Legal consciousness and legal empowerment in low-income Latina parents of children with disabilities attending the ‘TIGER’ parent advocacy program
Abstract: It is important to examine parent advocacy programs to understand how they function in a society where there are many structural obstacles to those with little power. These programs can provide an impactful way to level out power imbalances. This case study examined through a lens of legal consciousness theory, power and empowerment theory, and the four capitals as developed by Bourdieu, the purposes and consequences of low-income Latina parents of children with disabilities participating in the LA-based Learning Rights Law Center’s TIGER parent advocacy program. The study specifically addressed how low-income Latina parents of children with disabilities are empowered through their participation in the TIGER legal advocacy program, and what examining the legal consciousness of TIGER parents can tell us about their empowerment. Semi-structured interviews with parents and TIGER staff, document analysis, and further observations, enabled in-depth analyses of the parents’ attitudes and views about special education law, the special education system, and the TIGER program. This study suggests that parents who attend the TIGER program go through a specific experiential process changing their legal consciousness and triggering a parallel empowerment process. Further, the study suggests a model for combining legal consciousness and legal empowerment theoretically and develops indicators to detect this. It also confirms that longer term advocacy programs benefit parents who can subsequently achieve outcomes for their children. The study also suggests that although the TIGER program can build a bridge between the law in action and the law in books through effective parent advocacy, it cannot change the hegemony of the law.
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