Seven feted for outstanding service to children’s mental health

The Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health (MACMH) has given its 2010 Outstanding Service Awards to seven MinnesotanSeven feted for […]

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The Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health (MACMH) has given its 2010 Outstanding Service Awards to seven MinnesotanSeven feted for outstanding service to children’s mental healths. The Award Recipients are Jessica Croatt Niemi, Steve Moen and Mary Moen, Terrie Rose, Solome Tibebu, and Bob Zajac and special recognition was given to Cynthia Packer.   

The award recipients will be honored at MACMH’s Fine Art and Award Celebration event February 11 at William Mit-chell College of Law in St. Paul. The winners were nominated by the public and selected by the MACMH Board of Directors. MACMH annually recognizes individuals who have shown extraordinary achievement and/or leadership in the field of children’s mental health. The Outstanding Service Award is open to educators, social workers, physicians, juvenile justice professionals, administrators, parents, youth and other public servants.

Jessica Croatt Niemi, MSSW, LICSW, IMH-E® is a skilled and compassionate therapist in infant and early childhood mental health. She uses innovation to develop effective new programs, collaborates for improved service to families and better use of scarce rural resources. Her work has expanded the field of infant and early childhood mental health in her multi-county, rural region. She is based in Bemidji and has effectively worked with local organizations in helping to tailor programs and services which meet the specific needs of the clients served by that organization.   

Niemi developed the Family Toybox, a family skills therapy group to deliver services in a manner that is respectful, enjoyable and encourages parents to become partners in helping their children. Her caring, respectful approach breaks down the barriers families might perceive in seeking help. Niemi has also used her skills to mentor, coach and train others. As a part of the early cohort of clinicians trained in early childhood mental health, she has been in the forefront of regional and state collaborations working to raise awareness of the importance of early identification of emotional and behavioral issues.   

Niemi was among the early leaders supporting the creation of the Minnesota Association for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, actively participating in strategic planning and the first advisory board.   

Steve Moen, M.D. and Mary Moen, from the Twin Cities.  have a 10-year-old son, Max, who has high-functioning autism. Together, the Moens have demonstrated commitment and dedication to create a better life for not only their son but for all children with special needs. The Moen family went to Washington, D.C. this past summer to participate in a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on children’s health that focused on autism research and the environment. At the hearing, Mary Moen testified about her son’s diagnosis and treatment, and the effects of autism on her family. Her mission is to make government officials aware of the importance of research in this area. She is also an active participant on the Fraser Autism Advisory Committee. Together the Moens have demonstrated a willingness to think outside the box, bring and act on new ideas, and are dedicated to Fraser and the special needs community.   

Terrie Rose PhD, LP is the founder of Baby’s Space, a child psychologist, and a long-time leader in the field of early childhood development and mental health. Rose developed Baby’s Space, a baby-centered model to address the issues of children born into poverty that are at high-risk of toxic stress, abuse, neglect and other factors leading to developmental delays, social and emotional difficulties. She has dedicated and focused her time to the persistent, generational poverty on the local Little Earth Indian reservation, responding to the cultures, values, and needs of local families by linking quality childcare and education to family services and parent education. Rose is promoting a network of these state of the art childcare centers as well as training policymakers and professionals. For her pioneering work in creating a high-impact early intervention and providing at-risk babies and toddlers a strong start, she is one of 21 American social entrepreneurs to be selected in 2008 as an Ashoka Fellow. Formerly the Associate Director of Training for Infant and Toddler Development at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, Rose has co-authored numerous articles on the impact of maltreatment and poverty on early childhood development, and has trained thousands of early childhood professionals and physicians in the diagnosis of mental illness in young children. She is from the Twin Cities.   

Solome Tibebu, from the Twin Cities is the 21-year-old founder of Anxiety In Teens. She has been a courageous advocate for youth with anxiety disorders. Beginning in the seventh grade, Tibebu was diagnosed with severe panic disorder and then later with obsessive-compulsive disorder. She was frustrated with the lack of online resources available to anxious young people and  decided to create a website for youth struggling with anxiety, equipped with advice, inspiration and community: She has spoken to students and parent groups alike and currently manages 10 college interns in the AT Minneapolis office. She has organized and directed campus events, such as the University of St. Thomas Stress Relief/Anxiety Awareness Event. Most recently Tibebu is a finalist and scholarship recipient at the Ron Fowler Business Concept Challenge for a mental health application she is currently developing. Tibebu is being given the Outstanding Service Youth Award.   

Bob Zajac, MD is a pediatrician who spearheaded the formation of Project Harmony—Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Diagnostic Clinic at Glencoe Regional Health Services. The clinic provided a thorough assessment of children who may have been exposed prenatally to alcohol. Without his commitment to serving children and families in rural Minnesota, the clinic would not have existed. Zajac has also served as the participating pediatrician at the MCSHN clinic in Willmar. This clinic provided a thorough evaluation of children who have multiple issues or needs. Zajac currently serves on the local child protection team and sits on a number of committees at Glencoe Regional Health Services. He is seen as an effective collaborator working with other professionals and organizations that serve children. Zajac has strong rapport with children and families as they look to him for support and guidance, as do the many professionals he works with. He is a physician who knows and understands the importance of community resources. Familiar with his community options,  Zajac often refers patients/families to children’s mental health workers at the county level, psychologists, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and school social workers, to name a few. Zajac has spent many of his evenings presenting educational workshops on ADHD, ASD, sleep disorders, asthma, and others, to parents, professionals, and other community members.   

Cynthia Packer MS, received the Outstanding Service Award from MACMH in 2004. In 2010 she was nominated again. It is clear by her nomination that Packer’s service to children’s mental health has continued to grow and inspire others. The MACMH Board of Directors unanimously felt that Packer deserved special recognition for her continued dedication and exceptional work.

The MACMH website has more information about the winners. Read about them at

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