Last November, the voters of King County approved the Best Starts for Kids (“BSK”) Levy. Over the next few weeks, County Council will be considering and approving the BSK spending and implementation plan for strategies to make sure our kids are getting the best start possible.
The voter passed initiative provides $65 million annually for six years, with revenues from a property tax increase that will cost the average homeowner in King County about $5 a month. Best Starts for Kids provides intensive early intervention and prevention services which are proven by research (“evidence based”) to ensure positive developmental and healthy outcomes for our children and youth at birth to age 24. The initiative is the most comprehensive approach to childhood development in the nation.
The Best Starts for Kids implementation plan earmarks half of the more than $400 million raised for early interventions for kids up to 5 years old — ages when a small investment has the greatest future payoff. King County would seek competitive bids from providers that offer programs like early screening for development disabilities or family homelessness prevention.
In May, the Council adopted (as part of the Best Starts for Kids process) a plan for preventing youth and family homelessness. It authorized $19 million in investments over six years to adopt the approach to youth and family homelessness based on a highly successful customized pilot project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The model involves providing supports that meet the specific needs of individual parents and caregivers, rather than slotting them in services that may or may not be relevant. Supports for parents and families include getting clothes for a new job, help with the first month’s rent, or helping a parent pay for a commercial driver’s license so he or she can remain employed.
The Council will review the BSK implementation plan through the summer, with final action anticipated in mid-September. Right now, the Council is holding committee meetings to review the plan the Executive prepared and to hear testimony from families, individuals, providers, and experts. We will be looking closely at the plan, speaking with and listening to feedback from human services leaders, families, and residents, as we work to ensure an effective, evidence based plan is adopted with strategic, targeted resources allocated.
With the Best Starts for Kids plan, we fundamentally shift our focus from waiting to intervene after problems arise to targeting resources toward healthy interventions earlier in the lives of children and youth to prevent future problems. We know the sooner we provide early services to the very young, the better we can prevent difficulties later in a child’s life.
For updates on what’s happening with the Best Starts for Kids Initiative, please go to:
With Best Starts for Kids, we are on an important path in ensuring the futures of our children, youth, and their families. With your support, ideas, and input, the Council will work to ensure evidence based prevention and early intervention supports are adopted, and resources are strategically, and effectively allocated with proven evidence based results.