HARRIS COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT BOOSTS EARLY LEARNING INITIATIVES WITH CHILD CARE QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GRANTS
The Harris County Early Learning Quality Networks Grants Empower Local Organizations to Amplify Their Voice in Education.
(Harris County – October 19, 2023) – Early childhood plays a crucial role in the development of young minds, setting the foundation for future success. Harris County Commissioners Court has awarded five organizations a combined total of $18.8 million to improve child care quality over the next three years via the Early Learning Quality Networks (ELQN) initiative. Children at Risk will serve as the Network Support Hub (NSH) coordinating the program. East Harris County Empowerment Council, VN Teamwork, YMCA of Greater Houston, and the Harris County Public Library will serve as Local Network Organizations (LNOs) bringing together child care providers in five neighborhoods. Funding for this program has been made possible through the allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
“The Early Learning Quality Networks program is a significant step toward ensuring that every child in Harris County, regardless of their zip code, has access to quality early education. This program will focus on our highest-need neighborhoods and bring families together with providers to collaborate on needed support for early childhood education. I join my colleagues in affirming our unwavering commitment to the future of our children and the betterment of our entire community,” stated Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Commissioner Precinct 1.
“I am proud to see these investments being made across Harris County. In Precinct 2, there is an extreme need for access to child care. Our creative approach will serve our youngest residents in their most formative years, creating a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Investing in child care is not just an act of compassion; it is a strategic imperative that helps us create a brighter and more promising tomorrow for all,” said Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia.
“As a mom and as a former public school teacher, I know high-quality child care is the foundation for a lifetime of success,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Briones. “Precinct 4 has many Vietnamese-speaking home-based daycare providers who often lack access and support to grow and improve their programs. The Early Learning Quality Network grants will allow community-based nonprofits like VN TeamWork, based in Alief, to work with those and other Precinct 4 child care providers, and ensure all children can thrive.”
The Early Learning Quality Networks program is overseen by Harris County’s Early Childhood Initiatives Team and aims to improve child care quality through collaborative engagement of child care providers and local communities. This program will empower our neighborhoods to shape and enhance early childhood across Harris County.
NETWORK SUPPORT HUB
As the Network Support Hub, Children at Risk will be responsible for facilitating ongoing Communities of Practice and providing individualized support for the Local Network Organizations. This technical assistance will ensure that each LNO has the necessary tools to develop child care quality improvement plans within their respective communities. Children at Risk will then administer the Early Learning Quality Network fund, supporting initiatives identified in each local plan. By strategically allocating these funds, the program aims to foster an environment where every child has access to high-quality early childhood.
“We are honored to be selected as the Network Support Hub for the Early Learning Quality Network for Harris County, and we applaud the County’s leadership in this effort. Children at Risk’s research shows quality early childhood education and strong public schools are critical components to break the cycle of poverty, and we look forward to working with partners who are just as passionate about creating accessible, high-quality education for every child as we are. Together, we can build a stronger Texas where every child has the opportunity to thrive through the transformative power of education,” said Dr. Bob Sanborn, President and CEO of Children at Risk.
LOCAL NETWORK ORGANIZATIONS
The Local Network Organizations will be on the front lines of community engagement, convening local stakeholders to assess the state of child care quality in their neighborhoods and develop a child care quality action plan tailored to the needs of each community. Each LNO will focus on neighborhoods classified as a high quality child care desert.
Harris County Public Library will lead two LNOs, one serving the Sunnyside area in Precinct 1 and another serving the Klein area in Precinct 3.
YMCA of Greater Houston will serve Aldine, Aldine Southeast, and Northline in Precinct 2.
East Harris County Empowerment Council will serve the communities of North Shore, Jacinto City, and Galena Park in Precinct 2.
VN Teamwork will serve the neighborhoods of Alief, Sharpstown, Gulfton, Braeburn, and Westwood in Precinct 4.
“On behalf of VN TeamWork, I would like to sincerely thank Harris County for giving us this wonderful opportunity to become an Early Learning Quality Network (ELQN) partner. Through our work with the community and by bringing child care providers, families, and other community stakeholders together, we hope to improve early learning and child care in our diverse focal communities. We are extremely excited to get started on this early childhood initiative, and we know that the community will be very grateful to receive the help that they need,” shared Mike C. Nguyen, Executive Director, VN TeamWork.
“Early childhood education plays a crucial role in a child’s development,” said Avice Chambers, Senior Vice President of Youth Development of YMCA of Greater Houston. “At the YMCA we believe every child should have access to high-quality early care opportunities. We are excited to partner with Harris County to focus on quality improvement initiatives to ensure that all childcare programs are setting the foundation for success for all children in our community.”
“East Harris County Empowerment Council believes that every community member deserves access to high-quality early learning and care services. We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Harris County’s Early Learning Quality Networks program. By valuing community input and placing a strong emphasis on inclusivity, we aim to elevate early learning services, ensuring top-tier care for East Harris County’s children,” said Terence Narcisse, CEO and Founder, East Harris County Empowerment Council.
“As a trusted community partner, Harris County Public Library is honored to serve as a Local Network Organization in the Early Learning Quality Network, said Edward Melton, Harris County Public Library Executive Director. “This is not just an investment in education; it’s an investment in the future of our children. By joining this network, we are shaping the foundation upon which the aspirations of early learning in Harris County will be built.”
CHILD CARE COMMITMENTS
The Early Learning Quality Networks initiative builds upon other Harris County early childhood investments including the Early REACH child care capacity expansion program, the Early Childhood Impact Fund supporting early childhood development, the County Connections summer enrichment program, and research efforts such as the RAPID Early Childhood Survey.
For more information about the Early Learning Quality Networks program, please contact Santrice Jones at Santrice.Jones@harriscountytx.gov / (713) 503-3732.
Harris County’s Early Childhood Initiatives Team: Through innovative initiatives and community-led programming, the HC ECI team works towards ensuring that every child has access to a high-quality early learning experience, setting them up for success now and beyond.
Harris County Public Library: Harris County Public Library’s mission is to enrich lives to strengthen communities. HCPL is a network of 27 community-focused branch libraries offering programs and services that foster literacy and lifelong learning. The library is committed to providing excellent customer service, strong collections, and cutting-edge information technology. For more information, visit hcpl.net/.
Children at Risk: CHILDREN AT RISK is a research and advocacy nonprofit leading the way in improving the quality of life for Texas’ children. CHILDREN AT RISK considers the whole child by tracking issues in children’s health, safety, education, and economic security to improve equity and justice for all Texas families. Committed to action beyond the data, CHILDREN AT RISK drives evidence-based change by speaking out on behalf of children. For more information, visit childrenatrisk.org/.
East Harris County Empowerment Council: Established in 2008, the East Harris County Empowerment Council (EHCEC) is committed to improving quality of life through innovative, sustainable programs and services that empower men, women, and youth to achieve their full potential. Through a strong network of invested individuals, community partners, and caring corporations, EHCEC is dedicated to educational enrichment, economic development, and health and wellness of the eastern, unincorporated communities of the Harris County surrounding area. For more information, visit eastharriscounty.org/.
VN TeamWork: VN TeamWork is a nonprofit multi-service organization that provides a variety of social services, educational programs, and affordable housing to serve the diverse communities of Houston. The mission of VN TeamWork is to enhance the health, education, and social well-being of low-income and underserved people in the greater Houston area. For more information, visit vnteamwork.org/.
YMCA of Greater Houston: Founded in 1886, today, the Y remains committed to the health of more than half a million people who learn, grow, and thrive through programs and services at our locations across Greater Houston. Strengthening the community is our cause. Together, we connect active, engaged Greater Houston Area residents to build a better us. Learn more at ymcahouston.org/.
About the Office of County Administration: Established by Commissioners Court in June 2021, the Office of County Administration (OCA) is tasked with supervising day-to-day operations and implementing Commissioners Court’s priorities and policies for Harris County. For more information, visit oca.harriscountytx.gov.