.  It's not fair to them to come in expecting laissez-faire enforcement only to find that they're not allowed to play at a volume or during hours that make it "worth it" for them.

On a side note, this one really isn’t just a “family/kids” thing, either. It affects a nontrivial percentage of adults in our community too - some people are physiologically or neurologically extra-sensitive to large scale sound, at times to the point where they experience it as actual pain or start to panic.  I also know of people (including at least one granted artist from past years) who refuse to ever go back to Apogaea because they believe that no matter what the published policy, it won’t be enforced.  

Sure, if we publish an “anything goes” policy, those folks will probably still stay away.  But at least we’re letting them make a decision based on honest information.