ChildBuilders has been serving the Houston community for over 45 years. Founded in 1974 by a group of child advocates dedicated to improving mental health services for Houston’s area children, the core of ChildBuilders' work has evolved from expanding treatment options for children with mental illness to preventing the abuse and trauma that contributes to mental illness in today's youth.

Our Mission

...is to promote mental health and prevent abuse by empowering children, parents, and teachers with assertiveness skills, emotional control, empathy, resilience, and the ability to resolve conflict nonviolently.

Our Vision

We envision a community where all children are respected, nurtured, and protected.

Our Impact

In FY2022, our message reached over 33 thousand children and adults.

Our Strategy

ChildBuilders develops and implements primary prevention programs to achieve our mission and realize our vision. Our strategy is informed by extensive research in child abuse prevention, nurturing parenting, and positive school climate. Over many years we have brought our prevention efforts in close alignment with with recommendations from respected institutions in the United States. 

At some  point in their lives, most children will experience adversity, and often these experiences cause trauma (Szalavitz & Perry, 2010).  One of the strongest risk factors for developing a mental illness is trauma. Trauma can negatively affect developing brain structure and function, stress responses, and attachment.

We cannot prevent all childhood adversity. Instead, we arm children with skills that can reduce their risk of trauma, increase their resilience to traumatic events, and increase their awareness of their own rights and responsibilities when it comes or keeping themselves and their communities safe. 

For more information on our guiding principles, please visit the following resources.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACES): Leveraging the best available evidence. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Link

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2020). Protective factors approaches in child welfare. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. Link

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). https://casel.org/

Our History

Founders Group

The seven women in this picture came together in 1972 over a hamburger lunch. Their shared concern: Houston was becoming a world-class city but lacked treatment facilities for children with serious mental health disorders. Their concern became a mission as they began to work with local agencies and organizations to mobilize resources to fill this gap. This led to the birth of CAN-DO-IT (Children: Action Now Developing Options in Treatment) in 1974. CAN-DO-IT became a catalyst for merging money, manpower, and facilities to meet the needs of seriously mentally ill children.

Pictured from left to right: Felice "Buzz" Cohen, Angelee Duke, Barbara Henley, Polly Marsters, Muriel Folloder Phillips, Dodie McBride, and Mary Wright.​


Originally known as CAN-DO-IT, ChildBuilders® was founded to help children with severe mental illness find treatment options in Houston. ​


CAN-DO-IT funds the first children’s mental health residential treatment facility in Houston - Bayou Place at Depelchin Children’s Center.


Parents Under Construction™ is created to teach children today the parenting skills they will need in the future.


ChildBuilders® becomes the official name of the organization.


Stand Strong • Stay Safe® is created to empower children to recognize abuse, set healthy boundaries, act assertively, and get help.


Build to Nurture™ is created to prepare children to become caring, nurturing, and contributing members of their families and communities.

Remembering Muriel Folloder Phillips,
Our Founding Mother and
Continuing Inspiration

As the mother of a child with serious mental health needs, Muriel was determined to establish a treatment facility in Houston so her son could helped locally. An idea that started over a hamburger lunch became CAN-DO-IT (now ChildBuilders), and Muriel was the driving force behind it.  She remained deeply involved with the organization until her death in 2016 at the age of 94Among her many contributions to the organization were leading fundraising efforts, recruiting board and staff members, championing programs, and advocating for children at the state legislature. Not a day went by that Muriel didn’t call ChildBuilders staff to make a suggestion or offer to help.  

Beloved by the Houston community, she received many humanitarian awards for her achievements on behalf of children with mental health needs. Those who were fortunate to know her will always remember the sparkle in her eye, her strength in conviction, her compassion for those less fortunate, her passion, and her fearlessness in speaking out for childrenYears ago, Muriel had hamburger necklaces made for her and the other founders.  When she passed away, the hamburger necklace was buried with her. The world is a better place because she was here. 

Our Team

Photo of Amanda Siroosian
Executive Director

Amanda stepped into the role of Executive Director of ChildBuilders in 2017 after 10 years of service to the organization. Her public health background provides an ideal perspective from which to improve community mental health.

Gretchen Lash Head Shot
Director of Program Services

Gretchen joined ChildBuilders as a social work intern in 2008 after nearly 10 years in public education. She is dedicated to developing innovative approaches to preventing violence and abuse.

Photo of Janet Pozmantier

Janet is a licensed professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, and play therapist. Her dedication to ChildBuilders’ mission and vision has spanned three decades.

Program Consultant

Priscilla holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from Houston Christian University in Elementary Education and Curriculum and Instruction. She joined ChildBuilders in 2014.

Board of Directors

Photo of Lia Vallone

Lia Vallone

Spindletop Community Impact Partners

Photo of Missie Hills

Missie Hills

Vice President

Photo of Melissa Schuck

Melissa Schuck

Quantum Energy Partners

Katie Stewart

Katie Stewart Anchondo

New Hope Housing, Inc.

Abdalla Ali

Abdalla Ali

Board Member

Liz Daniel Headshot

Liz Daniel

Board Member
Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty

Photo of Jennifer Kilgore

Jennifer Kilgore

Board Member
First Community Credit Union

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John Ntagha

Board Member
MD Anderson

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Liz Palmer

Board Member
The Texas Wine School

Juanita Parker

Board Member

Tamra Wilkerson

Board Member
The Junior Leage of Houston, OBR

Advisory Board

Sheila Aron

Darlene Aust

Meredith Carr

Nancy DeWalch

Myrna Engler, LCSW

Ellen Gaber

Chris Greeley, MD

Robert W. Guynn, MD

Joyce Haufrect

Fernando Isart, MD, FAAP

Keith Jaasma

James W. Lomax, MD

Debbie Martinez

Dorothy F. Matthews, Ph.D.

Evelyn Miro

Linda Murphy

Jeff Nash

Imogen Papadopoulos, JD

Chuck Pflueger

Janet Pozmantier, MS, LPC

Jan Redford, Ph.D.

Bryon A. Rice

Barbara Samuels, Ed.D.

Kelli Tonn

John L. Tribo

Alan Woodbury, CPA

Voices of our Partners

More Information

Terms of Use

The Terms of Use (the “Terms”) govern the use of ChildBuilders.org (the “Site”) and ChildBuilders’ curriculum binders, materials, and online resources (the “Materials”). All content

Website Privacy Policy

Your privacy is important to us. To better protect your privacy we provide this notice explaining our online information practices and the choices you can make about the way your information is collected and used.

Fiscal Responsibility

ChildBuilders is a fiscally responsible 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We take the role of handling our financials very seriously and are extremely diligent about where we allocate our funds to further our training, growth and awareness.

Questions or Concerns?

Thank you for using our new website. If you have a question or need help accessing information or materials, please get in touch.  

Help us reach our Fall Campaign goal of $25,000. Together we can empower children with the resilience they need to live happy and healthy lives.