Trainer and Staff Bios

Kevin CampbellExpert Consultant/Trainer and Author of the Family Finding Model - Kevin Campbell is an internationally known youth permanency expert, founder of the Center for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness and developer of the Family Finding model, a set of strategies now utilized throughout the United States and Canada to establish lifelong supports for youth in foster care. Prior to developing Family Finding, Kevin was an administrator, director and vice president in the social service sector for over 28 years.

Kevin provides advanced permanency training and assistance nationwide and to date has worked with over 200 agencies across over 40 states and Canada. Kevin has helped over 10,000 youth achieve permanency and continues to help up to 80 foster youth per week.

You can read more about Kevin here.


Bob FriendDirector of the National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness - Robert Friend, LCSW was previously the Director of the California Permanency for Youth Project (CPYP) and is both the Co- Chairperson for the statewide Permanency Task Force and a member of the Co-Investment Partnership Group Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the California Child Welfare Council's Permanency Committee, and recently completed an assignment as a State Team Co-Chair for the Breakthrough Collaborative Series on Independent Living Program Transformation in California.

Bob has worked in the field of child welfare for over 30 years with a Bachelor's in Psychology from Rutgers University with a Masters in Social Welfare from the University of California. His varied work experiences in the field include: direct line worker and manager in residential treatment; a family reunification worker; a social worker and manager for Casey Family Programs; and as an Assistant Regional Director overseeing practice for Aspiranet.


Kelly BeckTrainer - Kelly Lynn Beck, J.D. is an Attorney and Trainer with the National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness at Seneca Family of Agencies. She is the author of several articles, including the recently published "Unlocking Reasonable Efforts: Kinship is Key" (Shriver Institute) and "Maintaining Family Relationship for Children in the Child Welfare System" (ABA). She travels nationally conducting county collaborative workshops, judicial officer trainings and focused strategic planning sessions on many permanency related issues, including Family Finding and Engagement, Reasonable Efforts, Concurrent Planning, Adoption and Embracing Fathers and Relatives.

Ms. Beck was previously the Senior Program Manager working with the Model Courts Project at the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Prior to working at the NCJFCJ, she was the lead Attorney for the Permanency Project at the California Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), Center for Families, Children and the Courts as well as a Title IV-E Judicial Review and Juvenile Consultant. Preceding her work with the AOC, Ms. Beck was a court-appointed attorney representing parents and guardians in Juvenile Dependency Court. In private practice she represented adoptive parents, relative caregivers, stepparents, guardians and grandparents in child custody proceedings.


Mike MertzTrainer - Mike Mertz, MS is the Director of Staff Development as well as a National Family Finding and Engagement Trainer with Seneca Family of Agencies. He currently coaches staff and trains providers nationwide on the Family Finding model as well as other family engagement strategies that foster collaborative endeavors for building lifetime support networks for children and youth.

In addition to Mike’s vast training and coaching experience, he has over 26 years of experience leading and managing both residential and community based programs engaged in promoting the voice of youth and families. Mike’s work focuses on creating connectedness, building permanency, developing positive outcomes, and increasing the quantity and quality of engagement of organizations with the youth and families they serve.


Beverly KyerTrainer - Beverly Kyer, MSW, CSW, ACSW  has been a Public Speaker and Educator for more than 27 years with specialties in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; the Trauma Impact on Brain Development and Learning in Children and Youth, and Compassion Fatigue, AKA Vicarious Trauma. Beverly has served as the EAP Employee Assistance Program Coordinator, and the Assistant Chief of Social Work Service, Bronx N.Y. Veteran's Administration Medical Center. She has served nine years as a Social Worker for Casey Family Programs. Beverly's mission is to inspire understanding, empathy, capacity and determination for all who will help children and youth on the road to healing and a permanent place and people called home.

Currently a contract trainer for Seneca Center and Family Finding, roles in her career include Readjustment Counseling Therapist, Psychiatric Social Worker, Social Work Field Placement Supervisor; Clinical Social Worker/ Program Coordinator/ Social Work Supervisor; Assistant Chief of Social Worker Service and Grief and Trauma Counselor and Consultant. Beverly's participatory training style creates an interactive and collaborative learning environment focused towards seeking answers.


Trainer - Pat O'Brien is the Founder and first Executive Director of You Gotta Believe! The Older Child Adoption & Permanency Movement, Inc. Pat ran the day-to-day operations of this homelessness prevention program for its first 18 years of its existence from 1995 to 2013. Pat currently provides consultation in the areas of advocating for permanent parents for all teens and young adults before they age out of foster care; utilizing laughter and playfulness to alleviate the stresses, tensions, and pain of everyday living and particularly during times of extreme stress; and teaches on the power of unconditional commitment which is the primary form of love-in-action that matters to traumatized youth placed into families from foster care.

Pat has his Master of Science degree in Social Work from Columbia University. He is currently the President of the Family Builders Network, a network of adoption agency executives across the United States who meet as a professional group to discuss pressing issues as it relates to helping find families for children with special needs.  Pat is also the Vice-President of Voices for Adoption, a Washington based group that educates Congress about important issues related to adoption. 


Consultant - Gail Johnson Vaughan, MA is the executive director of Mission Focused Solutions, a nonprofit organization providing strategies and solutions to child welfare organizations wishing to increase placement stability and improve permanency outcomes. Keeping children and youth in foster care is costly both in human and fiscal terms. Her Youth Permanence Funding Methodology shows counties and states how provide effective specialized youth permanence services at no net cost. The methodology reinvests and leverages savings achieved through successful specialized youth permanency and family finding services. Her training and consultation to transform the recruitment and retention of Resource Families can change the concept of concurrent planning into an everyday practice leading to early permanence and improved placement stability.

Prior to founding Mission Focused Solutions Gail served as the executive director of Sierra Forever Families (formerly Sierra Adoption Services) for twenty-two years where she received national recognition for her permanency practice and advocacy expertise.


Clif VenableSearch Specialist/Trainer - Clif Venable joined Seneca Center’s National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness after working for ten years at one of the largest Internet search companies. During that time Clif worked in sales, customer service, product development, data acquisition, and his passion: searching. Clif originated the family finder program at USSearch where he conducted close to 15,000 relative searches for over a hundred state, county and private child welfare agencies in forty states.

Clif participated in the Keynote address at the Child Welfare National Data Conference in Washington, D.C. in 2008 where he discussed efforts to help foster children displaced by Hurricane Katrina reconnect with family members. Clif helped develop the search aspect of the family finding practice with Kevin Campbell which influenced the development of the diligent search requirement for relatives of children in foster care evidenced in the Fostering Connections to Success Act of 2008. Some of his searches, in affiliation with Kevin Campbell, were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and 60 Minutes as well as numerous daily publications. These searches were also featured in Kevin’s appearances before the United States Senate during the legislative hearing process for the Fostering Connections to Success Act.

Clif brings his passion for searching and family finding to the NIPFC to help start the first non-profit to offer customized internet search services. Clif is available to train on using fee based and free internet search services as well as all aspects of database searching.


Assistant Search Specialist - Cherie Alexander, MA, MFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, currently in private practice in California.  In her clinical work she specializes in helping  children, teens and adults who have experienced relationship losses; helping them heal from attachment disruptions, grief, trauma, shame, anxiety, depression, and more.  Cherie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology.  She has earned a certificate in the Professional Program in the Study of Loss and Grief, and is now completing courses toward a certificate in Family Research Studies (Genealogy).

Cherie’s journey to become an MFT began over 25 years ago when she searched for, and found, her son who had been adopted in 1967.  She then started an ALMA chapter in her community, where she provided search assistance and support groups for adult adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents.  Wanting to do more for those experiencing relationship losses, she made the decision to become a Marriage and Family Therapist; never losing her passion for helping people find family.

As the newest member of our Family Finding team, Cherie brings her search expertise, her clinical skills, and her deep desire to help facilitate family connection.  She loves finding people and is grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in this way.


Antoine Ghanem, BA is a Permanency Supervisor with Seneca Family of Agencies overseeing the management and day to day operations of the Lifelong Connections Initiative’s Family Finding Federal Grant. Antoine currently supervises a staff of 8 permanency specialists who are implementing front end family finding, engagement and planning strategies for youth and families entering into care for the first time. Antoine has close 9 years of experience collaborating with the child welfare system to promote community based sustainable practices to support youth and families that find themselves in care with a focus on connectedness, permanency and  promoting family voice.



Coordinator – Jonica Little joined Seneca Family of Agencies – NIPFC in September 2016. She is honored to be part of such a talented team, who work diligently to support children and families. Eager to serve Family Finding, Jonica intends to aid Seneca in providing tools and resources to agencies in the field. She sees Family Finding as vital work in providing care to foster youth, and creating the support they need to thrive. Jonica graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Biological Anthropoligy, and is currently working on her Master’s of Entry Nursing. Jonica believes that all children are deserving of care, and that offering children the support they need is a responsibility that we all share.


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