Who We Are

Denise Castillo Dell Isola

Program Director, Early Childhood

First Year with IHF


Focus Areas

Early Childhood Policy, Advocacy, and Systems-Building; Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health; Early Childhood and Immigration; Grassroots Organizing and Movement Building


J.D., Boston College Law School
B.A. in Political Science, DePauw University
Certificate of Advanced Study in Philanthropy, Loyola University Chicago

Denise Castillo Dell Isola (she/her/hers), J.D., is the Program Director for Early Childhood at the Irving Harris Foundation where she advances the Foundation’s early childhood policy and advocacy agenda in Illinois, and at the multi-state and federal levels. She manages grants and special initiatives around early care and development, infant and early childhood mental health, family support, and early childhood advocacy, policy and systems-building. In 2014, Dell Isola spearheaded the Foundation’s efforts, in partnership with the public and private sectors, to develop an action plan to better integrate early childhood mental health into Illinois’ child- and family- serving systems. She led the Foundation’s work with the state’s Children’s Mental Health Partnership to advance a public/private partnership with state agency leaders, advocates, foundations, practitioners, and other stakeholders to advance a mental health consultation initiative in Illinois. Beginning in 2017, Dell Isola led an effort through the Foundation’s rapid response grantmaking to provide investments at the intersection of immigration and early childhood with a focus on infant early childhood mental health and child trauma. More recently, she has been working to develop the Foundation’s early childhood strategy to support multi-issue grassroots organizing and movement building efforts. Before joining the Irving Harris Foundation, Dell Isola served as the executive director of an early childhood center in Chicago, worked at United Way of Metro Chicago, and practiced commercial litigation at DLA Piper LLP.