About Us

About Us

Seneca Family of Agencies (formerly Seneca Center) was founded in 1985 as a small Bay Area residential and day treatment program with a simple but powerful mission: to help children and families through the most difficult times of their lives. Since then, Seneca has expanded to provide a broad continuum of permanency, mental health, education, and juvenile justice services, which today reach over 18,000 youth and families throughout California and Washington State each year.

The agency’s growth has been guided by a commitment to our Unconditional Care® model – doing whatever it takes to help children and families thrive, even when faced with tremendous challenges.

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Mission & Values

Seneca’s mission is to help children and families through the most difficult times of their lives. We are driven by the fundamental belief that children and families do not themselves fail, but rather are failed by systems unable to meet their complex needs. Guided by our core agency values of love, compassion, joy, hope, courage, respect and curiosity, Seneca refuses to fail the young people and families we serve. We offer each child and family a profound promise: you will be supported every step of your journey, no matter what challenges you face along the way.

Service Philosophy

Across all our programs and services, Seneca is guided by our agency philosophy and clinical treatment model of Unconditional Care®. As a service philosophy, unconditional care is a commitment to do whatever it takes to support the young people and families we serve. As a clinical practice model, Unconditional Care integrates three streams of assessment and intervention: relational, behavioral, and ecological. This philosophy and approach has remained central to all programs and is best articulated in our book, Unconditional Care. As a leading innovator in family-focused treatment services for children and families across the fields of education, mental health, permanency and juvenile justice, Seneca is driven by our commitment to Unconditional Care, strengths-based service planning, individualized and trauma-informed care, cultural humility, and interagency collaboration.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Many of the children and families who access our services are disproportionately impacted by systemic and institutionalized oppression, racism, and discrimination. To best serve our clients and families and provide the most effective and supportive services possible, all aspects of every family’s cultural identity must be engaged and used to inform treatment, and must be a focus of Seneca’s overall agency values. This work begins with the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce that reflects the racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic traditions of the children and families supported within our programs. In addition, Seneca is committed to supporting historically underrepresented communities and informing agency policies and practices through its agency-wide DEI Initiative and DEI Advisory Board. Our agency’s values of love and compassion, hope and courage, respect, curiosity, and joy anchor our work across all programs, ensuring our staff leverage the cultural strengths of the families and communities we serve. Seneca is committed to fostering an agency culture that is welcoming, cooperative, and inclusive of diverse peoples and worldviews.  

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Board of Directors* Neil Gilbert, Chair; Ken Berrick, President; Dion Aroner, Secretary; Geoffrey LePlastrier, Treasurer; Rochelle "Shelley" Benning, Member; Jeff Davi, Member; Gwen Foster, Member; Sylvia Pizzini, Member; Nancy Peña, Member
*Note: click each member's name for their professional bio.

Bay Area Leadership Board Rochelle "Shelley" Benning; Jamie Church; Jason Citron; Zach Cohen; Zach Hill; Venus Ke; Anders Mortensen; Dwayne Redmon; Hong Thatch; Stephanie Gaywood
Central Coast Leadership Board Nicki Pasculli, Chair; Tabitha Cook, Jeff Davi, Joe Desmond, Linda Dorris, Susan Guidotti, Lisa McMahon, Kathy Tiffany, Hiram Yanez
Orange County Leadership Board Geoffrey LePlastrier, Chair; Roger Grad; Carl Neisser; William Pugh; Dean Riley; Dustin Steeve; Vanessa Vigoren; Harry Winters
Southern California Advisory Board Tom Rogers , Chair; John Evans; Erin Anderson; Jim Bieber; Mary Dirk; Patrick Dirk; Carole Geronsin; Hon. Evelyn Hart; Harald Herrmann; Ron Hodges; Sinan Kanatsiz; Pat Poss; Jim Riley; Hon. Tom Wilson; Sharyn Buffa
Washington Leadership Board Nick MacPhee

Service Locations

Seneca’s range of child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice, and education services annually reach more than 18,000 youth and their families in over 150 distinct programs throughout California and Washington. The agency’s programs span four key geographic regions: Northern California, the Central Coast, Southern California, and Washington state, with local administrative office hubs within each region.  

Service Types

Seneca’s continuum of care includes mental health, education, permanency, and juvenile justice programs designed to meet the holistic needs of children and families. Over the years, Seneca has used the lessons we have learned supporting youth facing profound challenges to reshape systems and build programs that can both reach young people at the first sign of struggle and unconditionally serve youth with the most acute and extraordinary needs. Services are designed to be highly accessible and responsive to the needs and goals of each youth and family, reaching them in their homes, schools, and communities.  



Unconditional Care This book presents Seneca’s clinical model for supporting children and families whose lives have been touched by the child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice, and special education systems. Strengths-based and family-focused, Unconditional Care (UC) (Oxford University Press, 2010) is a promise made to every child and family served through Seneca’s programs. Unconditional Education This book aims to engage education leaders around the principles and practices of Unconditional Education (UE) (Oxford University Press, 2019) a belief in working tirelessly to protect the rights of those students who are most readily disenfranchised by the existing education system. These students are living in poverty, exposed to chronic stress and trauma, and sometimes involved in the child welfare or probation system; they are often English Language Learners, and students with disabilities and/or mental health diagnoses. There is ample evidence that our current education system is failing these students.

Families that were separated at the border have endured unfathomable trauma, the ramifications of which may be lifelong. In this moment, more than ever, we need your support. Seneca's Todo Por Mi Familia initiative connects thousands of families impacted by the Zero Tolerance Policy with free mental health services. Donate today to provide emergency relief to these families who need assistance to get back on their feet.

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