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County Council approves new priorities for assisting children and youth


Unanimous support for recommendations from Youth Task Force


The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous support to the Youth Action Plan (YAP), a new set of priorities that will guide and inform the County's annual investment in programs and services for children and youth, from infants to 24-year olds.

“Kids should be empowered to achieve their full potential, not be held back by circumstances out of their control,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who sponsored the legislation calling for the creation of a Youth Action Plan. “The Youth Action Plan represents the best thinking of children and youth advocates countywide to ensure that all kids in King County can achieve their full potential. The plan provides a blueprint to reform how we invest in kids at King County, and lights the path for potential new investments of resources to achieve the plan's vision for our kids.”

The Council initiated the development of the YAP, with the goal of ensuring that King County’s Strategic Plan objective to “promote opportunities for all communities and individuals to realize their full potential,” is applied to the County’s children and youth and reflected across all County departments, programs, and initiatives. The goal of the YAP is to set the County’s priorities for an accountable, integrated delivery system of services to achieve the best outcomes for children, families, youth and young adults.

“Effective investments in children and youth help them to lead full and productive lives as adults, as well as decrease the number of people in our criminal justice system later on in life,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips. “The recommendations from the Youth Action Plan Task Force, as well as thoughtful input from community members, youth, human service providers, and County staff, will provide improved quality of life and equitable opportunities for the children and youth in our community.”

“Economic stability, reliable health care and a wide range of educational choices for all our youth are critical components for a healthy, livable community,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “Thanks to the many committed community members and public servants that crafted these priorities to ensure that all our children have the opportunity to seek their full potential--now the work begins!”

“The Youth Action Plan and Best Starts for Kids are efforts to significantly improve the lives of kids and families in King County and I’m proud to support this work,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott.

“Providing solid services and programs to young people is the greatest step we can take to keep them out of the criminal justice system,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “The recommendations that are part of the YAP represent a holistic approach to making sure those programs are available to all young people, but especially those whose circumstances mean they may not be able to get those services in the underrepresented communities they live in.”

“We must engage youth in leadership programs at a young age to help them become better citizens as adults,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer.

Development of the YAP was completed by an appointed task force of twenty-five experts representing a broad range of organizations and entities with substantial expertise and knowledge relevant to children and youth. Community input was collected through five community conversations held across the county, and through a survey of more than 1,000 youth. The nine recommendations contained in the YAP are the culmination of the task force’s work over the last year.

While the task force found that King County has much to be proud of regarding its support for youth and children, its recommendations point to a need for new priorities and a better way of doing business. The fundamental principles outlined in the YAP are that the County must change its current practices – including policy development, and services, and that programming should focus on incorporating youth and those impacted in authentic and meaningful ways.

Additional recommendations include investing early to shift the pendulum from reactive to proactive funding, revisiting current allocations of dedicated funding streams, and utilizing the County’s regional role to act as collaborator and convener. The recommendations in the Plan include:

• Apply social justice and equity principles to our children and youth policies
• Strengthen and stabilize families, children, youth, and young adults
• Stop the School to Prison Pipeline
• Break down barriers between government, non-profits, and other providers of services
• Use data to measure program efficacy and to make investment decisions
• Invest early, invest often, and invest in outcomes
• Increase accountability and oversight

As noted in Executive Constantine’s 2014 budget address, the Youth Action Plan inspired the discussion and development of a potential funding mechanism known as Best Starts for Kids (BSK). The visions of the YAP and BSK are aligned, and the YAP’s recommendations provide the guidance and framework for addressing the allocation of additional revenue.

“The Youth Action Plan is a central feature of Best Starts for Kids, which is why I’m so pleased by the Council’s unanimous support,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We are focused on what works—a scientific, evidence-based approach. The Youth Action Plan sets the direction. Best Starts for Kids, our six-year levy, will make it possible to fulfill that promise.”


“The Youth Action Plan recognizes that youth really are our human potential and our future,” said Mike Heinisch, Executive Director of Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS). “After more than 45 years of serving our community, KYFS is excited to be part of changing the way King County serves its youth and young adults. The Youth Action Plan represents a new way of doing business and the opportunity to affect real and lasting change in our region.”

“As a member of the Youth Action Planning Task Force I am pleased with the range of participation throughout the County of youth, parents, advocates, private and public agencies,” said Janis Avery, CEO of Treehouse - a nonprofit dedicated to serving the needs of foster children. “Together we focused on strengthening the continuum of proactive, positive youth development and family support efforts in order to equitably increase strong youth outcomes in health, education, employment, safety and housing, ultimately reducing our reliance on reactive and punitive services. The County is poised to focus its own investments on desired outcomes rather than activities and to convene participants from multiple formal and informal systems to coordinate efforts for collective impact.”

“The “School to Prison Pipeline” starts as early as preschool and has long lasting ramifications that impact us all,” said Justice Bobbe Bridge, President and CEO of the Center for Children & Youth Justice. “The Youth Action Plan recognizes that the serious, deep problem solving of this issue requires the County to not only lead on programs and services to prevent contact with the juvenile justice system, but to also convene cross system partners for collective action. The Plan acknowledges the role systems play in creating and perpetuating disparities and calls us all to take responsibility for changing the status quo.”

“We want the best for all of our children, and we can only provide that when we work together as a community. The Youth Action Plan identifies what we need to do as a community to give all young people the foundation they need to grow into thriving adults,” said Katie Hong, a task force member and program officer at the Raikes Foundation—a Seattle-based philanthropy dedicated to empowering young people.

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