Seneca is committed to informing and improving the local, state, and federal systems that serve children and families. Seneca’s broad geographic range and continuum of mental health, permanency, education, and juvenile justice services position the agency as a leader in shaping public policy. This work can take many forms: local county-level advocacy; state legislation; participation in state-level advisory councils or workgroups; developing partnerships or coalitions to advance innovative systems-change ideas, and more.
Seneca’s long history and proven commitment to the children and families in our programs, paired with our large geographic reach, gives us a “seat at the table” in many policy advocacy conversations about reforming family-serving care systems. However, we are, first and foremost, a direct care agency committed to supporting families through the most difficult times in their lives. Our policy advocacy work seeks to achieve reforms that will best support the children and families we serve and our program staff who are doing the critical work of providing unconditional care.
Seneca’s efforts to inform public policy should always be substantively informed by the voice, experience and need of the dedicated program staff working across Seneca sites, and the youth and families in our programs. If you are a Seneca staff person or a current or past program participant, and would like to connect about our policy work, please find our policy teams’ contact information below. We hope to hear from you!
- Hope Kamer, Policy Analyst, at [email protected]
- Patricia Gish, Policy Analyst, at [email protected]
Advocating in Partnership
Seneca leverages our policy impact by working in coalition with other nonprofit care providers. In California, Seneca is a member of two advocacy organizations: California Alliance for Child and Family Services and California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies. On the national level, Seneca advocates as a part of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.
If you are an employee of Seneca, you are also a member of these three advocacy organizations. Check out their websites for updated information on state and federal reform work related to Seneca programs!
Our advocacy efforts this fall will be primarily focused on continued engagement with the California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal initiative (CalAIM). CalAIM is a multi-year effort led by the California Department of Health Care Services to substantively include the voices of stakeholders and consumers in reforming the Medi-Cal system. You can read more about CalAIM here: DHCS CalAIM Overview.
Additionally, Seneca’s Founder, Ken Berrick, serves as a Governor’s Appointee on the Child Welfare Council, a California statewide advisory body committed to improving the systems of care for children and families involved with the child welfare system. Ken co-chairs the Child Welfare Council’s Behavioral Health Committee, a group of stakeholders that provides best practice recommendations to the California Health and Human Services Agency on meeting the behavioral health needs of youth and families involved in, or at risk of involvement in, the child welfare system. The committee published a set of Policy Recommendations in January of 2021. The recommendations urge reforms related to the diagnosis requirement for youth in need of EPSDT Specialty Mental Health Services, furnishing an accessible continuum of behavioral health services for youth in every county, and strengthening the data and evaluation infrastructure of the service delivery systems charged with providing behavioral health care to children and families. More information on the Child Welfare Council can be found here: California Child Welfare Council.
In June of 2020, Seneca CEO Emeritus Ken Berrick, and Chief Program Officer of Education Services, Robin Detterman, testified in front of California’s Little Hoover Commission. The Little Hoover Commission report produced from this series of hearings, “COVID 19 and Children’s Mental Health: Addressing the Impact,” reflects policy recommendations for California’s child-serving systems seeking to support children and families navigate the current and future psycho-social impacts of the pandemic.
2021 Legislative Session
To build on our commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of children and families impacted by the Federal Government’s “Zero-Tolerance” family separation policy, Seneca is proud to sponsor AB 47 (Reyes). AB 47 would establish a program to coordinate supportive services and link existing resources to families, including culturally responsive Culturally relevant physical and behavioral health care, legal services, food and grocery resources, education services, housing services and individual, group, and family therapy
As part of our commitment to driving reform in family-serving systems, Seneca is proud to be supporting the process to implement the Children’s Crisis Continuum Pilot.
As an agency, we have sought to create a continuum of care to help children and families through their most difficult times, regardless of their level of need. For over 5 years, Seneca has helped convene stakeholders throughout California to talk about a gap in the system that has left a small group of high-needs youth without access to the services they need. Up until December of 2020, many of these youth were placed out-of-state.
As out-of-state placements have been de-certified and child welfare involved youth are returning to placement in-state near their families and communities, the Children’s Crisis Continuum Pilot will build California’s capacity to support child welfare involved youth with the most complex and pervasive behavioral health needs. By prioritizing local access to both intensive and home-based care, youth benefit from remaining within their families and communities. The pilot program was established in the State Budget Trailer bill, and signed by the governor in July, 2021.