Elaine Petranek

Workers who help low-income Houston youth will better understand children’s mental health thanks to grants from UT’s Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.

The workers who will be trained encounter youth with various mental health issues, but have not received prior mental health training. The Hogg Foundation partnered with St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities to fund mental health training for Houston non-profits.

The foundation gives grants statewide to promote mental health, but these grants come from a fund that founder and late philanthropist Ima Hogg set aside for Houston, where she spent most of her life.

The non-profits receiving funds from the foundation include the Boys and Girls Country of Houston, the Texas Association for Infant Mental Health and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston. The National Alliance on Mental Illness Metropolitan Houston and West Houston are receiving $5,000 from St. Luke’s.

The Boys and Girls Country of Houston provides family environments for 88 youths whose families are unable to care for them. The youths live in cottages with “teaching parents” who live with groups of the youths and help support them in school and extracurriculars as a parent would.

Elaine Petranek, the non-profit’s director of development, said a total of 40 staffers, including the teaching parents, will receive mental health training due to the $12,671 grant from the foundation.

“We don’t have a million-dollar grant coming in from the government,” Petranek said. “We live on grants of this size.”

Petranek said training will help the teaching parents recognize different challenges the youths face and better understand which resources will best help them.

“Teaching parents are always eager to get as much information as they can to know how to raise our kids,” Petranek said.

The Texas Association for Infant Mental Health teaches workers who interact with children of low-income families about childhood brain development. The non-profit received a $39,411 grant from the foundation to train 60 childcare workers as well as 30 Child Protective Services workers and foster care parents.

Sarah Crockett, the education coordinator for the non-profit, said part of the training is to dispel myths about infant care. An example of this is the belief that infants can’t remember events during the early stages of development so it doesn’t matter if they form attachments to people and places.

“A lot of time infants are moved more and it’s actually most detrimental to infants,” Crockett said. “So that’s actually one of our biggest goals in working with Child Protective Services — to teach them about separation.”

Crockett said the goal of training is to help the workers understand how important their role is in these children’s lives.

“The idea is if you can make little changes in how you interact with infants it makes huge impacts with their cognitive, social and emotional development,” Crockett said.