Harris County commissioners have awarded five organizations a combined $18.8 million in grants to improve child care quality over the next three years. The new initiative is called Early Learning Quality Networks and was fully funded through the allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said in a news release the ELQN initiative will ensure every child in Harris County 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,” Ellis said.

The framework

Overseen by Harris County’s Early Childhood Initiatives Team, the ELQN program splits responsibilities between these five organizations:

The impact

According to a July report issued by research and advocacy nonprofit Children at Risk, a third of all ZIP codes in Texas qualify as child care deserts, meaning there are at least three times more children eligible for early child care than the number of available child care seats.

With the rising need for child care providers, ELQN joins other Harris County early childhood investments, including the Early Childhood Impact Fund, the County Connections summer enrichment program and research efforts with Stanford's early childhood RAPID Survey project. It also includes the $26 million ARPA-funded Early REACH (Raising Educational Access for Children in Harris County) program that was launched in June to provide free, high-quality child care for families.

According to Harris County’s August ARPA report, since the Early REACH program was launched over the summer, at least 500 child care slots were made available from the program’s target of creating 1,000 child care slots across the county by June 2024.


Officials with the two LNOs will work toward community engagement efforts with local stakeholders to assess the state of child care quality in their neighborhoods.

  • From there, the LNO officials will develop what they're calling child care quality action plans tailored to the needs of each community—in particular, in neighborhoods they’re classifying as high-quality child care deserts where a lack of programs exist.

Avice Chambers is the senior vice president of youth development of YMCA of Greater Houston. Chambers said in a news release early education plays a crucial role in a child’s development.

“We are excited to partner with Harris County to focus on quality improvement initiatives to ensure that all child care programs are setting the foundation for success for all children in our community,” Chambers said.

Wesley Gardner contributed to this report.