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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


Executive provides a preview of what will be the most comprehensive approach to child and youth development in the nation

Summary

Executive Constantine provided a preview of his plan to implement Best Starts for Kids, an initiative that will increase the number of children who are born healthy, sustain the gain as their brain continues to develop, and create safer, healthier communities that reinforce progress. It’s considered the most comprehensive approach to child and youth development in the nation.

Story

A young boy wearing a graduation gown.
Atlantic Street Center hosted a graduation ceremony for 4-year-olds who graduated from the Parent-Child Home Program, the type of program Executive Constantine wants to expand with Best Starts for Kids.

King County Executive Dow Constantine today provided a preview of what will be the most comprehensive approach to child and youth development in the United States.

Best Starts for Kids -- approved last fall by King County voters -- will increase the number of children who are born healthy, sustain the gain as their brain continues to develop through age 24, and create safer, healthier communities that reinforce progress.

“Health, prosperity and purpose must be within reach for every child and youth raised in King County,” said Executive Constantine. “Best Starts for Kids will help us address and eliminate any barrier that prevents children in our region from achieving lives of promise and possibility."

The six-year levy will generate nearly $400 million to invest in prevention and early intervention strategies that help children and youth achieve their full potential in life. The outcomes that Best Starts for Kids will achieve include:  

  • Babies are born healthy and establish a strong foundation for lifelong health and well-being
  • King County is a place where everyone has equitable opportunities to progress through childhood safe and health, 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.

Executive Constantine previewed his plan to implement the initiative at Atlantic Street Center in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle where 4-year-old children graduated from the Parent-Child Home Program, which is funded by United Way of King County. A recent longitudinal study found that children who completed the program outperformed the comparison group in all six categories of the state’s kindergarten readiness assessment.

It’s an example of the type of proven program that Best Starts for Kids will invest in so that it’s available to more parents and other caregivers across King County.

While other metropolitan regions invest in child and youth development program -- most commonly preschool -- no other approach starts with prenatal services, follows through age 24 and includes communities.

An approach based on the latest brain science

The implementation plan draws on research and best practices from across the country, including groundbreaking research like that produced by the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. The funding strategy is based on key developmental milestones, starting with prenatal services.

Prenatal to age 5
Half of the investments will focus on birth through 5, when 92 percent of brain growth occurs. Examples of strategies include:

  • Home visiting services like Parent-Child Home Program and the Nurse Family Partnership
  • Maternal support services
  • Developmental screening and early intervention services
  • Parent and child care education, training and tools

Children and youth ages 5 to 24
It will sustain the gain by providing early intervention services if problems such as serious depression and addiction arise during teenage years. A total of 35 percent of levy funds will support services, such as:

  • Trauma-informed schools
  • School-based health centers
  • Youth development and leadership opportunities
  • Family support and engagement

Communities
Ten percent of the funding will invest in healthier, safer and better-connected communities that reinforce progress.

Accountability, transparency and outcomes
Five percent of the funding will pay for performance measurements to ensure that each program and service delivers the desired outcome.

An implementation advised by experts, researchers, educators and community leaders

The newly created King County Children and Youth Advisory Board will advise the County on implementation and oversight of the programs that will be funded by Best Starts for Kids. The 35-member advisory board includes content experts, researchers, educators and community leaders representing the cultural and geographic diversity of King County.

The advisory board will be guided by the King County Youth Action Plan, which establishes the County’s priorities for serving infants through young adults.

Executive Constantine will deliver his proposal to implement Best Starts for Kids to the County Council on June 1.


Relevant links


Quotes

Health, prosperity and purpose must be within reach for every child and youth raised in King County. Best Starts for Kids will help us address and eliminate any barrier that prevents children in our region from achieving lives of promise and possibility.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

It is important that the plan reflects strong metrics and sound evidence-based practices, grounded in research. But what is most important is that it reflects the voices of the community. With their input, we have a plan that offers meaningful, equitable and transformative services that will directly improve the lives of children and families throughout King County.

Ben Danielson, MD, Odessa Brown Clinic, Seattle Children’s Hospital and member of the Children and Youth Advisory Board

United Way is focused on building a community where people have homes, families are financially stable and where students graduate. The Parent-Child Home Program is helping students graduate by making sure they are prepared to learn when they enter school. Children in low-income households who complete the two-year program are 30-percentage points more likely to graduate high-school than their peers. We are glad that the Best Starts for Kids initiative is committed to supporting families in King County early on in a child’s development, because we know that early learning works.

Jon Fine, President and CEO of United Way of King County

For more information, contact:

Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography