Sara Carlson

Sara Carlson

Sara Carlson has a long career of successfully advocating for young children and their families, particularly in the area of mental health promotion, prevention, and intervention at a systems level in Greater Minnesota.  Sara served as the founding Chair of the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health-Infant and Early Childhood Program (MACMH-IEC) Advisory Board, from its inception in 2007 until fall of 2011. During her leadership of MACMH-IEC Sara volunteered countless hours leading both staff and members with vision, enthusiasm, organization, creative problem-solving and, most importantly, with persistence and passion.  A colleague stated, “She was an important source of support and guidance and hope, and she never seemed to tire in her support of MACMH-IEC.” Sara used her strong leadership skills and deep understanding of young children’s mental health needs to raise awareness and promote an interdisciplinary, collaborative organization which represents the interests of a range of communities across our state.

Sara served as the Project SUCCEED coordinator at PACT 4 Families in 1998. She was one of the leaders of the original PACT 4 children’s mental health project, an initiative that led the way for other communities across the state to address children’s mental health on multiple levels in a community.  Her efforts also helped to raise awareness among Minnesota policymakers of the social and emotional needs of very young children.  One of her leadership roles was in support of the Initiative Foundations’ Early Childhood Mental Health regional initiatives.

In 2004 Sara assumed her current responsibilities as the Program Officer for the Early Childhood Initiative of the Southwest Initiative Foundation. Sara was recently appointed to Governor Dayton’s Early Learning Council which is responsible for advising the Governor, the Children’s Cabinet, and the legislature on how to increase access to high quality state and federal early childhood care and education programs for all Minnesota learners – including those who are part of underrepresented and special programs. In this capacity Sara is keeping children’s mental health needs front and center. One of Sara’s colleagues reported, “I have had the privilege to work with Sara on Early Childhood Mental Health issues, policy and practice, over the past six years.  There are few community members who have had a greater impact than Sara on the day to day practices in early childhood mental health directly impacting families.  Sara’s tireless and impassioned dedication to the field has certainly been a model for me and for many others concerned about supporting mental health in infants and toddlers.”

Sara is committed to enhancing her leadership to promote the well-being of young children. She is an alumna of the Blandin Community Leadership Program in 2006; the Anderson Center Discussion Leadership Forum 2009; and the Leading from Within 2010-2011 class, Institute for Conservation Leadership.  She consistently demonstrates knowledge of systems and has the strategic planning skills to promote the interests of young children and families.

Several individuals that have worked closely with Sara have said, “Sara has already made an indelible contribution to creating family-friendly mental health systems in Minnesota and we are fortunate that she continues in a leadership capacity.” “Sara has been a pioneer in moving the issue of early childhood mental health forward in the state of Minnesota.  Not only has she helped build awareness but has moved us as a state to then take action.    She is not afraid to ‘stand up and keep fighting’ as Paul Wellstone encouraged us all to do.”

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