12 Sep 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.
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!