Clinical Social Worker of the Year Award for NAFI CT’s Stacey Shaia

July 18, 2019


NAFI CT's award-winning Clinical Social Worker Stacey Shaia
Stacey Shaia

Stacey Shaia, LCSW, clinical director of NAFI CT’s Outpatient Clinic in Willimantic, CT, has been honored with the 2019 Clinical Social Worker of the Year Award from the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).

“The Clinical Social Worker of the Year award is given annually to a clinical social worker who, amongst other criteria, enhances the area of clinical social work; inspires other clinical social workers to deepen their skills; shows a commitment to improving clinical practice; is willing to share her/his work with others for improving others’ practice; and is a member of NASW in good standing,” NASW/CT said in announcing the award in its most recent quarterly newsletter.

The Clinical Social Worker of the Year award was presented to Stacey in an informal ceremony June 18 at the NAFI CT clinic in Willimantic.

‘I Believe People Can Change’

“I’m in the business because I believe people can change,” Stacey said. “This award reinforces the work I’ve been doing and motivates me to want to learn more, work harder, and continue with this important mission.”

NASW/CT noted in the newsletter that Stacey was nominated by three colleagues at NAFI CT, part of the multi-state North American Family Institute, a private, nonprofit human services agency specializing in community-based care for children, youth and adults with mental health and/or behavioral issues.

Stacey’s excitement about winning was heightened by the fact that she wasn’t aware of the nomination. “I was on vacation and received a voicemail from NASW/CT that I won an award,” she said. Stacey called NAFI CT colleague Abigail Okarmus and asked, “Do you think this is for real?”

It was definitely for real.

NAFI CT Clinical Social Worker Stacey Shaia accepting her award from Steve Kara, executive director of NASW CT.
NAFI CT Clinical Social Worker of the Year Stacey Shaia accepting her award from Steve Karp, executive director of NASW CT.

In announcing the award in the Connections newsletter, NASW/CT cited some of the praise offered by colleagues as part of the nomination. “Stacey’s ability to easily engage even the seemingly most resistant client is evidence of her commitment to motivating change,” said one colleague. Another called her ability to engage clients of all ages “remarkable to watch.”

“Stacey has cultivated a reputation that she can have success with even the most challenging of clients,” added a third colleague.

Changing Young Lives for the Better

While confidentiality prevents Stacey from disclosing details of her work with NAFI CT over the past four-and-a-half years, she is able to share general narratives that highlight the positive impact she has had on challenged young lives.

One young man she worked with entertained ideas of suicide and struggled especially with losing basketball or baseball games. It made him depressed to the point that he “couldn’t dig himself out of the black hole,” Stacey explained.

She recently received a message from the young man’s mother, thanking her for her work and recounting a meeting with the young man’s coach, who offered only praise and said of the woman’s son, “He’s able to pick up his peers and get them in a better place.”

“He’s playing baseball now in all-star league,” said Stacey. “I said to the Mom, ‘This has nothing to do with me, this has everything to do with your child implementing the skills we worked on together.’”

In a selfless and modest message, Stacey emphasized, “The hard work happens outside the office.”

Another young man had both homicidal and suicidal thoughts, and for him it seemed every day brought a new crisis, amid frequent hospitalizations. “Now he’s productive in school and at camp,” Stacey said, “and he hasn’t been to the hospital in four months.”

Our Clinical Social Worker of the Year Calls Helping Families ‘Powerful’

For those who may not understand what brings families to an agency like NAFI CT, Stacey explains that many families across Connecticut struggle simultaneously with multiple problems affecting young people.

“Children and families come in and they don’t have just one problem,” Stacey said. “There’s lots of negative behavior, the children struggle with school, and often have suicidal or homicidal ideation. We work on coping strategies, and have them learn about themselves.”

“As social workers, we want to help change families for the better,” she continued, noting that through positive outcomes, a social worker is not only changing the life of a young person but also improving the lives of all family members. To be able to do that, Stacey said, is “pretty powerful.”


Outpatient Psychiatric Clinic for Children

NAFI CT’s Outpatient Clinic provides holistic psychiatric and clinical counseling to children and adolescents ages 6-18 and their families. Our experienced clinicians work with each client and their family to help strengthen their relationships and realize their goals. Primary services provided include individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, psychiatric evaluation, medication monitoring, parent/caregiver education and support, and consultation with schools. NAFI CT’s Outpatient Clinic helps youth and families overcome a broad range of behavioral and emotional challenges

To make a referral, contact us at 860.456.5587. We will be happy to gather some information and help you decide if NAFI CT’s Children & Adolescent Outpatient Services is the right fit for you and your family.


NAFI CT is a multi-service agency that provides programming, consultation, and individualized support services to youth, families, and adults in a variety of settings across Connecticut. Our core services include foster care, developmental services, residential treatment, and in-home services and consultations. We take a respectful and dignified approach to all care services, with the mission of empowering individuals and strengthening families. To learn more, call us at 860.284.1177 or see our website at