Empowering Women to Prosper

17 Mar, 24

Dear Friends,

Women shouldn’t have to choose between keeping their jobs or caring for a child. They also shouldn’t have to sacrifice their own educational dreams to make sure their child arrives at kindergarten ready – and excited – to learn.

Lack of access to affordable childcare services is a major driver of the gender pay gap, one of the most visible disparities we talk about during Women’s History Month. In Harris County, we’ve already made significant strides to address this through Early REACH, a program that is creating 800 new spaces within existing high-quality childcare programs. This program was developed to expand access to childcare for working parents and give them the peace of mind that their children are in good hands while they work hard to support their families and build a better life.

The program is already making a difference and empowering mothers like the one I recently met when I visited one of the Early REACH sites in Precinct One. Shantae is a working mom whose 20-month-old son has attended the center for the past month.

Before getting a spot in one of our Early Reach centers, she was taking her son to work with her – lugging around packages and her child in a balancing act few of us could manage. Then, she’d go home to care for her other three kids. Since joining the center, she can work more efficiently and enjoy time with her kids. And most importantly, she’s been able to pursue her dream of going back to school.

Early REACH supports families and young children, childcare centers, and the early childhood workforce in the following ways:

  • Families can enroll children aged 0 to 4 in the selected childcare centers at no cost to them in order to support them in going to school or work.
  • Children ages 0-4 enrolled in Early REACH will have a safe and caring environment to learn, grow, and thrive.
  • Parents will have the peace of mind that their young children are in good hands while they work and pursue opportunities to help their families prosper.
  • Participating centers will receive the resources they need to maintain high-quality standards and support their small business.
  • Early childhood educators in participating programs will receive a living wage and enhanced training and support that recognizes how important their work is.

Early REACH centers go beyond childcare, often serving as a hub for community resources and information about upcoming events, like job fairs. Shantae describes securing a spot at the center as winning the lottery, but it shouldn’t be this way for working moms.  

Early REACH also recognizes that early childhood educators and centers are essential to our community and economy. This is vital work that is overwhelmingly carried out by women, who make up 96 percent of the nation’s early childhood education workforce. Paying a living wage and providing support to early childhood educators and centers is another way we empower women in the workforce. 

All our families should have access to the opportunities and resources they need to thrive.

This is the promise of Harris PROSPERS. We’re helping families access high-quality childcare through the Early REACH program. We’re also building and preserving housing to ensure everyone can access a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home. From the food on the table to future plans for higher education and workforce development, we’re strategically funding initiatives with the greatest return – and there is no greater return than when we invest in young children.

This month and every month in between, we show our support for women through programs like Early REACH, which empower moms to pursue their dreams. 


Rodney Ellis