Whether you're new to Collaborative for Children's work or have been involved for some time, chances are you've wondered about how we started and what we have done over the years. We're pleased to answer these questions and more through our 25th Anniversary Milestone Mailings, a series designed to highlight our development over the past 25 years. Our hope is that you will get to know us in a brand new way, be inspired to continue making a difference with us for the next 25 years, and share your stories about how early childhood education issues and our work have impacted you. Read on to begin the journey!

The Early Years: 1987-1992

houston-cityThe issue of child care access and quality was making a splash in headlines across our community in the '80's, when Initiatives for Children, the predecessor of Collaborative for Children, began to take shape.

A child development specialist named Kathleen Rowland was answering phone calls to help a small pool of corporate employees identify and evaluate child care options for their children when it hit her.

"Houston needs an organization that focuses not only on helping working parents with the challenge of locating child care, but also on improving the quality of the child care options available to them."

The issue of child care access and quality were splashing across headlines at the time in the mid '80's, highlighting how these issues were making it to the forefront of community dialogue and corporate concern given the increasing number of women in the workforce.

"Companies have to be more concerned about child care," Rowland is quoted as saying in a 1985 Houston Post article featuring growing corporate concern around employees' child care needs. Rowland went on to say that about half of corporate employees at the time were women, with more than half of them having children in child care.

When women couldn't find suitable child care, it was creating a whole new set of challenges for companies as women decided to exit their occupations to stay home with their children, leaving a critical gap for employers to fill with equally talented, qualified candidates.

Rowland, who was serving as a child care coordinator for a group in Houston called Private Sector Initiatives, had a vision of an organization that served the entire community with an exclusive focus on early childhood care and education. Child care was only one of three focus areas of Private Sector Initiatives at the time, and given the resources available, services were limited to helping employees of select corporate clients, who were paying a fee, identify child care. She knew this limited focus would never be enough to address the bigger needs in the community.

houston-post2Article from the Houston Post, 1985, featuring interview with Kathleen Rowland, then Kathleen McNemar, the founder and first Executive Director of Initiatives for Children.

So in 1987, with the support of several pioneering volunteers united by their shared vision, Rowland took a bold step to help establish Initiatives for Children, Inc. The organization's focus? Guiding parents in the child care selection process and improving the quality of child care programs so children could get a strong start in life. Science and economics were proving that the early years before five were when the foundation for lifelong success or failure was built, and if Houston didn't get it right earlier in the pipeline, its children—and ultimately its future—would be in trouble.

The need and demand for services exploded so quickly that by 1992, Initiatives for Children had contracts with 75 corporate clients to provide child care resource and referral services to their employees and had made the decision to extend referral services free of charge to all working parents in the community. It had also become one of four model sites nationwide to implement a broad-based training program for family home child care providers and had launched Corporate HANDS, the nation's first locally-managed business collaboration to enhance the quality and availability of child care. Click here to learn more about program development in the first five years.

This simple idea of supporting families in their search for quality child care so they could be more productive at work, and improving the quality of those options available to them, caught on and has continued now for 25 years.

Your Turn!

If you were a resident of Houston in the 80's, what do you remember about the child care challenges confronting working parents? Were you a working parent? We'd love to hear your perspective! Leave us a comment on Facebook by clicking here, send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or send a hand-written note to the Communications Department at Collaborative for Children (3800 Buffalo Speedway, Suite 300, Houston, Texas 77098). You can also forward this series to a friend to introduce them to us with a personal note from you about why you think our work is important to Houston's past and future.