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County Council approves “transformative” implementation plan for Best Starts for Kids


Blueprint for funding programs


Last year, voters approved funding for a regional plan aimed at supporting the healthy development of children and youth, families and communities across the county. The Metropolitan King County Council today unanimously approved the plan for funding the programs that will be part of the Best Starts for Kids (BSK) initiative.

“This program was approved last year by a huge majority of voters, who recognized the need to take a proactive approach and invest in the future of our children and communities,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who directed the Council’s review of the BSK Implementation Plan. “The BSK programs will ensure that ALL children in King County get the best possible start in life and are able to sustain their gains through young adulthood and throughout their lives. Kudos to Executive Constantine for spearheading this important initiative.”

Kohl-Welles—who was joined on the Council’s BSK Leadership Team by Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski and Councilmembers Kathy Lambert and Larry Gossett—worked with all members of the Council in reviewing the proposed plan transmitted by the King County Executive.

“Today’s action approving the Best Starts for Kids implementation plan marks a significant milestone for funding preventative Health and Human Services, my top priority when coming to the County Council,” said Vice Chair Dembowski. “I am especially excited for the $400,000 yearly allocation for cancer prevention and vaccinations which will prevent disease and save lives. Without strong community partnerships we would not be able to do this vital work and improve opportunities for King County’s children and youth.”

“I’m very hopeful that the passage of Best Starts for Kids will result in increased positive opportunities for children and youth throughout all of King County. There are specific services and screenings for early intervention for mental health and substance abuse. Proper assistance early on helps to avoid future problems,” Councilmember Lambert said. “The addition of current brain research to the methodologies that are used to determine services is especially encouraging to me as this research is cutting-edge and will enable more productive delivery of needed services to help youth become as stable and healthy as possible.”

Approved by voters in 2015, Best Start for Kids supports the healthy development of children and youth, families and communities across the county. Included by the Council in the levy ordinance that sent BSK to the voters was language directing the County Executive to present a plan to the Council defining funding strategies and outcomes for programs that receive funding from Best Starts for Kids.

The plan was presented to the Council this summer and review of the plan was directed by the BSK Leadership Team. In reviewing the proposed implementation plan, the Council strengthened the plan by:

• Adding statements of intent by the County to foster and support the participation of organizations and community members from communities facing challenges across King County; and
• Adding clarity on the way the Communities of Opportunity (COO) will deliver on a vision to reduce disparities and improve the ability of all communities to perform well on health and well-being indicators. Communities of Opportunity is a program strategy based on the latest research regarding the impact of place on individual and population health and well-being outcomes; it builds on a partnership between King County and The Seattle Foundation and supports local communities in building their own capacity to create positive change.

“I am striving to make Best Starts for Kids as accountable as possible to the most disadvantaged children and families, especially in King County’s communities of color,” said Councilmember Gossett. “I want to ensure the County is making a strong commitment to effective evaluation, and I am confident in the Communities of Opportunities that we will be able to establish an overall objective of a 10 percent improvement in the life conditions targeted in the years of BSK funding.”

“Seattle Foundation is proud to be a partner with the County Council on the next phase of COO,” said Michael Brown, Vice President of Community Programs for the Seattle Foundation. “Our shared vision of elevating community driven solutions that results in cross-cutting community and regional benefits will be enhanced by this important investment.”

This spring, the Council approved an Implementation Plan for the $19 million Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative, the first major program created as part of Best Starts for Kids. The Best Starts for Kids Implementation Plan approved today puts forward a framework for spending approximately $379 million, the remainder of the estimated collections over the life of the levy.

“The Seattle Human Services Coalition and the King County Alliance for Human Services want to recognize the work the King County staff and elected leaders have put in to making Best Starts for Kids community-driven, results-driven, and innovation friendly,” said Julia Sterkovsky, Executive Director of the Seattle Human Services Coalition. “Not a simple balancing act, but one that taps into the passion, energy, and vision of the people of King County to work together to build stronger communities.”

The Implementation Plan is targeted to achieve three key results across the strategy areas that were set forth in the Best Starts for Kids levy ordinance:

• Babies are born healthy and are provided with a strong foundation for lifelong health and wellbeing.
• King County is a place where everyone has equitable opportunities to be safe and healthy as they progress through childhood, building academic and life skills to be thriving members of their communities.
• Communities offer safe, welcoming and healthy environments that help improve outcomes for all of King County’s children and families, regardless of where they live.
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