Center Project

About the Center Project

Every child in Austin deserves access to high-quality, accredited early care and education. The Center Project
is building the quantity 
and quality of child care in our community.

The first five years of a child’s life are a developmentally critical period when 90 percent of all brain development occurs. What happens in these early years has a lasting impact from kindergarten readiness to third-grade reading scores to high school graduation and beyond. Our community-wide Success By 6 School Readiness Action Plan identifies access to high-quality early care and education as a key strategy in ensuring all children in our community enter kindergarten happy, healthy and prepared to succeed in school and life. To achieve the goal of increasing the supply of high-quality care accessible for children from families with low income, United Way partners with a select group of early childhood education centers that strive to provide high-quality care, are dedicated to serving children at-risk and are open to innovation and leadership in the early childhood sector.

Increasing the Supply of High-Quality Care

High-quality early care and education centers provide warm, responsive environments led by well-trained and compensated teachers with low-ratios, evidence-based curriculum and parent engagement. These centers are accredited by one or more of the following recognized accreditation bodies:

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children accreditation is considered the “gold standard” in child care quality. NAEYC-accredited early learning programs are measured for indicators of quality in the classroom and beyond, across 10 standards. From guidelines for teacher preparation to curriculum through safety standards, NAEYC Accreditation ensures that programs are safe, well prepared and intentional about ensuring children’s success. NAEYC Accreditation correlates with children’s greater readiness and success in school and beyond, increased educational attainment rates, and overall healthier lifestyles.
  • National Accreditation Commission accreditation recognizes quality performance using research-based criteria and evidence-based practice across standards including administration, family engagement, health and safety, curriculum interactions between teachers and children, and classroom health and safety.
  • Texas Rising Star is a voluntary, quality-based rating system of child care providers participating in the Texas Workforce Commission’s subsidized child care program. The TRS Provider certification system offers three levels of certification (Two-Star, Three-Star, and Four-Star) to encourage providers to attain progressively higher certification requirements leading to a Four-Star level. This certification means a program has met specific criteria for director and staff qualifications and training, caregiver-child interactions, curriculum, nutrition and indoor/outdoor activities, and parent involvement and education.
United Way works directly with centers that serve children from families with low income and are seeking accreditation or to increase their TRS rating, while also advocating for policy changes that will allow centers to more easily achieve high-quality standards and for increases to the state Child Care Subsidy program to account for the true costs of high-quality care.

Continuous Quality Improvement

Meeting accreditation standards requires a significant commitment of resources by a center. The cost of care generally exceeds the reimbursement rates provided by public funding for families in need and results in a budget gap for many accredited programs that accept subsidies. The Center Project provides additional supports and resources which help our partner centers maintain and increase quality standards while serving as models for other child care programs in the community. These supports include:

  • Community Investment Grants to increase the number of low-income children served in high-quality centers
  • Early Language Coaching Classroom Intervention using Developing Talkers and Building Blocks curriculum and the Language Environment Analysis System (LENA)
  • Social-Emotional Development and Mental Health Support including Second Step curriculum, classroom mental health consultation and counseling services
  • Assessment Tools supported with data analysis and coordination to inform instructions and interventions
  • Investments in Continuing Education and Professional Development for Center Staff
  • Volunteers and Resources including facility repairs and upgrades, quarterly volunteer projects, and donations of books, art supplies and classroom materials
  • Collaboration and Coordination for Innovative Community Partnerships

Maintaining and increasing the quality care for children to meet the needs of our community in a sustainable way requires investment in developing the pipeline of qualified teachers, improving compensation for early care educators, creating sustainable revenue streams and adequate subsidy reimbursements, developing a system of shared services, and much more. The Center Project serves as a hub for piloting interventions, innovation, and supports that improve quality, increase access, while the United Way also works with in the system to make structural changes that will ensure high-quality care is available to all children in our community.

Partner List

United Way Funded Partners
Nonprofit, N.A.E.Y.C accredited centers serving children from low-income families through child care subsidies.

  • Mainspring Schools
  • Open Door Preschools
  • St. George’s Episcopal School
  • Trinity Child Development Center

Center Project Partners
Licensed child care centers with a Texas Rising Star 4 Star Accreditation or Head Start Program that serve children who are vulnerable.

  • Bright Beginnings
  • Cadence Academy
  • Del Valle CDC – Child Inc.
  • Dove Springs CDC- Child Inc.
  • Ebenezer CDC
  • Forbes CDC- Child Inc.
  • Generations I CDC
  • Jeremiah Program
  • KinderCare Emerald Wood
  • Little Folks Bilingual CDC
  • James CDC- Child Inc.
  • Sweet Briar CDC- Sandra Lane

Center Project Network Members
Provide formal early care and education programs and are seeking to meet
high-quality standards and serve children who are vulnerable.

  • Austin Recovery Family House Childcare Center
  • AVANCE-Austin
  • El Buen Pastor Early CDC
  • Goodwill Explorations Center
  • Reggio Emilia Preschool Academy
  • Sweet Briar CDC – Woodway Village
  • Todos Juntos

Contact Us

To learn more about The Center Project or to determine if your center is eligible to participate in the program, contact Cathy McHorse,
Vice President of Success By 6, at