About CFI

For more than 80 years, the Centers for Independence has strengthened communities by helping people advance their total health. CFI is dedicated to assisting people of all ages and abilities achieve their fullest level of independence through a supportive environment that fosters hope. CFI’s unmatched breadth of services and resources allows others to find value in themselves and see a path forward.

What We Do

The Centers for Independence integrates health care and social services. CFI’s commitment to total health with a trauma-informed care approach results in a framework of wellness that improves lives, families, and communities. CFI’s programs serve people who need:

  • mental health and substance-abuse treatment and care
  • job-training and placement services
  • rehabilitative help following a brain injury or neurological condition
  • day programming and activities to fully engage in life
  • in-home personal care services
  • assistance managing finances and employment for long-term care needs
  • medical day care services and education for children with complex medical conditions
  • early education programming and therapies

Who We Serve

The Centers for Independence assists people of all abilities, ages, and socioeconomic standing. CFI’s vast array of services and programs are based on community needs and are offered to every client, patient, and consumer who seeks them. In many cases, CFI brings solutions to people who might not find assistance anywhere else.

Speaking for the entire team, I can say unequivocally that we found your organization to be exceptional in terms of service quality and its commitment to realizing its mission.

‐ George Molano
Jewish Vocational Service outdoor sign


CFI has been providing life-changing programs for people struggling to gain independence since 1938. It began as Jewish Vocational Service to help new immigrant families fleeing oppression in Europe settle in our community.

Since then, the agency has grown to 30-plus programs, 700 employees, 340 volunteers and 125 interns. We help 20,000 individuals annually on their path to independence.

See our annual report here.


Headshot Teri Zywicki

Teri Zywicki

CEO and President
Headshot Bridget Fassett

Bridget Fassett

Chief Financial Officer
Headshot Dennise Lavrenz

Dennise Lavrenz

Chief Clinical Officer
Headshot Denise Banks

Denise Banks

Vice President of Human Resources
Headshot Margaret Fischbach

Margaret Fischbach

Vice President of Legal and Compliance

Pamela Latherow

Chief Information Officer, Information Technology

John Chianelli

Vice President, Whole Health Clinical Group, Behavioral Health

Katherine Kasabuske

Vice President - Home and Community Based Services, Long-term care services

Heidi Chada

Vice President of Employment & Commercial Services, Food service and employment training

Our Mission; Our Vision; Our Values


Partnering with people of all abilities to advance their total health.


Healthy and hopeful communities.


Understanding PEOPLE. LEADING Success. Working TOGETHER. Those are the values that drive CFI and its staff.

At CFI, you can trust us to:

  • Treat you with empathy and respect.
  • Listen to you with purpose.
  • Act in your best interest.
  • Advance knowledge and champion innovation.
  • Recognize, celebrate and share in your success.
  • Welcome your unique strengths, backgrounds and challenges.
  • Engage you in planning and decision-making.
  • Foster partnerships to achieve outcomes.

Our Board of Directors

  • Dr. Mary Spencer, RN, MSN, Board Chairperson, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Career Service
  • Jeff Fleming, Past Chairperson, Redevelopment Authority, City of Milwaukee
  • Antonio Riley, Vice Chairperson
  • Teri Zywicki, Secretary, MCFI President and CEO
  • Bridget Fassett, Treasurer, MCFI CFO
  • Rebecca (Riv) Goldman, General Counsel, Optimas
  • Bruce J. Betters, CEO and CIO of Marshall Street Capital
  • Morris Cain
  • Jim Henry
  • Dr. Lyah Holmes
  • Norah L. Johnson, PhD, RN, CPNCP-PC, associate professor of nursing at Marquette University
  • Dr. Tobias Kaemmerer, Clinical Neuropsychologist, Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center
  • The Honorable Joan Kessler, Court of Appeals
  • Elliot Lubar
  • Michael McCann
  • Dan Neely, Associate Professor of Accounting, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Robin Reese, Executive Director, Thirty Six Blocks Inc.
  • Morgan Tilleman, Senior Counsel, Foley & Lardner LLP
  • Tim Voigtman, Attorney, Foley & Lardner LLP

Success Stories and Results

Joe Simmerman
Behavioral Health: Hitting the reset button

At age 45, Joe got a rare gift: a chance to hit the proverbial reset button on his life. To say the year...

Learn More
Children's Services: A super hero

Born prematurely at 29 weeks, Lukas spent the first 351 days of his life at a hospital instead of his...

Learn More
Employment Services: A 'natural leader'

Noah Butler arrived at CFI in July 2016. When he did, a mix of a cognitive disability and fear of talking...

Learn More
Home Care: Changing a life

Kristina Garcia had been working with Jessica Schluter for several years. Schluter suffered a brain injury...

Learn More
Brain Health: Remote control

Ronnie Fuller’s life changed dramatically in 2018, when he experienced a brain injury and lost oxygen...

Learn More


We are committed to our many partners who help us strengthen our community.


CFI is dedicated to delivering health care and social services that strictly conform to the highest standards of accountability for administration, clinical, business, marketing and financial management.

Our Code of Ethics contains general guidelines for providing services and conducting business with the highest standards of ethics. We are committed to an environment where open, honest communications are the expectation, not the exception.

We believe in and practice self-directed care, meaning that those we serve, or their representatives or guardians, have the authority to make decisions about the types of services they receive.

If you believe there has been a violation of policies or standards, please feel free to contact our corporate compliance officer, Margaret Fischbach, 414-290-7834.

If you prefer to make an anonymous report about possible workplace violations, please contact EthicsPoint, 855-612-7055 (TTY 866-294-9572), or click here.

To file a complaint about a client incident, contact our help line at 414-290-2025 ext. 7525 or vergehelp@mcfi.net.

If you are in need your records, please call 414-937-2065 or email caserecords@mcfi.net.

To access your records, you will need to fill out one of the following forms, either electronically and emailed back or one that can be printed, filled out and faxed. Click here for the electronic form. Click here for the printable form, which is also available in Spanish.


The Centers for Independence is committed to creating a diverse, inclusive and culturally competent culture that best reflects and serves our clients, our staff and our community.

Diversity is fundamental to every aspect of CFI, from the mission, vision, and values to the governance and business planning of the organization.

CFI is a pioneer in cultural competency and widely recognized for initiatives that advance and welcome people of color, the LGBTQ community, veterans, and people of all ages and abilities.

As a strong community partner, CFI is among other Milwaukee nonprofit organizations that have pledged to take steps to dismantle structural racism in the community, including diversifying their boards and staff.

Please read more here.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why are early intervention programs successful?

According to research, learning and development are at their highest rate in the preschool years. Some children, due to economic or social or developmental delays, risk missing some of the most important learning and developmental milestones. Early intervention helps keep children on a path to making the most of abilities and skills developed during the early years.

What does person-first and person-centered mean?

A person centered approach is about ensuring someone with a disability is an equal partner in planning, developing and monitoring care to make sure it meets their unique needs and wishes.

How are MCFI’s programs funded?

MCFI programs receive funds from a variety of sources, including Milwaukee County, the Department of Public Instruction, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Medicaid, commercial insurance companies, private pay, grants, private foundations and individual donors.

Does MCFI only serve people with disabilities?

While this is our primary focus; we also serve all people with barriers to success. For instance, our charter school is all inclusive, serving children with and without disabilities.

Is my donation tax-deductible?

MCFI is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and your gift is tax-deductible.