Trainer Bio

Bob NEW.jpg

Bob Friend, LCSW

Director of the National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness (NIPFC) - 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 completed an assignment as a State Team Co-Chair for the 2011 Breakthrough Collaborative Series on Independent Living Program Transformation in California.

Bob has worked in the field of child welfare for over 35 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.

Articles: How "Reasonable Efforts" Leads to Emotional and Legal PermanenceLifelong Connections2011 Breakthrough Collaborative Series on Independent Living Program Transformation in California.

Kelly Lynn Beck, J.D.

Trainer - 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 "How 'Reasonable Efforts' Leads to Emotional and Legal Permanence" with Bob Friend in Capitol University’s Spring 2017 Law Review. 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 (NCJFCJ). 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.

Articles: How "Reasonable Efforts" Leads to Emotional and Legal PermanenceUnlocking Reasonable EffortsMaintaining Family Relationships

Kelly's new original photo - gimp edited.jpg

Mike's Picture.jpg

Mike Mertz, M.S.

Trainer - Mike Mertz, M.S. is the Director of Permanency and Family Engagement, Co-Leader Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Initiative, as well as a National Family Finding and Engagement Trainer with Seneca Family of Agencies. He currently coaches staff and trains providers across the globe 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 30 years of experience leading and managing both residential and community based programs engaged in promoting the voice of youth and families. After graduating with a B.A. in Psychology from Albion College and an M.S. in Psychology from Springfield College, Mike’s focus has been on creating connectedness, building permanency, developing positive outcomes, and increasing the quantity and quality of engagement of organizations through ideas of mattering and intentional strength with the youth and families they serve.

Articles: Intentional Strengths

Clif Venable

Search Specialist/Trainer - Clif Venable joined Seneca Center’s National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness (NIPFC) 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 across the U.S.

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, 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 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.

To find out more about Seneca's Search Services click here.


IMG_2753 (Edited).JPG

Jonica Little

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 Anthropology, 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.