About the Advocacy Award

A Brief History

The Infant Mental Health Advocacy Council was formed in 1989 and established the T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., Infant Mental Health Advocacy Award in 1990. This award is in honor of Dr. Brazelton, a Texas native and well known national and international pediatrician, researcher, author, and advocate for parents, infants, and toddlers. The award has been given to sixteen individuals at the biennial Infant Mental Health Advocacy Conference. Each award winner has made significant contributions to the improvement of mental health in the lives of infants, toddlers, and their families in Texas.


First3Years’ Infant Mental Health Advocacy Council’s objective is to bring together a diverse group of Texas professional organizations to collaborate in the process of seeking nominations for and selecting, when there is a nominee who meets the objective criteria, the Biennial T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., Infant Mental Health Advocacy Award Winner.


Previous Advocacy Award Recipients

  • 1992 – Stella Mullins, Director of Mental Health Association of Texas, for her work in bringing state agencies together to establish the Texas Children’s Mental Health Plan
  • 1994 – Jeanette Watson for her work with the state legislature, governors, and other public officials on behalf of infants, children and, families.
  • 1996 – Elaine Ellis, a pediatrician whose commitment to excellence helped to develop a neonatal developmental program at Medical Center of Plano’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
  • 1998 – Carol Wheeler-Liston for her efforts toward the adoption of the DC:0-3 for use by the Texas Mental Health Mental Retardation system, and for community efforts raising awareness of and developing services to meet infant mental health needs in Denton.
  • 2000 – Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist and researcher whose ground-breaking work in bio-behavioral outcomes for children who have experienced abuse and neglect and innovative treatment options for these children. In addition, for his public education efforts and consultations to minimize the impact of neglect and abuse of infants and children.
  • 2000 – Sonya Lopez received a “Special Recognition Award” for her work with families and professionals in the field of Infant Mental Health.
  • 2002 – Elizabeth Heyne for her work in establishing a non-profit intervention and support program for families with low birth weight infants in an underserved population of Dallas.
  • 2004 – Ernest Gotts for a lifetime of work disseminating information and raising awareness about the importance of infant mental health. In addition, for his leadership to TAIMH in the development of its continuing education programs.
  • 2008 – David M. Munson for his work improving the training of childcare workers that serve underprivileged babies and young children. He founded Educational First Steps to support these childcare centers.
  • 2008 – Karyn Purvis for her impact on adoption, child welfare, and family court systems through her work as the Director of the Texas Christian University Institute of Development as well as with TexConnects.
  • 2010 – Justice Harriett O’Neill for her actions to improve outcomes for families involved in the child protective service system through judicial leadership. Through her leadership, the Supreme Court established the Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth, and Families.
  • 2012 – Judge John Specia for being a driving force behind successful projects which focus on assisting courts and identifying best practices to improve outcomes of safety, permanency, and well-being of Texas’ most vulnerable children and families.
  • 2014 – Elaine Shiver for her work as State Leader for Texas Parents as Teachers and for over four decades advocating for children’s service as staff member and volunteer.
  • 2016 – Pauline Filipek for advancing the body of research and new practices of early screening and intervention solutions.
  • 2018 – Judge Bonnie Hellums for implementing the first Family Drug Court in Harris County and incorporating the Infant’s and Toddler’s Court to support prevention and intervention for high-risk families. 
  • 2020 – Laura Kender for opening the first HealthySteps program in Texas, as well as the first Family Connects program in North Texas, a home visiting-nurse program for parents of newborns. As the Chief of Early Childhood Services, Laura spearheads a team that serves 14,000+ infants, toddlers, and young children (birth to age 6) annually. In her career, she has created the first-ever local Early Childhood Services Community Advisory Committee.

Please Note: In 2006, an IMH Advocacy Conference was not held, thus, an award was not given.