Best Starts for Kids: Focus on Prevention


In his annual State of the County address, King County Executive Dow Constantine introduced Best Starts for Kids, a 6-year, levy-funded project that, if approved by voters, will implement proven and promising strategies to help children reach their full potential. The long-term goal is to invert the County’s current pattern of spending more on negative outcomes (such as incarceration) than on effective strategies, early in development, to prevent those outcomes. Best Start for Kids is designed to jumpstart this inversion.

Some excerpts from this morning’s presentation:

“From 1950 to the late ‘70s, … 90 percent of American households enjoyed 70 percent of all income growth…. Yes, the rich did get richer, but as the economy grew, so did the middle class. Back then, a rising tide really did lift all boats. But … between 2009 and 2012 here in Washington state, 175 percent of all income growth has gone to just the top 1 percent…. This mocks the fundamental principle on which we were all raised: That if we work hard, we can all succeed.

“From Boeing to Costco to Microsoft to Starbucks to Amazon, King County has prospered because our people have excelled at solving problems. But income inequality puts our future prosperity at risk by denying more of our children an equal opportunity to contribute to a well-educated middle class…. The sad truth in America today is that a top predictor of a child’s success in life is the income of the household in which that child is raised. Our goal must be to break this connection between income and outcomes.”

“One of the worst outcomes for children who are victims of abuse, neglect, homelessness, or mental illness is to land in the juvenile justice system. Every child who drops out, who gets kicked out, who is locked up, marks our failure as a community to provide the love and care and support that every child needs. These kids aren’t failing us—we are failing them.

“We can and must do better, as a county that prides itself on taking its name from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A full century before Dr. King, Frederick Douglass observed: ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ Strong children require strong communities, and it will take all of us working together across sectors to ensure that every child has the opportunity to fulfill her potential, and to participate fully in her community.”

For full text, go to 2015 State of the County address. For background information and an infographic, go to the Best Starts for Kids webpage.