SEATTLE - King County Executive Dow Constantine will soon propose a levy that would fund programs to help children, an effort to prevent vulnerable youths from entering the criminal system.
Constantine calls the plan “Best Starts for Kids,” focusing largely on early childhood development, based on research done at the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.
“We're learning how important it is that kids are getting the right kinds of interaction with adults as babies; that they are getting the right kind of emotional support. Because it's not just about the experiences they have, it's about how their brains grow,” Constantine said.
His program would include mental-health screenings, in-home visits by nurses, access to developmental screenings, funding to prevent homelessness and solutions for those who lack access to healthy, affordable food.
Constantine will present the plan to the County Council on Monday, April 27. The council will then discuss the details and consider putting it on the ballot in November.
The current estimate for the program cost requires a levy that falls in the range of 10 to 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
For a home that is assessed at $400,000 for example, the household would pay an additional $40 to $60 per year.
Constantine said this will make sure children are on track physically and mentally, steering them away from crime.
The criminal system makes up three quarters of the county’s general budget, reaching over $1 billion.
“Instead of a kid getting off to a bad start, getting behind, eventually dropping out of school, eventually dropping out of the juvenile justice system, we can make sure that they are caught up with their peers, that we catch problems early,” he said.
He hopes to expand on many programs that already exist.
The Northwest Center for Kids provides therapy for children like Anaya Khan.
Her mother, Kayla Khan, said Anaya was born with very low muscle tone, “so much so that she couldn't breathe on her own.”
Anaya has been receiving physical therapy from center staff members, who are able to go out into the community to provide service where the family is.
Because the Northwest Center for Kids receives county funding,it can accept all people who need help, regardless of income level or insurance coverage.
Without this therapy, Khan said, “I know that we wouldn't have had the tools to help her function in daily life.”