Mission of Seneca SLO County – Seneca Family of Agencies

Mission of Seneca SLO County

<<< Back to Seneca SLO County Home

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.


AMY KIRSZTAJN

[email protected]

1. Where you received your degree and/or any certifications you all have

Smith College School for Social Work

2. Where you began your career and what brought you to work at Seneca

After graduating from undergrad and traveling for a bit, I had the opportunity to work in a residential treatment setting with adolescent girls in the Boston Area. This opened my eyes   to the power of doing mental health work with a social justice lens. I was introduced to Seneca and its Unconditional Care model during my first-year grad school practicum when I worked closely with Senecans. I was immediately drawn to Seneca’s ability to cut through any red tape in order to flexibly and creatively meet the needs of the families we work with.

3. Why Seneca’s mission is important to you

Our inherent belief that people can change and grow and that they should not be defined by their trauma is what motivates me to come to work every day. The work that we do is emotionally challenging but working with co-workers who consistently show up with dedication, integrity and a willingness to do whatever it takes is endlessly inspiring.

4. What is/are things that you like to do outside of work

When I’m not working you can find me spending time with my family, biking around the greater Bay Area or curling up with a good book. I also have a huge passion for traveling and spend hours day -dreaming about where my next adventure lies.


AMBER FRETWELL

[email protected]

Amber Fretwell is one of the Executive Directors of School Partnerships with Seneca’s Unconditional Education “UE” School-Based Programs. She currently oversees school-based programs in Northern California/Bay Area (Berkeley, Contra Costa County, Marin County, San Francisco, the peninsula, and Santa Clara County), as well as our UE program in Los Angeles, CA. She has been working at Seneca since August 2007 and originally started with the agency as a therapeutic behavioral services (TBS) clinician because she has a passion for behavioral therapy, people, and using her creativity to help people. She is a Bay Area native, born and raised in Oakland, CA and received both her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in Counseling psychology from The University of San Francisco. It has been extremely meaningful for her to be able to work in programs where she has grown up and for an agency that shares her strong values of love, joy, hope, respect, curiosity, social justice, and equity.  She believes deeply in Seneca’s mission: to help children and families through the most difficult times of their lives and to work systemically to improve systems that have ultimately failed the children and families we work with and has worked to put that mission into action while working at Seneca. Throughout her time with Seneca, she has held multiple direct care and administrative positions which she is grateful for as she has been able to be a part of several people’s journeys, witness people reaching their goals, and learned invaluable lessons. Amber strives to maintain a healthy work life balance, so outside of Seneca she enjoys spending time with her friends (many of which she has had since high school) and family, exploring the fabulous new restaurants in the Bay Area, traveling, creating custom handwritten signs/art, and anything that supports her in enjoying life and living it to the fullest 😊.

DAWN HENSON

[email protected]

JESSICA DONOHUE

[email protected]

Jess got her BA in Women and Gender Studies at The College of New Jersey.  She started her career in social services in New Jersey, volunteering at an emergency shelter for youth and then working as a counselor in a large residential treatment program for boys.  During these experiences, Jess learned how important it was for young people experiencing the hardest times of their lives to have compassionate, present, respectful adults caring for them.  Jess received her Master’s in Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work and moved to the Bay Area shortly after graduating.

Jess was drawn to Seneca’s mission and values, which were aligned with the ways she wanted to work with people – with curiosity, humor, and love.  Beginning as a clinician in one of Seneca’s former residential programs, she experienced those values in action and was inspired by what she saw: a true community committed to ensuring that kids got to be kids, that kids had opportunities to know their best selves, and that families were treated as the most powerful forces in healing.  Jess earned her LCSW in 2013, and has been honored to work alongside the most innovative, creative, persistent, bright colleagues in upholding these ways of working with kids and families at Seneca for nearly 13 years.

When not at work, Jess likes to spend time connecting with friends and family, exploring all the beauty and fresh food the Bay Area has to offer, walk, hike and cook.

 

JOSIE AYE ROEMHILD

[email protected]

 

KATE WALKER

[email protected]

Kate Walker received her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Santa Clara University in 2007 and her Master’s of Science in Social Work from Columbia University in 2009 with a concentration in School-Based Services. Post graduate school, Kate returned to California and began working as a Classroom Therapist with Seneca at Pleasant Hill Middle School providing individual, group, and family therapy to youth in Special Education. Kate then had an opportunity to design and build Catalyst Academy, a new Non-Public School in El Sobrante, CA providing intensive behavioral health and Special Education services to students in grades One through Twelve. After working as the Director for the first two years of operations at Catalyst, Kate then spent six months flying between the Bay Area and Greater Seattle Area to support the early expansion of Seneca services in Washington State. Shortly thereafter, Kate had the opportunity to move abroad to the United Kingdom. Kate lived in London for three years and worked for an Education-Technology charity focused on youth employment and a mission to address the skills gap. Kate worked closely with entrepreneurs, businesses, and educators and focused on development and community engagement while also leading a team of educators, community partners, engineers, and data scientists. Upon returning to the States in 2018, Kate settled in Washington and was eager to return to Seneca and refocus her work on mental health and social justice. Kate became the Regional Executive Director in Washington State in early 2019 and currently oversees the School-Based and Community-Based Programs in King and Pierce County. Outside of work, Kate enjoys spending time with her family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.

 

LILY CIANCUTTI

[email protected]

Lily Ciancutti received her undergraduate degree at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2002, and her master’s degree in Social Work from California State University, East Bay in 2006.  Lily gained her pre-licensure experience working in Seneca’s Non-Public School located in San Leandro in addition to other local public school settings providing psychotherapy, family therapy, and case management to youth ranging in age from Kindergarten through High School.  Lily then spent four years living in Massachusetts and working in an adolescent Partial Hospital program, and shortly after obtaining her LCSW, returned to California and Seneca Family of Agencies.  Lily was eager to return to Seneca as her values aligned with the agencies, specifically relating to the commitment of unconditional care.

Since her return to Seneca, Lily has worked as the Clinical Director at James Baldwin Academy, Program Director for Seneca’s STEP Partial Hospitalization programs, and since 2020 in the position of Executive Director, Crisis Services.  Lily believes that everyone experiences periods of time where a little extra help and support is needed, and the importance of youth and families being able to quickly and easily access high quality mental health care should be a smooth, friendly and respectful process.  Outside of work, Lily enjoys spending time with her two 9-year-old daughters, going for bike rides, and soaking in as much sunshine as possible.

LAUREN CRUTSINGER

[email protected]

Lauren Crutsinger is the Regional Executive Director of Seneca Family of Agencies’ North Bay Programs where she oversees and administers all program, contract, and service delivery operations for the community-based programs in Sonoma and Marin counties in addition to the innovative Petaluma COMPASS placement program. Graduating with a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of the Pacific in 2005, Lauren went on to complete her Master’s in Social Work from Humboldt State University in 2007. Lauren obtained a Juvenile Justice & Child Welfare Multi-System Integration Certificate through Georgetown University in 2010.

After four years as a Social Worker for Child Welfare Services in Humboldt County, Lauren began her career with Seneca in 2009. She was drawn to Seneca’s mission of Unconditional Care and commitment to innovative practices and continues to experience fulfillment through opportunities to contribute to local and statewide systemic change across our public systems. Seneca’s mission aligns with Lauren’s passion and dedication to ensuring children, youth, and families receive high-quality support, strengthened relational connection to those they care about, and opportunities for healing when they need it most.

Outside of work, Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, exploring the outdoors, building local community, gardening, and encouraging others to live into their giftedness.

 

MELISSA LAWTON

[email protected]

Melissa Lawton (she/her) is the Regional Executive Director for Santa Clara County.  She has a BS from West Point, a MFCC from San Francisco State University and is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Melissa came to Seneca after years of public service in the Army, as a firefighter/EMT, and as an adjunct professor.  Informed by her personal experience surviving and thriving in the oppressive systems that Seneca families navigate, Melissa has a deep understanding and personal stake in changing those systems.  Motivated by Seneca's commitment to unconditional care, Melissa's 10 years with the agency have spanned from direct service to leading a team of 160 people.

Outside of work, Melissa enjoys all things two-wheels. Most mornings, she’s on her Peloton and on the weekends, you’ll find her on a bicycle climbing hills in the East Bay or on a dirt bike tackling the trails in Metcalf Motorcycle Park.

 

SHELBY HOWARD

[email protected]

Shelby Howard, has been with Seneca Family of Agencies since starting as a wraparound clinician in 2008 in our San Francisco program.  Shelby was drawn to Seneca’s value of “unconditional care” and loved working in the wraparound program for the ability to flexibly meet the needs of families that were involved in both the child welfare and probation systems. Shelby studied Child Development and then Marriage and Family Therapy at California State University, Chico and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  She was drawn to working with children since her time as a summer camp counselor with the YMCA.  Through her schooling she came to understand that the way to truly help children, is by supporting families and she was enthusiastic about transitioning into leading our Resource Family programs (foster care and adoption) in 2013.  Shelby is passionate about ensuring we are providing the best possible families to children who need to be placed away from their families, while working towards family preservation and reunification whenever possible.

Outside of work Shelby is busy keeping up with her own young children, and spends as much time with them outside as possible.  Shelby still maintains connections to the YMCA camps she’s worked with and cannot wait until her children are ready to be little campers.

 

SAMA HROMNIK

[email protected]

Sama received her undergraduate and honors degrees as well as her teaching certificate from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She has a master’s in special education from Sacramento State University and a master’s in education and an admin credential from UC Berkeley.

She began her career in education, teaching English and Life Skills to high school students in South Africa. After moving the US, finding work as a teacher at Seneca allowed Sama to share her love of teaching with her passion for supporting students with significant mental health and emotional and behavioral challenges – the perfect way to use the combination of her studies in Psychology and Education. She also tries to represent and share a different perspective with kids, families and colleagues, through her bi-racial and multi-cultural identity and background.

Seneca’s mission to provide unconditional care and to serve and support kids and families in the greatest amount of need provides the foundation for Sama’s desire to continue her work for well over a decade in the non-public schools, along with Seneca’s commitment to innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, unstoppable dedication and creativity. These underpinnings, along with working side by side with like-minded colleagues who are also passionate about real change that results in greater equity, access, inclusion and as a result joy for those who need it most, is what drives Sama in her work every day.

When not at work, she can be found outdoors: running, open-water swimming in the Bay, hiking, riding her bike or reading in the sun – all with her puppy by her side (and a cup of tea and something yummy)!

 

TOSHIA COOPER

[email protected]

Where you received your degree and/or any certifications you all have

Bachelors of Science, Business Administration

Concentration: Marketing

San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA

 

Master of Arts, Counseling

Concentration: School Psychology

Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga, CA

 

Where you began your career and what brought you to work at Seneca

I started out my professional career working as an account manager for Kaiser, because I thought I wanted to be the high-powered businesswoman that you see in the movies. That all changed when my younger cousin (like me, also raised by my grandmother) struggled with the absence of her parents. In turn, she exhibited externalizing behaviors that continued to escalate, and none of the support staff assigned to her knew what to do. I stepped in to support since my grandmother had no clue what to do with her either, and we eventually agreed during a family IEP meeting she required a higher level of care to unpack the layers of trauma she had experienced, and she landed at James Baldwin Academy, a Seneca NPS program.

Her and I were on a journey together to change the trajectory of her future, and I was committed to supporting her the entire way. That was my first introduction to Seneca, engaging in that level of therapeutic work and experiencing firsthand someone's ability to reshape their future with the right support in place, when the system is designed to support no matter your circumstance, and when people are committed to your success. It was life changing, for the both of us. From there,  I ended up working at JBA as a mental health counselor in 2009, and the rest is history!

Why Seneca’s mission is important to you

I have an unwavering commitment to leading for equity, which embodies the values of both Unconditional Care and Unconditional Education. At Seneca I am able to engage in transforming unfavorable situations impacted by various systems into positive outcomes for the students, families, and communities we serve by challenging, disrupting, and transforming systems to support equity and inclusion for all. I am able to advocate for education and mental health services to be designed to accelerate progress and close the educational achievement gaps experienced by students from low-income communities, students of color, and students enrolled in special education programs. The cherry on top is that I get to do this work while pouring back into our most underserved and under-resourced communities, which happen to be the same communities that raised and shaped me! Seneca’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to disconfirm previous experiences of institutional harm, simply put, is my passion and my life’s work.

What is/are things that you like to do outside of work

I love being a wife and mom! My 6-year-old is amazing, and I enjoy watching him learn, grow, and explore the world all while being proud to be his most authentic self.

 

Kimberly Wayne, MSW

Kimberly Wayne is the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer. In this role, Kimberly is responsible for leading and managing the organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion priorities and initiatives. Kimberly began working at Seneca in 1997 as counselor in the Residential Treatment Program. During her tenure she has led residential, school and community-based programs.

In her current role, Kimberly manages the oversight of the agency’s DEI Advisory Board, identity-based employee resource and professional learning community groups, as well as language related (interpreting and translation) services. Leading this work for Seneca means re-imagining and developing equitable practices to offer employees from marginalized communities a more inclusive workplace experience. Kimberly believes that when the agency’s employees experience the full benefits of an inclusive workplace, the youth and families served will receive more culturally appropriate and responsive services.


Greg Ridout

Greg earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Elementary Education from Colby College and went on to earn a master’s degree in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. After two years of direct services in child welfare, Greg launched what has grown into a 25-year career in nonprofit management. After spending the last 20 years leading youth development and workforce development programming in New York City, Greg has recently located to Northern California and returned to child welfare, serving as Chief Program Officer for Community-Based Programs at Seneca Family of Agencies. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Services.`

Nancy Peña, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Behavioral Health Consultant

Nancy is a consultant working with the California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions (CIBHS) where she serves as the Co-Director of the CIBHS Leadership Institute, a leadership development program for public sector behavioral health leaders, provided by CIBHS in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.  She began her career in 1980 as the Mental Health Director of a community-based non-profit health agency in San Jose, California. In 1984, she joined the Santa Clara County Mental Health Department (MHD) where she worked in a variety of positions, including Director of Inpatient Social Services and Child and Adolescent Intensive Services; Director of Children and Family Services; Deputy Director; and Director of Mental Health, a position she held for 14 years until her retirement in December 2014. At that time, the MHD served over 28,000 clients each year through a large network of county and contracted providers, with a budget of $350 million. Nancy was active in the California Mental Health Directors Association, now the California Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA), where she served as President of the Board, Co-Chair of the Children’s System of Care Committee, and Co-Chair of the Social Justice Advisory Committee.  She is a former Board member of the California Institute of Mental Health, now the California Institute of Behavioral Health Solutions (CIBHS); the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY); and the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA). She currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Intervention Council, and on the Board of Seneca Family of Agencies. Her passions are supporting public sector leaders and the organizations and clients they serve, and spending time with family and friends.

 


ROBIN DETTERMAN

Robin Detterman serves as Seneca’s Chief Program Officer of Educational Services where she provides leadership for the agency’s continuum of district and charter partnerships and five non-public schools, serving over 100 districts and schools in California and Washington State each year. Ms. Detterman started working at Seneca in 2005, and her experience asa special education teacher and administrator informs her current role. In this role, she supports Seneca’s education teams in the development and implementation of high quality, individualized services for students who need additional support at school while working to transform whole schools and school systems into places where all students are welcomed and can thrive. Ms. Detterman holds a MA degree in Special Education and is a graduate of Stanford University, where she earned a Masters degree in Education Policy and Organizational Leadership. She is the co-author of Unconditional Education: Supporting Schools to Serve All Students (Oxford University Press, 2019).


NATHANIEL FOSTER

Nathaniel Foster is the Chief Advancement Officer of Seneca Family of Agencies. His focus is on development, fundraising, venture philanthropy, marketing and branding for the whole organization. Nathaniel came to Seneca with a clarity and depth of fundraising knowledge that has accelerated our overall efforts. Nathaniel graduated from the University of Denver with a BS in business and also has his Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership from Seattle University. He has over a decade of experience in the non-profit development & management world, working with local, national, and international organizations. Previously Nathaniel was the Executive Director of Playworks, anonprofit that serves over 700,000 children every school day, concentrating on conflict resolution, leadership skills, emotional intelligence and increased physical activity for elementary schools throughout the country. Before that, he was the Chief Development & Marketing Officer at Lincoln, formerly Lincoln Child Center. He has spent his entire nonprofit career in development, fundraising, board development, venture philanthropy, and communications and is very excited to be working with an organization as wonderful as Seneca Family of Agencies. In addition, he was co-chair for the Oakland Quality Community Schools Committee, currently sits on two for-profit boards, and is a member of the San Francisco Chapter of the Private Asset Liaison Group


MICHAEL ALONSO

Michael Alonso is the Chief Information Officer for Seneca Family of Agencies. Since joining Seneca in 2003, he has provided leadership for all technology related operations throughout the organization. He is responsible for IT strategy and vision as well as oversight for the teams that create and maintain a robust information technology environment in addition to the teams that develop, deliver and support innovative applications specifically created for Seneca’s unique blend of services.Michael is passionate about designing and producing creatively unique solutions to increase efficiency and improve service delivery and is personally involved to a significant degree in Seneca’s application development process. In addition to internally-focused activities, Michael engages with organizations at the county, state and federal levels to represent the technology-related interests and perspective of both Seneca and the broader community of behavioral health providers. These organizations includecounties, other behavioral health providers, state advocacy groups and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONCHIT). Before coming to Seneca, Michael worked in the custom software industry, developing applications tailored for a wide variety of companies representing numerous industries such as healthcare, retail, technology, non-profit and more. During this time, he took an interest not just in the software development process, but also in the broader perspective of organization-wide information technology environments. Michael holds a B.S. in Computer Science from CSU Hayward (now CSU East Bay)

JANET BRIGGS

Janet Briggs, Chief Financial Officer of Seneca Family of Agencies, began her endeavor in finance by achieving her bachelors’ degree in Business Economics with an Accounting Emphasis from the University of California Santa Barbara. Janet began her career in Public Accounting working in various industries gaining extensive experience in accounting and business management and then specializing in providing audit and accounting services for various not for profit social service agencies as a CPA. Her in-depth understanding of accounting issues and regulations unique to not for profit agencies has distinguished Janet as a knowledgeable source and leader for this company. Since coming to Seneca in 2002, Janet has supervised and trained an ever-growing accounting staff on various accounting policies and procedures pertaining to Seneca programs. Not only does she review and monitor numerous county and state contracts, Janet also oversees all fiscal activity for over 150 programs in 20 different counties. Attending monthly fiscal program meetings, Janet is dedicated to effectively communicating with directors and managing the financial integrity of Seneca. In an effort to constantly improve practice and management skills, Janet regularly attends conferences and trainings specific to her role at Seneca. In addition to her successes here at Seneca Family of Agencies, Janet also is a mother to two wonderful boys.


KEN BERRICK

Ken Berrick is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Emeritus of Seneca Family of Agencies, a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing Unconditional Care to children and families through comprehensive mental health, education, juvenile justice, placement and permanency services. Since its founding in 1985, Seneca has developed innovative programs ranging from Wraparound and Intensive Treatment Foster Care, to integrated mental health services in schools, and a crisis continuum of care for youth and their families. Mr. Berrick served as Governor-appointed Commissioner on the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission. He also served as a Governor’s Appointee on the California Child Welfare Council, where he co-chaired the Behavioral Health Committee, tasked with developing best practice recommendations to guide policy and inform statewide efforts to effectively address the behavioral health needs of children involved in or at risk of involvement in the child welfare system. Mr. Berrick is a two-time former President of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services and serves on numerous policy planning groups in California at both the county and state-level. He is an elected member and Past-President of the Alameda County Board of Education, and Past-President of the California County Boards of Education. In 2014, he was recognized by California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth as Advocate of the Year. In 2017, he was a recipient of the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award, in 2021, a recipient of the Jefferson Bronze Award, and in 2022, a recipient of the Jefferson Silver Award. He is co-author of the books, Unconditional Care: Relationship-Based, Behavioral Intervention with Vulnerable Children and Families (Oxford University Press, 2010), and Unconditional Education (Oxford University Press, 2019).


LETICIA GALYEAN

Leticia Galyean is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Seneca Family of Agencies, a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing Unconditional Care to youth and their families throughout California and Washington State. She received both her Bachelor’s degree and Masters of Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley.

Leticia began her career with Seneca in 2001 as a Wraparound counselor inspired by the passionate belief that the effects of childhood trauma should be patiently and persistently supported in the context of family and community. Throughout her tenure at Seneca, Leticia has served as Program Director; Regional Executive Director; Executive Director of Data, Evaluation, and Strategic Initiatives; and Chief Operating Officer.

She has developed, led, and evaluated numerous programs across the Bay Area and Central Coast, assisting youth and their families to meet their behavioral health, academic, and permanency goals. Leticia is a frequent presenter at national conferences on Seneca’s Unconditional Care treatment model and behavioral health interventions. As CEO, Leticia oversees all aspects of Seneca including 150+ programs, with 1,400+ employees, serving 18,000+ youth and their families, annually.

She has served as a member of several policy development groups in California at both the county and state-level. Leticia also serves as an active member of the California Alliance for Child & Family Services, California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, and is a Board member of SOAR for Youth. From the time she was a counselor through her entire tenure at Seneca, Leticia has led with the vision to strengthen the larger systems of care for our most vulnerable youth and their families.