Profile: Milwaukee’s SaintA president and CEO Teri Zywicki dedicates career to children and families June 1, 2016

Teri Zywicki, a new member of IFF’s Community Advisory Committee, is president and CEO of SaintA, a social welfare agency in Milwaukee, WI, that advances foster care, education, and mental health services to children, families, and adults.

Tell me about your work at SaintA and what you’re focused on right now.
Currently, SaintA is partnering with various stakeholders to establish a simpler way to navigate the complicated systems of care and ensure that the families we serve can access services they need — when they need them. We are working with the police, schools, judges, and state officials to educate and expand knowledge of brain development and how it is affected by the environment.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?
SaintA is in the forefront of therapeutic practices called trauma informed care that apply what neuroscience has taught us about how the brain develops, functions, and recovers from trauma to help children overcome adverse experiences and thrive. Our work has gained national and local attention from other professional who interface with the children and families we serve.

We have taught over 15,000 folks our “seven essential ingredients” model to better understand the impact of adverse childhood experiences and trauma, creating a common language and understanding of brain development. We are one of a handful of agencies nationwide that is certified through the Houston-based ChildTrauma Academy in the neurosequential model of therapeutics. This is a biologically informed way to assess trauma and to develop and create ways to mitigate its effects.

How did you first learn about IFF?
A colleague of mine, who is now an IFF employee, reached out to me because she was aware that SaintA was interested in providing housing for youth aging out of foster care. Over the last 10 years, our organization has been committed to serving foster youth alumni transition to adulthood through supportive services including housing, employment, and education. I decided to serve on IFF’s Community Advisory Committee because the mission of IFF aligns nicely with SaintA’s commitment to improve the lives of vulnerable children and families by attending to the concrete services a family needs, in addition to preventing and treating adverse experiences and trauma.

How else are you involved with the community?
I am chair of the Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board (also known as the Children’s Trust Fund) and serve on the boards of the Celebrate Children Foundation and the Wisconsin Association of Family and Children’s Agencies. I enjoy volunteering at our charter school, Capitol West Academy, reading and making crafts with the kindergarteners and first-graders.

What do you like to do in your down time?
Go to the farmers market, walk my 80-pound labradoodle, go out to dinner with friends, and take advantage of the numerous music festivals in Wisconsin. I enjoy the water, boating, and stand-up paddle boarding in Pewaukee and in Door County.

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