The Neighborhood Advocate

More Texas Families Benefit from YAP’s Culturally Responsive Mental Health Services

Maribel looks at her 15-year-old son, Ivan, and feels hopeful for his future. In a new YouTube ad, she thinks back to a year ago when he got expelled after a fight at school.

“My son, Ivan. He used to be so depressed and kept acting out. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t want him sent away, but I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.  “Then I heard about Youth Advocate Programs – YAP.”

A national nonprofit in 35 states and Washington, D.C., YAP, delivers community-based wraparound and mental health services as an alternative to residential care, youth incarceration, group homes and other placements.

YAP is expanding its mobile mental health services in communities across Texas, including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and surrounding areas. The nonprofit serves Medicaid-eligible young people, ages 3-20, in schools and other community sites, but mostly in their homes. A new YAP digital ad campaign, which includes English- and Spanish-language YouTube and other social media advertisements, speaks directly to parents and professionals looking for culturally and linguistically responsive mental health services for young people.

Ivan with his mom, Maribel

Maribel learned about YAP from the alternative school Ivan attended after his fight. YAP paired him with Jenny Carrillo, a mental health professional who in part, chose to work at YAP because of the nonprofit’s core principles, which include unconditional community-based care, supporting young people and their families, and cultural and linguistic responsiveness. Many of the young people Carrillo serves are like her, first-generation Americans.

“Due to a language barrier, I saw my parents struggle — that impacts how I provide services to this community,” Carrillo said.

With parents who are learning to speak English, she said it matters that she is fluent in Spanish and that YAP comes to them.

Carrillo said it didn’t take long for Maribel to warm up to her. But for Ivan, it took some time.

“When I first met him, he was hostile; he wouldn’t talk, he had a lot of anger.”

Ivan agrees.

“I didn’t want to get close to her. I didn’t want to like her,” he said.

Carrillo came to Ivan’s home weekly where she got to know him and empowered him with tools he needed to make behavioral changes. She helped him see his strengths, that he’s kind, cares about his family, has many interests, and is proud of his Mexican American heritage.

At the same time, Carrillo worked with Maribel, giving her tools to support her son.

Ivan with his mom, Maribel and YAP Mental Health Professional Jennifer Carrillo

 In the YouTube ad, Maribel says, “She not only helped my son, she helped me, too.”

Carrillo said Ivan began getting positive reports from school. She said he also improved his relationships with his family — and with her as well.

“He changed a lot. Now he opens the door for me; he’s polite,” she said.

With the improvements in his behavior, Ivan was accepted into a Catholic High School. Ivan recalls Carrillo being there with his family to help him celebrate.

“She came to my jacket ceremony,” Ivan said with a big smile.

“With the new school; I had to change a lot about myself,” he said.  “I’m a lot more quiet.”

Ivan said he’s focusing on his grades, paying closer attention in class, “and not zoning out.  I’m  asking questions so it sticks in my head.”

He said his favorite subjects are world history and theology and that his favorite Bible verse is Mark 10:27, adding, “With God, all things are possible.”

To learn more about YAP’s services or job openings for mental health professionals and other staff, please contact

Texas families and others in the state looking for information about the nonprofit’s mental health services can learn more at

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