Harris County Commissioners Court Approves $10 Million Investment in Early Childhood Development

Early Childhood Impact Fund will incubate promising interventions that help children reach full potential while reducing health disparities, costs to society

Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved the Early Childhood Impact Fund, a $10 million accelerator of innovative and evidence-based programs designed to help children thrive. Over a period of two to three years, the initiative will provide seed investments to programs with significant potential to dramatically improve early childhood outcomes and provide critical support for young children and their families.

“We’re making a down payment on our long-term commitment to Harris County children and their families,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo. “High-quality early childhood programs build safer, healthier communities by helping children reach their full potential. This $10 million investment will help us attract and expand the best ideas and most promising solutions that we can offer to the youngest members of our community.”

The Early Childhood Impact Fund will identify, invest in, and evaluate high-impact programs and interventions. The county will seek proposals from new and existing high-impact, evidence-based programs over the next several months. As part of the process, applicants must demonstrate their plans or ability to improve key early childhood outcomes and address developmental disparities among children in Harris County. Rigorous research conducted by a third party will determine which new ideas merit further investment and which existing approaches should be scaled up. 

“Early childhood development has always been a priority for us, but the COVID-19 pandemic has added yet another layer of urgency for us to do more to invest in this population. It has laid bare the weaknesses in our system,” Judge Hidalgo said. “Early childhood programs have one of the strongest returns on investment of any type of public program. Research has also shown that those positive effects endure throughout the child’s life — increasing their graduation rates and earnings while reducing their contact with the criminal justice system.”

During the spring and summer of 2020, the Harris County Judge’s Office organized an Early Childhood Community Conversation and a series of virtual conversations to gather input from parents, caregivers, educators, and other stakeholders. Throughout these discussions, early childhood emerged as a critical issue for many of our residents. Among the themes were:

  • Need for a coordinated, cohesive network of resources and equitable, high-quality services;
  • Importance of empowerment of families through education, training and engagement; and
  • A way to overcome high barriers to access.

For more information about Harris County’s early childhood development efforts, visit harriscountykids.com.