Policy advocacy is an incredibly important piece of TNOYS’ three-pronged approach to strengthen, support, and protect critical services for Texas youth and their families. In fact, we were so busy working to advance our legislative agenda during the 85th Texas Legislative Session last year, it became clear that we needed more hands to help achieve all of our policy goals. We’re excited to announce that Dr. Katherine Barillas is joining the team to help meet that need as TNOYS’ new Director of Child Welfare Policy.
Katherine came on board this month, after working in a similar role for over seven years at One Voice Texas. During that time, Katherine advocated during four Texas legislative sessions for issues important to youth, including foster care, prevention, youth homelessness, and juvenile justice. Katherine says one of the things that excites her about her new role with TNOYS is getting to once again have a stronger focus on prevention issues, which is where her career first began.
Originally from New Orleans, Katherine first started working on children’s issues as a CASA volunteer in college. After earning her master’s degree, went on to work in direct service in the Houston area. “I was working in Harris County doing assessments of parents whose children had been taken into state custody and there were so many opportunities for intervention along the way that just didn’t happen,” she said. “I got frustrated with seeing different families with the same problems over and over again.” That experience was what motivated her to earn her PhD and begin working toward policy change to help address these systemic issues.
“This type of work can be a really challenging job because policy change takes a long time and you know families are suffering right now, but I love getting to help lawmakers understand a position and ultimately see them vote for something that a group of passionate people has come together to develop,” Katherine said.
Katherine says the chance to work with the group of members and partners TNOYS has built is one of the things that drew her to our organization. “I’m really excited about TNOYS’ membership. It is impossible to create good policy without partnerships with those who are on the front lines and TNOYS’ membership includes a variety of service providers that are doing the really hard work and have insight into real problems that need to be addressed,” she said. “The more closely we work with providers and consumers like those in TNOYS’ network, the better picture we have of what the reality is and how we can strengthen the system.”
One of Katherine’s first duties in her new role is to engage with TNOYS members and other stakeholders from across the state to determine what sort of challenges they are facing, in order to help develop TNOYS’ policy agenda for the upcoming legislative session in 2019. In the meantime, she’s already jumping in and beginning to bring the views of providers, youth, and families to lawmakers, testifying at a Health and Human Services Committee hearing next month about youth aging out of foster care.
We are thrilled to welcome Katherine to the TNOYS staff and look forward to what her experience and dedication can bring to our policy work. To learn more about Katherine, please check out her bio on the webpage dedicated to Our Team.