A new program called Early REACH, launched by Harris County in collaboration with BakerRipley and the United Way of Greater Houston aims to alleviate this problem by offering 800 to 1,000 free daycare seats over the next few years.
Harris County, Texas, is facing a severe shortage of daycare facilities, leaving many families struggling to find affordable and high-quality childcare options
The county currently has only 2,600 daycare providers offering around 100,000 seats, which is insufficient to meet the needs of over 280,000 children in the age range of 0 to 4 years old. Additionally, only 9 out of every 100 daycare seats meet the high-quality standards set by the Texas Workforce Commission. This scarcity of available spots and the high cost of child care, averaging $9,324 per child per year, further compound the challenges faced by families.
The Early REACH program seeks to address these issues by providing free daycare seats to eligible families in Harris County. To qualify, families must reside in the county, have children between the ages of 0 and 4, and demonstrate financial need by earning less than $75,468 annually for a family of four. The program also considers families living in high-need areas, receiving federal benefits, raising foster children, or experiencing homelessness.
Despite the program’s potential to benefit hundreds of families, its success hinges on awareness
Currently, many people remain unaware of Early REACH’s availability and eligibility criteria. Efforts are being made to spread the word and encourage families to apply through the program’s online portal at earlyreach.org. Importantly, applicants are not required to prove citizenship; they only need to provide documentation verifying their child’s age.
The need for accessible and affordable daycare options in Harris County has become increasingly urgent due to a post-pandemic baby boom and the county’s continuous population growth. By expanding access to daycare, Early REACH aims to support working parents, especially mothers, in pursuing their professional goals while providing their children with a nurturing and educational environment. Access to quality daycare has been shown to improve children’s health, reduce their involvement with the criminal justice system, and enhance graduation rates.
As the program rolls out, applications for Early REACH are now open, with new daycare spots becoming available periodically until next June. It is crucial for community members to inform those in need about this initiative and the opportunities it presents. By spreading the word and directing families to earlyreach.org, individuals can help bridge the gap between daycare supply and demand, promoting the overall well-being and success of children and working parents in Harris County.