Our Advocate Program: When You Need Extra Help, We’re Here for You

Two people look at an open book on an oak table.

When caring for someone with a disability, sometimes you need extra help. The Arc of Northern Virginia Trust team collaborates with professional Advocates to support people with disabilities.  The personal advocate program is for anyone who needs the extra help in navigating disability services.

Why work with an Advocate?

You want a neutral, objective third party who values the Trust Client and Grantor’s wishes to review the situation with a fresh, unbiased perspective. Advocates offer a holistic assessment, identify key issues or goals to see what services are needed and whether to start a short-term or long-term advocacy plan.

The advocate’s knowledge of disability systems is key here. He/she guides you through the process, with the goal of maximizing government benefits and services. He/she knows community resources to support the Trust Client’s needs, such as housing, employment and overall well-being.

Advocates empower Trust Clients through a strength-based approach. Advocates focus on Trust Clients’ strengths to build skills, confidence and independence to make better choices in daily living.

Throughout the process, Advocates assign roles and responsibilities to relevant parties, follow up on what needs to be done and report progress to the family.

Together, based on the plan, the Advocate, Grantor and Trust Client work towards a positive outcome for the beneficiary.

What does an Advocate do for Trust Clients?

The Advocate may help the trust client and his/her family in the following ways:

  • Advocacy:  attend annual meeting with Agency
  • Support Coordination: gather team to ensure wrap-around services
  • Employment options: assist with identifying community resources and develop objectives
  • Housing options: research new housing options to meet current needs
  • Health & Wellbeing: strengthen and encourage healthy relationships and support networks

Who can hire the Advocate?

Anyone who is aware of the Trust Client’s needs, including the beneficiary, and feels they need the extra support to accomplish short-term or long-term goals.

How can we get started?

Complete the 'Contact Us' online form to let us know what you need. A Trust staff member reviews the information and then contacts you to set up a free 20-minute appointment.

What happens during the free 20-minute appointment?

A Trust staff member explains the process: roles of the Advocate, Trust Client and Authorized Representative, and (if applicable) the Client’s legal guardian; and goals, pricing, and paperwork needed to start the service.

If you are interested to begin Advocate services, forms will be sent to you for your signature and funds will be requested. The Trust staff member may also request additional information about the potential client.

What happens when the Advocate works with Trust Clients?

The Trust Client will have an initial consultation with the Advocate to identify key issues or goals to see what services are needed. The Advocate then works with the Trust Client, and/or Authorized Representative, and (if applicable) the Client’s legal guardian, to perform services assessments and develop Advocacy Plan(s).

What’s the difference between a Short-Term Advocacy Plan and a Long-Term Advocacy Plan?

A short-term advocacy plan focuses on a few immediate goals, needs, or one-time issue. It is often triggered by events and may need crisis intervention.

Some scenarios can be:

  • Apply for Medicaid
  • Secure housing immediately, to prevent homelessness
  • Connect with employment services providers
  • Building networks so that the client has an advocate when his or her caregivers pass away

A long-term advocacy plan is a guidance document that represents the Trust Client and Grantor’s wishes. It is a comprehensive assessment covering strengths and needs in 16 areas and covers the lifespan of the beneficiary. The document is reviewed with Trust Client and Grantor annually and revised as needed.

Complete the 'Contact Us' online form to get started.

Meet Our Advocates

Photo of Kathy Adams

Kathy Adams


Kathy Adams has over 15 years’ experience serving people with disabilities, people living with mental illness and the underprivileged.

Before raising her children, Kathy was a teacher for children institutionalized in a 125-bed Intermediate Care Facility; in that position, she saw that even the most profoundly affected could make gains with fundamental life skills when taught consistently over time.

When her second child was diagnosed with global delays at 15 months, Kathy dedicated her time researching various therapies, bio-medical and diet interventions.  Kathy is a current board member with Parents of Autistic Children of Northern Virginia (POAC-NoVA) and has extensive experience as a Service Facilitator for the EDCD and CCC+ Medicaid Waivers.

Claire Louis


Claire is a veteran human services professional with more than 30 years of professional experience serving underserved children, families, and persons with disabilities. She earned both her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Master’s Degree in Counseling from Howard University, and Certificates of Advanced Graduate Study from the University of Southern California in Child Welfare and Gerontology.

Throughout her career, Claire has worked as a Children’s Social Worker, Teacher, and Counselor in many of our local jurisdictions including Fairfax County and District of Columbia Public Schools, Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William County Departments of Family Services, and area independent schools.

Ashley Welch


Ashley has over 10 years' experience working with individuals with disabilities and their families and is passionate about ensuring that they have access to the tools, resources, and information to achieve future outcomes and be active members of their communities. Her interest in working with individuals with disabilities began in 2010 when she worked as a Care Attendant providing daily assistance to two children with disabilities and their family.

After her Master’s Degree in Public Anthropology, Ashley worked with an employment and day support services provider agency to expand her knowledge of adult services. In 2016 she pursued a Work Incentive Specialist Advocate credential which enabled her to assist individuals receiving SSI/SSDI plan for employment and gain a better understanding of their federal and state benefits.

We Want Advocates..

To support people with disabilities in VA, MD, and DC.

We are looking for a creative, resourceful problem solver. We're also looking for Advocates passionate about helping people with disabilities live their best lives.

As an independent contractor, you are responsible for tracking your hours, billing and invoicing our clients. You should also have previous Service Facilitator or Social Work experience.

If that sounds like you, let's talk. Send your resume with the subject title "ADVOCATE APPLICATION" to Tia Marsili, Director of Trusts: tmarsili@thearcofnova.org