HOUSTON (KIAH) On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, the Harris County Commissioners Court awarded a combined total of $7.9 million in American Rescue Plan funds to help children in the community. In a 3 to 2 vote, they approved funds, provided by the Biden-Harris Administration, that will kick start a number of early childhood programs, including resources for educators and new parents, and the expansion of home-based child care providers.
Harris County Programs:
- $4.6 million to Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) to implement Build the upWORDS Community-Based Universal and Targeted Intervention Model: The program will provide universal education, resources, and materials to parents of young children. Over three years, 20,000 children will be served and TCH will train 6,000 early childhood educators.
- $2.4 million to First3Years to implement Expand the Safe Babies Approach in Harris County: This initiative, which will be offered to 300 young children and their families over three years, is designed to to improve family reunification by strengthening the relationship between birth and foster parents.
- $906,173 to The Alliance for Home-Based Child Care Supports to expand home-based child care operations. This effort will create jobs, creating at least 23 licensed programs that will add child care capacity in low- to moderate-income communities. Funding for independent evaluators to assess the impacts of the program.
The contract awards mark a significant milestone in the $10 million Early Childhood Impact Fund (ECIF), a historic investment in Harris County’s youngest residents. The program incubator launched in October 2020, attracting a diverse array of proposals from local, national, and international applicants. A rigorous evaluation process narrowed the pool based on potential for impact, evidence base, the organizations experience and capacity, and cost effectiveness.
Early childhood emerged as a critical issue for many Harris County residents during county-led town halls and community conversations conducted in 2019 and early 2020. Research backs this up: Early childhood programs have one of the strongest returns on investment of any type of public program. Those positive effects also endure throughout the child’s life, increasing their graduation rates and earnings while reducing their contact with the criminal justice system.
“It takes the entire community to help children reach their full potential,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “By investing in things like language development, educator training, home-based child care, and protections for children in foster care we can build a Harris County built for the future. A future that includes better education, safer streets, healthier communities, and economic security.”
In addition to the ECIF, the county also established the $4.7 million COVID-19 Childcare Assistance Program to provide some relief to parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provided funding for virtual learning, after school care, early childhood learning, and early childhood care.
For more information and updates on Harris County`s early childhood education initiatives, visit Harris County Kids.