Outstanding Service Award – Jessica Croatt Niemi

Outstanding Service Award – Jessica Croatt Niemi

Jessica Croatt Niemi, MSSW, LICSW, IMH-E®

Jessica 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. She sees the big picture of her profession, continuing her own learning while taking on responsibilities for training others and serving on statewide association boards and Minnesota Department of Human Services committees. Jessica’s work has expanded the field of infant and early childhood mental health in her multi-county, rural region.

Jessica 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.  Jessica developed the Family Toybox family skills therapy group to deliver services in a manner that was respectful, enjoyable and encouraged parents to become partners in helping their children. This talent for meeting specific programmatic needs demonstrates Jessica’s flexibility, innovation and willingness to listen.

She has delivered high quality training opportunities for parents and professionals and is responsible for managing other employees in her professional role.  Jessica is highly deserving of this honor as she represents a person who continually strives for clinical excellence personally and manages to elevate the efforts of others through her generous sharing of knowledge and expertise with fellow collaborative members.

Jessica’s work has truly advanced the field of infant and early childhood mental health. Her work has touched statewide organizations, local systems, the practice of individual service providers and most importantly, the lives of families with young children. Through her membership on the Thrive Team, Jessica has touched the whole continuum of care in early mental health from promotion of healthy development and prevention of problems to providing the serious help some families require.

We also know that Jessica is the one who will make the time to call or visit a parent in need. Her caring, respectful approach breaks down the barriers families might perceive in seeking help. She never loses sight of her mission, while also always seeing the scope of her profession.

Her professional development has included training in the diagnostic classification system for children birth to three years, active participation in the early childhood mental health clinicians’ group, training in Parent-Child Interactive Therapy, training and endorsement by the Minnesota Association of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, and training in Reflective Consultation in Early Childhood Mental Health. 

Jessica has used her expertise to develop a highly successful filial therapy program for infants and toddlers and their parents called the Family Toybox. The Family Toybox has served young children and parents in many small communities in this area where there is very limited access to mental health services. The many requests and referrals from parents, physicians, collaboratives, tribal agencies and early childhood professionals are a demonstration of the need for these services and a testament to the quality of the services that Jessica provides.

Jessica has also used her skills to mentor, coach and train others. She has presented at the Early Childhood Mega Conference, Minnesota Head Start Association Summer Institutes, the Conference on Rural Innovations in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health sponsored by the area Thrive Initiative and at numerous other groups of early childhood professionals. She has supervised numerous graduate and undergraduate students who are inspired by her work.

As a part of the early cohort of clinicians trained in early childhood mental health, Jessica has been in the forefront of regional and state collaborations that are working to raise awareness of the importance of early identification of emotional and behavioral issues. She has distinguished herself as a leader and as a highly skilled mental health professional.

In addition, Jessica has gone on to work on her endorsement in Early Childhood Mental Health and Reflective Consultation.  Jessica has a passion and commitment to bring evidence based practices in early childhood mental health to rural areas in order to expand our capacity to serve young children and their families.

Division to provide “Building Strong Foundations: An Introduction to Early Childhood Mental Health” training across the state of Minnesota.  Jessica’s trainings are always full with a waiting list and well received.  To become a Building Strong Foundations trainer, Jessica completed a year-long training process, supported by the State of Minnesota and developed by a National Zero to Three trainer. Jessica is strong trainer who effectively shares her early childhood mental health expertise throughout the state.

Jessica was among the early leaders supporting the creation of the Minnesota Association for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (MAIECMH) actively participating in strategic planning and the first advisory board. She went on to chair MAIECMH’s Training Committee. Jessica has been a leader in her region in support of reflective practice and also as an advocate for access to early childhood mental health services.

All information about Jessica was taken directly from her award nominations

Outstanding Service Award Criteria To be nominated for this award, an individual must be recognized in several of these areas:

For Mental Health Professionals and Social Workers

  • Engaging in efforts that raise awareness about children’s mental health
  • Demonstrating compassion for children, youth, and their families in their work
  • Advocating on behalf of children with mental health needs
  • Developing and/or implementing innovative, successful programs and methods of collaborating with those involved in the life of a child with mental health needs
  • Engaging in research to address mental health issues as they apply to children