Policy and Advocacy

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 contact Hope Kamer, Policy Analyst, at Hope_Kamer@Senecacenter.org. We hope to hear from you!

Seneca leverages our policy impact by working in coalition with other nonprofit care providers. In California, Seneca is a member of two advocacy organizations:

On the national level, Seneca advocates as a part of:

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 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:

And dive deeper into the process here:

Additionally, Seneca’s Founder and CEO, 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 is working on a set of policy recommendations for 2020. 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:


What We Are Reading

We’ll keep you updated on headlines that catch our eye each month. This month, we are excited about:

  • • Oakland School Board’s historic decision to join school districts across the country and move resources from school campus police toward student support staff positions, including behavioral health providers


Representatives and Legislation

Given the impact of COVID-19, this year’s state legislative cycle was unconventional. For a helpful roundup, check out these articles:

While we will keep this page updated with how we are plugging in to local, state, and federal legislative work.

Additionally, you can use the below tools to contact your elected officials directly: How to Contact Your Representatives in Sacramento:

  1. 1. Follow this link to identify your representative
  2. 2. Type in your street address and click “Locate”
  3. 3. Click on your representative’s name
  4. 4. When on your representative’s website, click “Contact” in the top navigation. 

How to Contact Your Congressional Representatives:

  1. 1. Follow this link to identify your House Representative
  2. 2. Type in your zip code and click “Find Your Rep by Zip”
  3. 3. Click on your representative’s name.
  4. 4. When on your representative’s website, click “Contact” in the top navigation.

How to contact your County Board of Supervisors:

All of California’s 58 counties has a Board of Supervisors that, among other responsibilities, approves the budgets for county departments. In California, Boards of Supervisors act in many ways as extensions of the state government: significant state and federal funding for social services like public mental health and child welfare is funneled through them. For community-based organizations like ours, Supervisors set budget priorities and vote on budget items that directly impact our programs and the children and families we serve. For this reason, this is an important advocacy avenue! You can use this website to identify your County Supervisor, and find their contact information:

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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