New Staff Member Expands TNOYS’ Work in Houston

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In May, TNOYS began an exciting new chapter as we officially established operations in Houston with the hiring of Dr. Valerie Zanders, our new Director of Policy, Research, and Evaluation there. We’re excited to have a stronger presence in Houston, which is such an important center for youth services in Texas, and to introduce our members there and across the state to Valerie.

Getting to Know Valerie

Valerie comes to TNOYS with over a decade of clinical and academic experience with youth and other vulnerable populations. She has served at various social services organizations in Houston, including Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston Houston, Baker-Ripley (formerly Neighborhood Centers, Inc.), DePelchin Children’s Center, and Goodwill Industries of Houston. She has also been a social work field instructor for several institutions, including the University of Houston Clear Lake, where she received the Field Instructor of the Year award. 

Valerie says that what initially drew her to TNOYS was our commitment to youth engagement principles. “Youth can tell their stories like none other and they know when something is successful,” Valerie said. “TNOYS is one of the few organizations I’ve encountered that makes a concerted, continual effort to engage clients themselves in the process of continually refining and strengthening services.” 

Kicking Off Work in Houston

Valerie is excited to be part of TNOYS’ greater focus on the Houston area. “Houston is the fourth-largest city in the U.S. and there are a lot of youth receiving services in a concentrated area here,” she said. “If we can get into the thick of things in Houston and find models emerging as best practices here, it has the potential to really inform work in other parts of the state.”

Valerie’s work will begin with a listening tour in July, to gather information on the landscape of youth services in Houston, including Houston’s strengths, limitations and gaps in services, and how TNOYS can help bolster organizations and strengthen systems serving Houston’s youth and families.

Valerie’s role will be focused on three interconnected areas – public policy advocacy, public policy research, and program evaluation. “Funding shortfalls are one of the most critical public policy challenges limiting the success of organizations that serve Texas youth and families right now. In order to secure and sustain funding, it is critical to have strong data demonstrating that programs work. I am so excited about bringing Valerie on board to work with providers to strengthen data collection and program evaluation efforts, and to strengthen TNOYS’ policy advocacy,” said Christine Gendron, TNOYS Executive Director.

Valerie says she is “looking forward to this opportunity to strengthen the quality of youth services in Houston and across Texas, and enhance the quality of life for youth clients and their families.”

We’re excited to introduce our members to Valerie at our upcoming annual conference, taking place in her home city of Houston. Check out our conference website for all of the details and information on attending. And to learn more about policy issues that Valerie will help address, check out our overview of the 85th Texas Legislative Session and what it means for youth service providers.