Elysa Hovard, second from right, in a group photo earlier on in her career.

My Journey to Investments and Partnerships with TeamChild

In 2009, I began my career at Cocoon House, helping youth who were incarcerated find services in the community.  What brought me to this work is my personal experience as an “at-risk” youth.  I had different touch points with the court system and experienced brief housing instability as a young adult. For me, education was a catalyst to overcoming my circumstances. Due to my lived experience, I felt deeply passionate about helping young people navigate systems that are designed to punish them.  As a youth advocate, I spent many work days sitting in courtrooms eagerly awaiting the outcome of my client cases.  Inside a courtroom at Denney Juvenile Justice Center is where I first met a TeamChild attorney.  I witnessed her unfettered determination to get her clients released from jail and enrolled back in school.  I remember thinking how grateful I was to share clients with a TeamChild attorney.  I was a social worker and didn’t know the rights of young people or the intricacies of juvenile law. Back then, I had no idea that one day I would be working for TeamChild and this memory would come full circle.

In 2018, after several promotions and program expansions, I left Cocoon House as the Director of Outreach, with a program that tripled in size and doubled its operating budget.  I was proud that over the years we were able to create and expand services for young people.  It was time to do something different and I took a job at a startup called A Way Home Washington.  I was charged with creating a large-scale initiative to end youth homelessness in Washington State  by 2022.  This work had never been done before in the nation, let alone Washington State.  One of the big pieces of my job was to build public will, engage philanthropy, and form local coalitions  in Yakima, Spokane, Pierce, and Walla Walla Counties.  I found myself completely energized by the external facing work.  After two years of doing complicated systems change work, I felt it was time to return to the service provider world.  Throughout my career, I had always done resource development and partnership work and wanted a role that solely focused on it. 

When I saw the role of Director of Investments and Partnerships open up with TeamChild, I was excited.  I poured over the website and knew that I wanted to be a part of reducing incarceration of young people across Washington State.  I learned that TeamChild’s strategies included individual legal representation, training, consulting, and policy advocacy.  TeamChild has set ambitious targets of drastically cutting school exclusions and youth incarceration across the state, and replacing these punitive approaches with community based strategies. Much progress has been made through law change and advocacy. I saw TeamChild’s values of youth-centered, wholeness, accountability, and anti-racism and knew it was a fit for me. My new  role will focus on building relationships with people, connecting them to our mission, and helping them invest in our work. I want to raise enough funds so that we can expand our impact across the state.  In this work I want to center the voices of young people, where they have voice, choice, and autonomy in how their stories are told.  I also hope to integrate the anti racist principles from the People’s Institute throughout all of the investment work.   I’m excited to build the relationships and partnerships that will fuel TeamChild’s incredibly impactful work.

Color photo of Director of Investments and Partnerships, Elysa Hovard
Elysa Hovard, Director of Investments and Partnerships
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