About Best Starts for Kids
Learn about what the Best Starts for Kids levy does
Building on the deep knowledge, connections, and skills within King County communities, and backed by what science and research tell us about human development, Best Starts for Kids meets children and families with the right services at the right time. To date, Best Starts for Kids has reached 490,000 of King County’s youngest children and their families and 40,000 youth and young adults, catalyzing strong starts in a child’s earliest years, and sustaining those gains through to adulthood.
Learn more about Best Starts for Kids strategies
Best Starts for Kids focuses on five strategy areas that prioritize promoting positive outcomes for kids, preventing negative outcomes, intervening early when kids and families need support, and building on community strengths.
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Learn more about Best Starts for Kids
Click each strategy area to read more.
Learn about how Best Starts supports kids from prenatal development through age 5
Sustain the Gain
Learn about how Best Starts supports kids ages 5 - 24 as they progress to adulthood
Learn about how Best Starts strengthens the communities our kids grow up in
Learn how Best Starts supports youth & families to stay housed
Data and Evaluation
See how Best Starts engages community to understand what works for our kids
Investing Early: Prenatal to age 5
Best Starts invests early to support pregnant and parenting families, infants, very young children, and caregivers during the critical first five years of life with a robust system of support services and resources that meet families where they are— at home, in the community, and wherever children are cared for.These investments support King County families in meeting their basic needs, connect families to services, and care for the well-being of young children and their families.
Selected outcomes from Prenatal to Age 5 programs:
- Breastfeeding is an important way to bond with a new baby, but can be challenging for first-time parents. Among Best Starts programs that provide post-partum breastfeeding supports, 96% of parents started breastfeeding, helping their babies off to a healthy start from day one.
- Home visiting provides parents with a trusted source of support in a child’s earliest years. Home visitors in Best Starts-funded programs have provided over 212,000 visits to new families. Kids whose families participated in the Parent-Child Plus home visiting program showed a 57% improvement in kindergarten readinesscompared to when they started the program.
- Using Best Starts funding, Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers increased the number of families receiving developmental support by 34% since 2015, serving nearly 15,000 children under age 3. Over 70% of these children made progress in key developmental areas such as social and emotional development (74%,) acquiring knowledge and skills (71%,) or taking action to meet their needs (72%).
Sustaining the Gain: Ages 5 to 24
Best Starts for Kids sustains the gains made in early childhood through investments in school and community-based opportunities to for kids and young adults to learn, grow, and develop through childhood and adolescence into adulthood. Best Starts for Kids provides a children and youth in King County with a foundation for lifelong health and well-being through community leadership opportunities, youth development and mentorship, school-based services, supports outside of school time, tailored education and employment opportunities, and resources for families.
Selected outcomes from Ages 5 to 24 programs:
- Since 2018, over 11,000 young people participated in Best Starts-funded before- and after-school and summer programs, receiving over 133,500 hours of additional learning time outside of school. In 2020, 93% of students in these programs improved their academic skills like reading and math, and grew in their social and emotional skills like problem solving, leadership, and ability to develop positive relationships with peers and adults.
- Prior to the pandemic, Best Starts partners worked with over 11,000 youth, parents, caregivers, teachers, and school staff in over 70 schools to create safe, welcoming environments for students facing trauma or adversity. 80% of youth in these programs said they felt safer and more valued at school, and 94% started coming to school more frequently.
- Best Starts funding supported education and employment programs in the Department of Community and Human Services to increase their enrollment by 71%, serving over 2,700 young people through 2020. 73% of students who completed the Work Training Education program stayed in school, graduated, or enrolled in post-secondary education.
Communities Matter: Communities of Opportunity
The Communities Matter investments strengthens the communities our kids grow up in by supporting local communities as they build their own capacity to create positive change. Communities of Opportunity is a partnership between King County and The Seattle Foundation that has collaborated with 150 organizations to create more than 241 new community partnerships and build the skills and capacity of approximately 2,500 people serving in leadership positions.
Best Starts for Kids assisted young people and families with children at imminent risk of homelessness to remain housed through an innovative approach that includes providing flexible funds and intensive case management, including assistance with securing long-term stable housing. Since 2017, Best Starts for Kids’ Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative served over 10,200 youth and families at risk of losing their housing—96 percent of those completing the program remained housed one year after completing the program.
Measuring Success: Data & Evaluation
Best Starts actively engages communities in data and evaluation county-wide efforts to understand what is working well for County’s children, youth, young adults and families, to interpret and provide context for the data, and to define success for programs.
Learn about Best Starts strategies, approach, and history
The earliest years of a child’s life offer a unique window of opportunity to support lifelong health and well-being. As infants and children learn about the world around them and the people in their lives, feeling loved, supported, and safe is crucial for their growth and development. Best Starts prenatal to five investments reach children and families where they are in their prenatal to five years—homes, child care settings, and communities—to support healthy child development and family well-being.
Programs and strategies include:
Home-based services: Best Starts supports a range of home-based services to meet the needs and build on the strengths of many different children, families, and communities.
Community-based parenting supports: Best Starts seeks to strengthen organizations in communities that serve expecting parents, families, and caregivers. Funding will support services such as prenatal and breastfeeding support and parenting education.
Child care health consultation: Best Starts will support the design of a county-wide system where multi-disciplinary teams of experts provide voluntary coaching and support to child care providers and caregivers on disease prevention, safety, trauma-informed care, and other needs communities identify.
Promoting healthy development: Best Starts seeks to ensure that parents can easily access developmental screenings to understand their child’s unique development and link them to services if they need additional support. Best starts also supports building a comprehensive infant mental health system to encourage healthy attachment between caregivers and children.
Building the skills of adults who work with children: Best Starts will support teachers, health care providers, and others who serve children and families to have the latest knowledge on child development, brain science, and trauma-informed care.
Supporting innovation: Best Starts will support efforts that do not fit in any of the other funding buckets but still creatively serve communities through new practices, adaptations, peer learning and capacity building, systems improvements, and any other means of achieving Best Starts goals.
Linking systems: Best Starts will build a network of information hubs and community-based navigators to
ensure families are fully informed about the resources available to them and can easily access them in the language they prefer, with providers who understand or reflect their cultural background. This coordinated network, called Help Me Grow, will integrate all other Best Starts supported services and systems.
These strategies focus on supporting positive development for children and young people as they progress to adulthood. Best Starts embraces a strengths-based approach, recognizing that we must sustain the gain that is made by investing early while also responding to the realities of adversity and trauma across communities. Our focus is on promoting and building resilience and protective factors, and preventing or intervening early to assure that King County youth have the supports they need to thrive.
Programs and strategies include:
Partnerships with schools: Partnering with schools and their partners to create environments that support young people in school such as:
- Trauma-informed and restorative practices in the school environment
- School-based health centers
- School-based mental health screening and support
- Quality out of school time
Building a pipeline to success: Eliminating the ‘school to prison pipeline’ and building a ‘school to life success pipeline.'
Parent and community connections: Ensuring that communities are safe and connected so that children, youth and young adults live, learn, work, play in environments with access to healthy and affordable food, opportunities for physical activity, and can actively engage in environments that are safe and hazard free.
Youth development: Providing young people with the opportunities and tools they need to weather challenges during adolescence and be ready to flourish as adults, including
- Healthy and safe relationships and domestic violence prevention
- Positive identity development
- Youth leadership and engagement opportunities
Transitions to adulthood: Helping youth and young adults who have had challenges successfully transition to adulthood through employment and education support.
Youth and family homelessness prevention: Helping youth and families that are on the verge of being homeless by addressing their specific needs, such as clothes for a job interview or help with the first month’s rent. The individualized approach in this initiative is based on a highly successful pilot project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Ten percent of Best Starts for Kids funding sustains and expands the partnership between King County and The Seattle Foundation on Communities of Opportunity, which is based on the latest research regarding the impact of place on a child's success. It also supports local communities in building their own capacity to create positive change.
COO strategies were developed in partnership with community leaders and organizations and focus on quality affordable housing, health, community voice and connection, and economic prosperity. COO’s place-based focus recognizes that certain communities experience greater disproportionality than others. Implementation is designed to be responsive to emerging needs, adapting to community-centered innovations and leverage other investments.
Five percent of Best Starts for Kids funds support data and evaluation to know what is working for kids and communities.
This first Best Starts for Kids annual report outlines the progress made to improve the health and well-being of all King County residents by investing in promotion, prevention and early intervention for children, youth, families and communities. This report details key milestones and successes in Best Starts for Kids’ first year of implementation, between September 2016 and August 2017, including information on all investments made through August 2017.
Best Starts for Kids focuses on increasing the positive resources and opportunities that help kids grow up healthy and happy, decreasing negative factors that may prevent kids from establishing a strong foundation in life, and intervening early when kids and families need more support.
- Promotion: We increase the positive things available to babies, children, young people and their families. These include resources for parents and children, positive opportunities and safe places to play, learn and grow.
- Prevention: We decrease things that may prevent babies, children and young people from growing up to be healthy and happy. These include stress, an unsafe environment or having insufficient opportunities.
- Early intervention: We intervene early to support children and young people who need additional resources to succeed.
- Policy & systems change: We work to change systems and policies so that all communities in our region can thrive and prosper regardless of race or place.
The vision that became Best Starts for Kids began in 2014 under the leadership of Executive Constantine. King County staff began examining how the County could improve outcomes and support individuals and communities to achieve their full potential.
The Best Starts for Kids Levy (Ordinance 18088) was approved by King County voters in November 2015. Over the next several months, more than 1,000 community members provided input at community conversations, focus groups and interviews across King County. An additional 1,000 youth surveyed for the Youth Action Plan provided feedback. Collectively, this community engagement shaped Best Starts for Kids’ guiding values, focus, and approach to change.
Best Starts for Kid costs the average King County property owner about $1 per week.
King County is the most populous county in Washington State and the 13th most populous county in the U.S. King County’s 2.1 million residents reside in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
To learn more about King County’s history, demographic make-up, and find maps of the county, visit https://www.kingcounty.gov/about.aspx and find links under the “Region” section.