Helping children and families survive tough times is Oakland Man’s nonprofit mission – CBS San Francisco

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Never giving up on any child or family has been the mission of an Oakland man’s nonprofit for the past 36 years.

Celeste Walley will be earning her chemistry degree soon. She recalls being a truant high school student facing the trauma of being abandoned by her family.

“I am really angry with the world. I am sad for my family,” she said.

Walley receives foster care counseling and therapy through the Seneca Family of Agencies, an Oakland-based Ken Berrick nonprofit founded in 1985.

“They actually explained that my future was in my hands,” says Walley. “(And) helped me know there were people who cared about me.”


Berrick started Seneca to take care of people who were facing difficult times.

“We’ll be there in a way that says, ‘We’re not giving up,'” he explains.

Today, the nonprofit serves more than 18,000 young people and families each year in California, Washington, and throughout the United States.

Berrick has also assisted in funding legislative reforms since the 1990s that are becoming the mainstay of the state foster care system.

Children who need intensive treatment can get this disease in their own home or the home of a foster family. So-called “bundle” services will come to you without moving to an organization.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re struggling at school, it doesn’t matter if you’re at home, it doesn’t matter if you’re struggling with substance abuse, if your family needs help, incorporate help. Berrick said.

LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION: Jefferson Award for Public Service

Will Lightbourne, director of the state’s Department of Health Care Services, called Berrick a “thought leader and humble visionary”.

“Instead of thinking, we will do therapy for the child, no. What we’re going to do is do therapy work with a family,” said Lightbourne. “And that’s really the legacy Ken is giving us.”

Under Berrick’s leadership, Seneca is working with dozens of schools to provide mental health and other services to thousands of struggling students.

He is also reuniting and giving therapy to hundreds of immigrant families separated at the border.

Bringing healing is his reward.

“We get to see communities live up to their potential and impact,” says Berrick. “I just can’t think of anything more fun than that.”

So, after decades of serving young people and their families in crisis, this 2022 Jefferson Prize Silver Medal goes to Ken Berrick. Helping children and families survive tough times is Oakland Man’s nonprofit mission – CBS San Francisco

Dustin Huang

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