About Best Starts for Kids
Building strength and resilience in kids, families, and communities
Best Starts for Kids builds on the strengths of families and communities so that babies are born healthy, children thrive and establish a strong foundation for life, and young people grow into happy, healthy adults.
Best Starts for Kids is considered the most comprehensive approach to child development in the nation. Best Starts invests an average of $65 million per year to support King County families and children, from the time that parents plan for a family, and throughout childhood and young adulthood.
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What is Best Starts for Kids?
Best Starts Leadership
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Best Starts for Kids has four focus areas:
- Invest early: Support pregnant individuals, babies, very young children, and their parents during critical developmental years with a robust system of support services and resources that meets families where they are—home, community, and child care.
- Sustain the gain: Continue progress made with school- and community-based opportunities to learn, grow and develop through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.
- Communities matter: Support communities to build safe, thriving places for children to grow up.
- Results focused & data-driven: Use data and evaluation to know what is working for kids and communities.
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.