Let’s Sustain and Grow the Impact of Best Starts for Kids

What would happen if we used public funds to build a county where all of our children thrive instead of putting bandages on problems? What would happen if a county truly partnered with communities and supported their innovation and wisdom instead of taking a top-down approach? Best Starts for Kids is showing the nation that these bold approaches are working.

The Best Starts for Kids Levy, first passed by voters in 2015, created a way to see what a meaningful infusion of resources can do when paired with community expertise. Over half a million local kids and families have directly benefited from Best Starts for Kids, and all of us have indirectly benefited, in building a stronger community in that time. Renewing the levy could expand that reach, starting from pregnancy through young adulthood. It will continue to prevent homelessness for and provide childcare support to over 3,000 families devastated by the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. And check the cost. It could be less per year than most of us will spend on lattes. These are our visiting nurses, our counselors, our housing coordinators, our social workers, our afterschool programs, and so much more. These are our children, youth, and neighborhoods. Our future community leaders are counting on us. Let’s approve the renewal of Best Starts for Kids, Proposition One.

Best Starts for Kids is changing the future of King County. Its over 500 unique programs include home visits, school health clinics, access to essential needs like diapers and food bags, and mental health support for children and youth, and tailored programs by and for Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities.

We are showing the nation that King County leads with science and heart. Best Starts for Kids is nationally recognized because it uses research-based strategies in partnership with over 500 partners. Best Starts for Kids is a success story.

Best Starts for Kids is succeeding because it supports efforts with a track record of success, as well as innovators now gaining national attention. The majority of funded organizations are revered community institutions that have served local families for decades.

Best Starts for Kids collects data monthly, quarterly, and semi-annually to evaluate impact and measure change. It comes as no surprise that BSK organizations are documenting  life changing successes, like helping healthier babies meet developmental milestones, be ready for kindergarten, and graduate high school with social and emotional support. BSK also tracks success over 400 different measures, and the results are exceptional.  Its evaluation work has been nationally recognized. Changing the trajectory of the life of an infant or a young person takes years. The most incredible impacts and outcomes will continue to be tracked and proven, as our babies and youth grow into healthy, resilient adults.

The impact of Best Starts for Kids is about human potential and about the harm that it prevents or reduces. The question is not whether or not this levy is effective, it’s about how much positive change it is creating and how many ways it is changing lives. Transformative change can’t be condensed easily into a soundbite or a simple statement.  It can be witnessed and experienced, especially by the thousands of individuals who have been touched by funded programs throughout King county.

We as King County voters decided to launch this life-changing levy and put our resources into prevention at the right moment in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic just underscores how important it is to keep these services intact.  Let’s continue to support life-changing services and sustain the gain. We did this, King County. Let’s continue to take care of our children and youth, now when they need it most. Let’s continue to serve as an example for the region and the nation. Let’s renew Best Starts for Kids.

Ben Danielson, MD

Abigail Echohawk, MA

Hye-Kyung Kang, MSW, PhD

Ben Danielson, MD, is a pediatrician with UW Medicine. Abigail Echohawk, MA, is Executive Vice President with Seattle Indian Health Board. Hye-Kyung Kang, MSW, PhD, is Chair of the Social Work Department at Seattle University. They are members of the King County Children & Youth Advisory Board.