Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

We are honored to recognize Secretary Grace Hou, Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), as the 2022 Curba Merrill Friend of the Center awardee for her extraordinary commitment to the early childhood sector in Illinois. The Curba Merrill Friend of the Center Award is named in memory of our founding Board President and honors community leaders and partners who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the Center’s mission and work.

As we celebrate both Women’s History Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month, we are pleased to highlight an inspiring woman who has been a fierce advocate for immigrant rights and racial and economic justice. Secretary Hou’s commitment to building a more just society for immigrants and communities of color has made her a champion for equitable access to early childhood education and youth development.

“I am honored and grateful to be awarded this year’s Curba Merrill Friend of the Center Award. Early childhood is a top priority for Governor Pritzker and IDHS. We are committed to making Illinois the best state in America to raise young children.”

Secretary Hou embodies our celebration of the workforce behind the workforce – throughout the course of the pandemic, she has amplified the voices and fought for the needs of the early childhood workforce. Secretary Hou’s demonstrated history of commitment to Illinois child care providers has had a significant impact on our Center’s frontline staff – she recognized the critical role that the early childhood workforce plays in supporting working families and has advocated for key legislation and programs to support this workforce. Secretary Hou was a pivotal figure in advancing critical and bold steps such as the expansion of the Child Care Assistance Program, the Childcare Restoration Grants, and direct stipends to early childhood staff, which helped to alleviate the pandemic’s impact on our workforce and families. She also helped to establish the Division of Early Childhood within IDHS.

Secretary Hou has dedicated her career to public service and has promoted social services, mental health, immigrants’ rights, and racial and economic justice issues throughout the course of her career. Prior to her appointment as IDHS Secretary by Governor J. B. Pritzker in 2019, Secretary Hou served as President of Woods Fund Chicago, a grantmaking foundation that empowers communities to fight structural racism and economic injustice. From 2003 to 2012, Secretary Hou served as Assistant Secretary at IDHS. In this role, she helped to design and push forward the Immigrant Integration New Americans Gubernatorial Executive Order, a landmark initiative in immigration policy that received national recognition.

We are incredibly grateful for Secretary Grace Hou’s lifetime commitment to the communities at the heart of our mission. Secretary Hou’s work enabled us to continue serving our children and families with high-quality early education, youth development, and family support services during the most difficult days of the pandemic

We look forward to presenting Secretary Hou with the Curba Merrill Friend of the Center Award at our 2022 Annual Celebration on May 11. Please visit our event page for more information and event registration details.

Click here to visit our event page!


About the Carole Robertson Center:

The Carole Robertson Center for Learning is a nonprofit organization serving approximately 2,000 children, youth, and their families across Chicago, with a significant presence in the North Lawndale, Little Village, and Albany Park communities. The Center is one of the largest early childhood organizations in the City of Chicago, serving linguistically and culturally diverse populations across 27 communities, and with recent growth made possible by federal funding, the Center has become the city’s largest birth-to-three program provider. Our programs reach children at every stage of development, from before birth to age 17.

Learn More About How Sustainable Education Creates Stronger Communities

We’re proud to be part of Little Village and Lawndale. Find out more about how you can be part of our programs.

Get Involved

Since 1976, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning has been dedicated to educating, enriching, and empowering children and families through comprehensive child and family development programs.