A small name change has brought greater continuity of care for San Benito County as the Gabilan chapter of the Kinship Center transitioned into the Gabilan Chapter Seneca, part of the Seneca Family of Agencies.
And while the name change is small, their latest project, adding a mental health therapist to their new San Benito Outpatient Services will make a huge difference in the lives of local foster children and families.
“Our goal is to hire a full-time clinician for a walk-in mental health clinic for kids and families,” said Gabilan Chapter Seneca President Kathy Tiffany. “It is something which is really needed here because mental health is the No. 1 issue for children in all of California right now. A lot of kids who are in foster care need these services just by the sheer reason of them being in foster care in the first place.”
Tiffany said mental health counseling became even more critical following the social and medical complications created by the pandemic.
“The problems have really snowballed,” she said. “It is something that has bothered us and we have been wanting to really make an impact locally. That’s why we decided that the best thing that we can do with the money we raise is to open up and staff a walk-in clinic.”
According to the California Health and Human Services Agency, there were 63 people in foster care in 2020 in the county. Of those, 88.9% are Hispanic and 61.9% are female. It also states 17.5% are 18 years of age or older.
The Seneca Family of Agencies was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1985 with a broad mission to help children and families during difficult times in their lives and currently serves over 18,000 children across the state. It also participates with the All Children–All Families project of the Human Rights Campaign to improve the services to LGBTQ+ youth and families in foster care and adoption programs.
While Seneca acquired Kinship in 2011, the name change to Gabilan Chapter Seneca reflects a broader spectrum of assistance for children’s mental health care, education and work with juvenile justice systems.
Foster care is at the heart of the Gabilan Chapter, working to support foster and adoptive families through individual grants to families and annual scholarships for students who have been in foster care who intend to study child psychology and development. According to their website, the chapter was founded in 1956 to help raise funds for the Children’s Home Society. The merger with Seneca provided access to programs that have helped over 1,500 foster children in the county.
“Seneca had a broader umbrella,” said Kris Waller, co-chair of the Wine and Food Tasting Fundraiser for Gabilan Seneca. “They have different services that the county could really use, but the piece they were missing was the foster care and adoption services. So that’s why they brought Kinship under the umbrella of Seneca—somebody who’s in foster care who might need some mental health assistance can now get it much easier.”
The tasting event is the chapter’s main fundraiser and, according to Waller, raised over $100,000 last year. It will be held this year on Aug. 19 at Swank Farms, a move from its traditional location at Paicines Ranch.
Individuals interested in the position as clinician can apply online. A master’s degree in social work, psychology, counseling, marriage and family therapy or similar field is required and the salary is $67,000–$81,000 annually. There is also a $2,000 sign-on bonus.
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