State v. B.O.J.: Meeting the Needs of Youth in Community, Not in Juvenile Prisons – by Attorney Sara Zier and Amicus Committee

 “Long-term incarceration is not a panacea for safety or treatment. In fact, it can inhibit those very goals.”

TeamChild uses multiple strategies to advocate for youth and system transformation.  A team of TeamChild staff and volunteers fields requests for us to sign onto or write amicus curiae or friend of the court briefs in cases where TeamChild’s expertise and perspective can shed light on an issue that an appellate court is considering. Earlier this year, we filed an amicus brief in State v. B.O.J which raised the question of whether an exceptionally long period of incarceration should be imposed for low level nonviolent offenses to address unmet treatment needs.

When B.O.J. was 17-years-old, she was in foster care, charged with shoplifting (theft 3), and was sentenced to juvenile prison for up to a year. This sentence was significantly harsher than the standard sentence for shoplifting, which could be diverted altogether or resolved through probation in the community or a maximum of 30 days in detention. The trial court based its decision largely on B.O.J.’s history of running from foster care placements and her need for treatment. Unfortunately, B.O.J. was not alone. Around the same time, several cases came up on appeal – including cases from King and Yakima Counties – involving longer-than usual sentences for youth charged with low-level, non-violent offenses.

Travis Stearns with the Washington Appellate Project, who represented B.O.J. on appeal to the Supreme Court, contacted TeamChild. After meeting with Mr. Stearns, as well as the Juvenile Law Center and ACLU-WA, TeamChild agreed to write a brief about alternatives to incarceration based on our research and day-to-day experience advocating for youth. TeamChild works to help young people get out of the criminal court system and back into their communities, with the education, healthcare, and housing stability they need to thrive. To ensure we elevated youth voice, TeamChild partnered with The Mockingbird Society, an advocacy organization that centers youth who have been impacted by foster care and homelessness. Together, we wrote to the Court and highlighted the benefits of community-based strategies in contrast to the risks of harm of incarceration. We further discussed the structural racism and gender bias within the criminal justice system that result in the disproportionate treatment of youth of color in the court system.

The Court ruled that the longer-than usual sentence was an abuse of discretion and concluded “[a] juvenile does not usually pose a serious, and clear danger to society merely because they need treatment.” The Court cited studies that incarceration does not improve outcomes and can be harmful, noting that, “The idea that detention will be a safe placement is belied by years of research. Prolonged incarceration is not a safe housing option. Risks abound for juveniles in detention, including lasting negative impacts on health, recidivism and homelessness… No matter the intention to keep B.O.J. safe, the reality is that incarceration carries heavy risks.”

The studies cited by B.O.J. and amici offer a cautionary tale against imposing lengthy sentences over standard range dispositions with the hope of improving outcomes for juvenile defendants. In a concurrence, Justice González identified the concerns about race and gender bias in this case and opined that such bias casts doubt on the entire ruling.

You can read the Court’s decision here and our brief here. TeamChild is committed to continuing our individual, systemic and policy advocacy to stand with youth.

Welcome New Staff!

TeamChild is excited to have three new staff members who joined us in August! As we build our team, we are prioritizing lived experience that allows individuals to connect with the young people we work beside. We asked Joshua Gardner (Pierce County Case Support Specialist), Riley Moos (Pierce County Staff Attorney), and Leah VanHoeve (Statewide Investments and Administrative Coordinator) to share their experiences and interests in working for TeamChild on behalf of youth.

Interest in TeamChild

Josh: What interested me in working for TeamChild was the whole youth-driven program and that youth are the clients. They have the primary say on the services that they want.

Riley: During law school I was selected as the QLaw Foundation’s 2018 Sher Kung Summer Fellowship fellow, a partnership between TeamChild and Oasis Youth Center. What I thought was unique about TeamChild was that there was this focus on the youth clients holistically. It wasn’t just focusing on this specific legal aspect of the problem and then sending them somewhere else.

Leah: I want to contribute to something that moves the needle on some of the social issues I have seen throughout my life. TeamChild, in terms of legal advocacy and supporting people who are the most marginalized and also young, and ignored for a variety of reasons, seems incredibly crucial.

Eye-opening experiences working with young people

Josh: I’m surprised, and humbled, that the majority of youth I have worked with in the community are welcoming to me. Coming from the same area, coming back to help – it means something to them. A lot of kids are really welcoming; their eyes get all big and bright. And on the other hand – it’s not surprising, but it’s hard to swallow – a lot of kids have been let down so many times that they don’t trust in the services.

Riley: I have always understood that youth are complex beings. I have been surprised about the way that rules are made for youth.  Things are implemented in their best interest but so often without actually speaking with youth or people who have these lived experiences.

Leah: I have been volunteering with Lambert House over the past year.  As a teenager I didn’t have access to queer spaces like that. Every young person in there is connected to an experience I’ve had. Or even if they’re not, we have a shared sense of identity and community. The stages of queer evolution are moving at light speed for young people and it’s so heartening that so many of those young people see a future where so many of their walls are being torn down around gender and sexuality.

Personal journeys and doing this work in the Tacoma – Seattle area

Both Josh and Riley grew up in Pierce County, while Leah’s childhood was spent in rural eastern Kentucky.

Josh: We moved a lot because I didn’t have the family support. My father was a victim of PTSD and actually lost his battle and took his own life when my mother was pregnant with me. I’m not even sure if my father knew that she was pregnant. When I was 4 to 5 years old, my mother went away and left me with 4 of my older siblings from the ages of 7 to about 17. We had no parents, no food, no electricity – we had no services. I remember bouncing to certain schools, I don’t even know how I was enrolled into these schools. They were just letting me come and have a place to be warm because I was basically a homeless child for a large majority of my adolescence. But those teachers were really supportive. They always told me, you know, ‘you’re really bright’ and tried to make me feel good. I knew that when I left school I was gonna be hungry again. I was gonna be exposed to violent environments, neglect and abuse. So those things played a large role in my cognitive development, and today have become the core of my empathy for these kids that I work with.

I love being in this community because the relationships have roots. I have seen some of these youth out here who are struggling and also achieving and I’ve known them since they were babies. I know their mothers and went to school with their brothers and fathers and I know their lived experience so I understand their struggles.

Riley: I graduated from White River High School in Buckley. Before that I was in Carbonado Middle School, which was interesting being basically the only person of color in such a small town that had very different values and hobbies and pastimes than I was used to. I took the first chance I could to leave, not that it’s not a great place to be and to raise children, but I wanted to see different perspectives and hear from different people. I decided to go to Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) in Tacoma where I was able to explore my own identities and meet people from totally different walks of life.

It’s interesting to live in Tacoma and be surrounded by people like me. It makes the world feel so big. To be surrounded by other people of color, other children of immigrants, and other queer people, it’s just great. I wish that I had had that when I was younger, but I now hold the unique perspective of somebody who did not grow up with that and so I do understand people who are still struggling to find themselves as they get into their twenties.

Leah: I think the access to resources in Seattle is amazing. I think the queer community here is amazing and deep. But I also think that there’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of strength that comes with being in a place where you know that your rights aren’t automatically given. Being a part of that fight is something that I’ve always had in me.

Super Powers

Josh: If I could have any super power, I would create equity. I would stand outside and twiddle my little fingers and do 5 jumping jacks and then this magical essence would come out of me and spread all throughout the world, farther than I can see, past the horizon and equity would come. Plants would become greener. Frowns would become smiles. Homeless people sleeping on the side of the street would get up. Misogynistic people in power would sit down. Racism would be defeated, sexism would be defeated, xenophobia, homophobia – all those phobias – maybe not arachnophobia because I don’t know if I can get past that!

Riley and Leah mentioned mind reading as a desirable superpower, both as a means to avoid misunderstanding and as a way to remain inconspicuous.

Leah: It depends on the rules of the universe you are in! If it was a different universe, and there were different rules, I think flight or teleportation would be awesome. But in this universe I think if someone found out you had super powers you would be toast!

Welcome Josh, Riley and Leah – we are so grateful to have you all on board!

TeamChild’s Inaugural Benefit Luncheon a Success!

On May 7th TeamChild supporters gathered at Seattle’s Arctic Club Dome Room for our very first benefit luncheon: Centering Youth, Advancing Justice, where we raised more than $110,000 for TeamChild’s programs.

National best selling author and speaker Debrena Jackson Gandy was our MC for the day. Jakari Brown welcomed the crowd and offered an example of the energy and innovation young people can bring to Seattle’s tech-centered city. TeamChild JR Institutions and Reentry Attorney Damian Davis NoOneElse set the stage for centering youth by sharing some of his own experience as a young person trying to navigate systems that harm young people instead of help them. Dupree Pickett, a member of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Board highlighted the urgency in responding to young people in need of resources.

TeamChild Executive Director Anne Lee reflected on her more than 20 years of work with the organization and introduced former client Skyla Morris, who illustrated the benefits of working with an attorney to help elevate her own voice in a time of crisis. Seattle’s 2018/19 Youth Poet Laureate Azura Mizan Tyabji closed the event with a beautiful poem, tying together key moments from all the speakers.

Thanks to all of the amazing speakers, our sponsors and supporters. Thanks also to Lisa Bontje Photography for capturing the day

TeamChild 2018 Annual Report

Thank you to our investors and partners for their support! TeamChild has just released our 2018 Annual Report. Check it out and learn more about what our team accomplished in 2018.

TeamChild 2018 Annual Report

Thanks to Jennifer Ramirez for the design work!

Building Power in Community – By Spokane Staff Attorney Dan Ophardt

Racism influences the criminal justice, social service, educational and civil/administrative court systems – all of which impact TeamChild’s clients. In 2016 following staff recommendations, TeamChild committed to sending all staff to Undoing Institutional Racism (UIR) training to develop individual and organizational awareness and skill sets around doing anti-racist work. A little over a year ago, staff began receiving UIR training from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. New staff continue to participate in the training as soon as possible after they join TeamChild. It is an essential training that I am thankful TeamChild is investing in. As part of it, the People’s Institute leads the group in a power analysis, a practice which examines the distribution of power between communities, institutions, and organizations in order to answer the question: “why are people poor?” This is an essential model in order to effectively work with communities as they build their own power.

Since participating in this training, TeamChild staff have been thinking about how to conduct this analysis within communities and looking for opportunities to incorporate community or movement lawyering, where we would focus our legal skills and knowledge toward results that build power within communities. Much of this ongoing discussion has been under the tireless leadership of Community Engagement and Anti-Racism Director Reyna Rollolazo and Staff Attorney Damian Davis NoOneElse, and different offices are engaging in different ways.

In Spokane, I have been empowered to begin a project in which I am reaching out to various community groups to schedule relational meetings where I can listen to the concerns of the groups with regard to local schools. Because my understanding of community lawyering includes not only using our power to support community in various interactions with systems, but also to directly share our legal knowledge and skills, I am also offering these groups education rights trainings based on their interests and concerns. Through this, my goal is that youth, their parents, and their advocates can better understand their rights and what they can do to assert them in schools. I hope that our conversations in these trainings also lead both TeamChild and the community groups to understand better where and how power needs to be enhanced in order for a more equitable education system for the Spokane community.

In the beginning stage of this project, I led a special education training for two groups of parents interested in advocating for their children in local schools. We discussed basic evaluation procedures, due process rights, and effective individualized education program (IEP) writing strategies. The most common feedback I received from both 2-hour trainings is that we needed more time. It is clear that community members desire the knowledge and skills that we as TeamChild attorneys have amassed through our privilege to attend law school and learn from our colleagues. I believe that an essential element of building our communities’ power will be to share it as widely and openly as possible.

Since beginning this project, I have already felt myself falling into old habits of focusing on only the immediate needs of my clients. It is easy to do, as I’m used to reacting to crisis after crisis. To truly build community power and be a part of the systemic change our communities need to be healthy, however, we will have to commit time and resources toward building that community power through listening and through sharing our knowledge and skills.

Assessing Alternative Education – by Skadden Fellow Chen-Chen Jiang

My parents left me, when I was two, in the care of my grandparents in China so that they could begin a new life in the United States.  After two years of working day jobs at the local factory and delivering late-night Chinese takeout, all while attending the local university, my parents finally saved enough to bring me to the States.  The first night here, I cried and begged to go back to China—back to the familiarity of my grandparents, my preschool, and my community, and away from these two strangers who I could barely remember as my parents.  My parents laughed.  They explained that this country would allow me more opportunities to get an education.  And thus, throughout my childhood, chasing those opportunities became my aim; my life revolved around education.

I brought that passion for education with me to Detroit, where after college, I taught eager and bright-eyed five-year-olds.  At first, I repeated the mantras that I had been told:  Work hard, and if things don’t fall your way, work harder.  And if you work hard enough, you will eventually achieve success.  The unspoken inverse of that, of course, is that if you don’t succeed, then you are to blame—you haven’t worked hard enough. 

But as I built relationships with my students and their families, and as I came to understand the obstacles they faced, I had to face my own ignorance.  The truth for my students of color growing up in poverty is that the systems in place—including the education system I was pushing for them to work hard in—are not designed to help them succeed.  Quite the opposite.  These systems dangle the American dream in front of communities of color but set up processes and requirements that ignore many of our experiences and, in turn, disregard particular identities and traumas.  Instead, to achieve that American dream, you must fit into a predetermined mold of success created by predominantly white gatekeepers who are divorced from the daily struggles of poverty and discrimination facing our communities.  And if you’re unwilling to shed your identity, then regardless of how hard you work, you’ll stay crushed underneath the weight of the very systems that purport to help.

My aim as a lawyer is to dismantle this reality and to hold the systems, particularly the education system, accountable to the communities they serve.  To pursue this work, I was fortunate enough to receive a Skadden fellowship to work at TeamChild.  The Skadden Fellowship Foundation sponsors recent law school graduates to work for two years in public interest law.  With fellows across the nation working on issues impacting the poor, ranging from housing and immigration to education and employment, the Skadden Fellowship Foundation is the largest public interest law firm in the country, with over 800 fellowships funded over the last 40 years. 

My Skadden fellowship at TeamChild focuses on what educational options a student has when he or she is excluded from the traditional classroom.  For example, if a student is suspended or expelled, what educational services are provided during that disciplinary period?  Where do school districts send students that they do not believe can be served in traditional high schools?  What is the oversight, if any, of those alternative school settings that are using nontraditional methods of teaching?  And most importantly, after we have a clear picture of the answers to these questions, what do impacted communities feel should be done about our alternative education system? 

Key to this analysis of alternative education is the inherent conflict between the flexibility we give to local school districts to determine how to educate youth and the need for overarching requirements that strive to hold those local entities accountable.  There is no one-size-fits-all educational model, but unsupervised experimentation with educational strategies can end in failure, a burden that is often disproportionately borne by students of color.  To complicate the issue, alternative education is frequently prescribed only when traditional methods of education fail, and as a result, unfettered discretion on who to send to alternative education could actualize explicit or implicit biases and lead to pushout of the very students who are already alienated by our education system.  

My project is in its early stages.  I am currently gathering data and information on the different forms of alternative education and how they are currently serving youth.  I will be eager to share this information with the communities of students and families who are most impacted by alternative education. 

If you have ideas about community needs, solutions, or potential collaboration on these issues, I’d love to hear from you! Please e-mail [email protected] for more information. 

Board Perspective

Board Perspective – 
by Krista Leigh Elliott

For 14 years, I have worked as a public defender in the Juvenile Division of Spokane County. I can receive cases that range anywhere from misdemeanor Disturbing School charges, to First Degree Murder charges.  Ages can range from nine years old to eighteen years old depending on the circumstances. It is a job where I have seen a nine year old bring their teddy bear to court, a twelve year old who has been sexually trafficked, a fourteen year old charged with murder, and of course, seventeen-year-olds charged with Minor in Possession of Alcohol.  It can be trying, but also rewarding.

The Washington State Supreme Court Standards for Indigent Defense require that a public defense attorney receive no more than 250 juvenile offender cases a year. The Supreme Court has also said that children are different from adult offenders, yet the criminal representation of youth has been slow to reflect this sentiment. As a traditional juvenile public defender, we get assigned a case, we investigate the case, we negotiate the case, and we ultimately resolve the case. However, as a holistic juvenile public defender, we strive to help the whole child, including addressing the circumstances that led up to the criminal charges and what the needs of the youth are. In order to effectively represent the “whole child” it is often necessary to work with social workers, mental health and drug and alcohol counselors as well as family members. Unfortunately, a shift to holistic representation has not been fully made yet.  With 250 cases a year, public defenders continue to have to balance the traditional and holistic defender roles with the resources and time available.

In Spokane County, the juvenile public defenders do not have social workers to assist them as some other jurisdictions do and we are limited in the resources available to us.Fortunately, in Spokane County, there is TeamChild. TeamChild treats the whole child and holistically represents youth in the way that traditional juvenile public defenders cannot.   In one specific situation, I represented a youth on a felony property offense whose living situation was, in my opinion, extremely unhealthy for him. He knew he had to find stable and safe housing. While I was working to resolve his criminal matter so that the felony would not hold him back from getting a job, TeamChild worked with him on virtually everything else.  Together, they obtained his birth certificate so he could get a license. They were able to get his benefits paid directly to him and not to his family, where there was conflict.  Also, they advocated strongly for the youth and often provided transportation, which helped him to find housing and become employed.  Partly because of the work that TeamChild did with this young man, who became independent and employed, I was able to resolve this youth’s case in a way that wouldn’t affect his future. Thus, holistic representation. Additionally, the resolution of this youth’s case helped our community, because now this young man is employed and living in a safe residence. His basic needs are met. This significantly reduces the likelihood this young man will struggle in our community and re-enter the court system.

TeamChild advocates for the well-being and positive futures of our youth. But they don’t just do this on an individual basis; they also look at the bigger picture by advocating for legislative reform. TeamChild led in the advocacy for new legislation that would help divert kids out of the criminal justice system by allowing more types of cases to be handled in a diversion program. Now, in Washington State the vast majority of juvenile referrals may be sent to a diversion program. In that program youth have access to more community-based services and the ability to have their records sealed upon completion of that programming. This legislation also significantly reduces the use of incarceration for youth.

 In Spokane County, we are in the beginning stages of sending more juvenile offenses to diversion instead of through the traditional court system.  The Spokane County prosecutors’office must agree to send these cases to diversion even if allowed by the statute, so currently that is something that the public defenders in Spokane and the prosecutors’ office are trying to work their way though.  However, we are seeing cases sent to diversion that would not have been sent before the new legislation.  This is a significant win for our youth and the community. Kids make mistakes.  However, these “mistakes” shouldn’t hold youth back for the rest of their lives.  I love working with the kids, really listening to what they have to say and helping them to have a voice in our criminal system.  It is absolutely the best part of the job. Most of the children that I work with everyday are in crisis and many times the criminal case that I have been assigned to, is only the beginning of what is going on in their lives. They often feel hopeless and unable to do things for themselves due to their age or circumstances.  TeamChild empowers youth by helping them take charge of their own lives, whether it is in their education, the court system,or where they are living.  These are children and they need our help. Fortunately, I see TeamChild help kids every day in my job as a public defender.  The work that they do is invaluable to the youth and to the community and this is why I am now a proud board member of TeamChild. Please consider supporting TeamChild and their mission to remove legal barriers so that young people have the the opportunity to succeed.

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The Big Shift: an update from Executive Director Anne Lee

Much of what has dominated our news cycles in 2018 has been so deeply disturbing and difficult – daily heart-wrenching gun violence, polarizing political rhetoric, and the increase in implied and explicit disparagement and “othering” of our families, friends and neighbors. Staying hopeful can be a challenge, so more than ever, we’re committing ourselves to building, expanding and strengthening our relationships so that we, together, can continue working towards a more inclusive and welcoming community for our youth and families. There is good news in the midst of all the bad, and we’ve been reflecting on some big changes that lay the foundation for system transformation in the spaces and places where TeamChild works.

There’s good news that we don’t always see or hear about. 

As lawyers and advocates for youth, we have a unique vantage point. We get to see the ways that laws, policies, and practices drive the results that we’re seeing. We’ve been especially keen on diving deeper into undoing the aspects of our juvenile court system that lead to poorer outcomes, fewer opportunities and lifelong negative stigma for youth of color, youth who are differently abled and youth who don’t have the privileges of wealth and access.

In March of 2015, we put out a concept paper called The Big Shift – intentionally written as a working draft and posed as an invitation to our public sector leaders to consider a set of bold, concrete actions for transforming the juvenile court system. It’s important to note that the Big Shift paper was just one of many calls for King County and our state to commit to eliminating the use of punishment and incarceration of youth and young adults. The Big Shift ideas would not have had the same impact without the work of a much larger movement calling for major change.

In the last year, in addition to all the important work being led by communities, we’ve seen big frame-changing moves by public institutions that lay the foundation for substantial changes in how we support youth in our state. While there’s much more work to be done, we wanted to call out the big shifts that are happening

Shifting paradigms

  • Stop using juvenile court to address youth behavior – One of the Big Shift recommendations called out the need to open up pathways for youth to be diverted away from juvenile court. Up until this June, Washington State law limited the ability of prosecutors and juvenile courts to divert youth referred by law enforcement. We worked on legislation in 2018, spearheaded by Senator Jeannie Darnielle, to substantially expand the ability to divert referrals into community programs. Now, nearly all juvenile court referrals in Washington State can be diverted. There is much work to be done to increase the use of diversion, including ensuring that community developed diversion responses are adequately resourced and urging changes in diversion practice by law enforcement, the prosecutors, and the courts.
  • Putting health and well-being at the forefront of our efforts: Another Big Shift idea called for replacing adult correctional and punitive approaches with a health and well-being framework. We specifically called for a change in oversight of King County’s juvenile detention and court programs, which were under the county’s Department of Juvenile and Adult Corrections. In November 2017, King County Executive Dow Constantine signed an executive order launching an intra-department inquiry to consider shifting oversight of juvenile detention to the county’s public health department. In February of this year, the county issued the group’s report which recommended that the county’s public health department take on oversight of detention. In response to strong community opposition to the building of a new youth jail in King County, the County Executive declared a goal of zero youth detention and convened another internal county group to develop recommendations. That group issued its Road Map to Zero Youth Detention report outlining a strategic plan that will guide future investments and policies to reduce youth involvement in the legal system. These reports and decisions are major shifts in approach, and, there is much work to be done to hold King County accountable to the goals and plans outlined in these reports.
  • Treat all youth in developmentally appropriate ways, even when there is a serious offense. Young people have great potential for resilience and, given opportunities, will grow up and thrive as adults. Research on adolescent development is having an impact on our courts and the legal frameworks for setting up the response to youth behavior. But, much of our juvenile criminal legal system has been hardwired with punitive and harsh sentencing found in adult court, and in some situations, teenagers in Washington State are subjected to adult criminal court and adult sentencing laws. Our Big Shift recommendations urged a more developmentally appropriate response to youth who are charged with serious offenses, including transferring youth charged in adult court from the jail to detention. This recommendation was implemented in King County in the past year, prompted by litigation around the poor treatment of youth housed in the Kent Jail. We also joined in amicus briefs on a case that came out of the Washington State Supreme Court this past month recognizing that we should not be sentencing teenagers to die in prison. In State of Washington v. Brian Bassett, the WA Supreme Court found that sentencing children to life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional, thereby banning this inhumane sentence in that state. Read article and decision here.

A call to stay informed, be bold and exert influence in the circles around you.
  We are optimistic and hopeful that together, we can bring real change to systems. Each and everyone one of us can make a difference. The big shifts in approaches that have come out of the community’s call for change has opened doors for all of us to continue to not only be visionaries, pioneers, & catalysts but also to hold our public systems and each other accountable to fulfilling the promises being made to our youth, families and communities. We hope you’ll stay engaged and active with us!

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TeamChild Executive Director Anne Lee Appointed to Department of Children, Youth, and Families Oversight Board

TeamChild Executive Director Anne Lee has been appointed to serve on the Oversight Board of the new Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) for Washington State.

Governor Jay Inslee signed a groundbreaking law in 2017 (House Bill 1661) that moves state funded children’s services, including those provided to youth in the juvenile rehabilitation system, and from the Department of Social and Health Services into the Department of Children, Youth and Families. According to Governor Inslee, this transition, “supports the philosophy in Washington State that all children get an equal opportunity to succeed and that families benefit when services and policies take a preventative approach to problems.”

The Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration will join the new department in July of 2019, so this next year is critical in planning and implementing new strategies to divert youth away from the system as well as better serve youth currently incarcerated and to maximize their success upon reentry to the community.

In her capacity on the Oversight Board, Annie Lee will serve as a Subject Matter Expert in Reducing Disparities in Child Outcomes by Income, Race and Ethnicity.

“We are exploring ways to bring youth and impacted community voice to these conversations and to keep the new department accountable to reform or dismantle existing structures that allow racial disparities and negative outcomes to persist,” says Lee.

The full Oversight Board includes these members:

– Justice Bobbe J. Bridge, Center for Children & Youth Justice
Juvenile Rehabilitation and Justice Subject Matter Expert
– Rep. Ruth Kagi, House of Representatives
Early Learning Subject Matter Expert
– Annie Lee, Team Child
Subject Matter Expert in Reducing Disparities in Child Outcomes by Income, Race and Ethnicity
– Ben de Haan, Partners for our Children
Child Welfare Subject Matter Expert
– Annie Blackledge, Mockingbird Society
Representative of an Organization that Represents the Best Interest of the Child
– Charles Loeffler, Children’s Administration
Child Welfare Caseworker Representative
– Jess Lewis, OSPI
Foster Parent Representative
– Judge Frank Cuthbertson, Pierce County Superior Court
Judicial Representative over Child Welfare Proceedings or Other Children’s Matters
– Kevin Fuhr, Moses Lake Police Chief
Law Enforcement Representative
– Lois Martin, Community Day Center for Children
Early Childhood Program Practitioner Representative
– Wendy Thomas, Kalispel Tribe
Eastern Washington Tribal Representative
– Loni Greninger, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe
Western Washington Tribal Representative
– Shrounda Selivanoff, Office of Public Defense
Parent Stakeholder Group Representative
– Sydney Forrester, Governor’s Policy Office
Governor’s Office Representative (non-voting)
– Rep. Tana Senn, House Democratic Caucus Legislator
– Rep. Tom Dent, House Republican Caucus Legislator
– Sen. Jeannie Darneille, Senate Democratic Caucus Legislator
– Sen. Steve O’Ban, Senate Republican Caucus Legislator

Giving Thanks and #GivingTuesday

Many of us are gathering this week with friends and family and taking the opportunity to reflect and give thanks. We here at TeamChild are so grateful for our community partners, and especially all of you who support our clients, our work and the broader movement for social justice.

We know you share our hopes for equity and our deep concern about the lack of meaningful opportunities for our children and youth. For over 20 years TeamChild has provided free legal help to countless numbers of youth struggling to navigate the challenges created by racially biased and economically unfair systems. Instead of homelessness, dropping out of school and incarceration, our clients are housed or back in school, with their families, and getting health care and other needed supports.

With your help, over the last year, we’ve expanded our legal services program to the youth facing homelessness, youth in foster care and youth who are incarcerated in our state’s juvenile prisons. We’ve also set our sights on cutting in half school exclusions and youth incarceration in Washington State.  We’re building our policy and training programs and strengthening our community partnerships so that we can replace outdated and punitive strategies with restorative, community-driven strategies that promote positive youth development. We can’t do this work alone, and urge you to join our efforts.

On #GivingTuesday, November 28thwe give thanks to you and we ask that you get involved. Invest in TeamChild. Be part of creating a better future for our youth and our community.


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