Child Development Projects: Best Starts for Kids

Effects of Child Abuse on Development

Child abuse and neglect happen in every community and this problem impacts all of us, directly or indirectly, draining public resources both short and long term.

Taxpayers bear a short-term financial burden primarily related to the expenses associated with arresting, investigating, prosecuting, and incarcerating the perpetrators. Furthermore, since many abused children require healthcare and child welfare services, there are significant costs imposed on the health and human services system, including emergency room and trauma care, as well as foster care placements.

In the long term, the suffering that child victims experienced at the hands of abusers produces scars that stay with them for life. While most abused children do not grow up to be criminals, research shows that children who are abused are almost 30 percent more likely to commit violent crimes as adults, creating huge downstream costs for all of us.

Why We Need Prevention and Protection Programs for Children

We can and must do better for our kids. Funds must be raised for important prevention and intervention programs to protect children and improve their chances for success in life. One example is the Nurse-Family Partnership, a voluntary, high-quality home visiting program that has been proven to prevent child abuse and neglect.

This program pairs first-time, low-income young women with a registered nurse who provides coaching and information from pregnancy until the child’s second birthday.

Long-term studies show that children whose mothers were randomly selected to participate in the program were half as likely to be abused or neglected than those whose mothers did not receive the home visits. Children not in the program had more than twice as many criminal convictions by age 19 as those in families who received the visits. One site of the quality nurse home visitation program found significantly fewer cases of childhood injury and child mortality and improved child health among families who participated.

Researchers at the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that for every family served, the Nurse-Family Partnership generated around $19,000 in net benefits, including more than $11,000 in saving for taxpayers.

The Best Starts for Kids Program

Best Starts for Kids provided the resources needed to put every child on a path toward lifelong success. Science tells us a prevention and early intervention are the most effective and least expensive ways to address our most serious problems such as obesity, mental illness, domestic violence, substance abuse, and homelessness. Yet, much of the County’s funding is responding to these negative outcomes – severe mental illness, homelessness, chronic illness, and youth who have already dropped out of school or who have been involved in the juvenile justice system. Specifically, 75% of the County’s general fund pays for the law and justice system.

Best Starts for Kids invested in a child’s early years carries forward throughout a child’s journey to adulthood and creates healthy communities that reinforce their progress.

Fifty percent of the revenue of the program would be invested in strategies focused on children under age five and pregnant women, including a modest investment to sustain and expand parent and child health services that are delivered through the county’s Public Health Centers. The science and evidence show us that the earlier we invest, the greater the return for both the child’s development and our society.

Thirty-five percent would be invested in strategies focused on children and youth aged five through twenty-four. Science and research tell us that the brain continues to develop during this time and that prevention efforts addressed at key developmental stages or transition points in a young person’s life help to sustain gains made earlier in life.

Ten percent would be invested in strategies to create safe and healthy communities. This strategy will sustain and expand the partnership between King County and The Seattle Foundation on Communities of Opportunity (COO). COO is based on the latest research and evidence regarding the impact of place on a child’s success and the importance of supporting communities in building their capacity to create positive change.

Five percent would support evaluation, data collection, and improving the delivery of services and programs for children and youth. This will ensure Best Starts for Kids strategies are tailored for children from every background in King County and that we deliver on the results for every child in King County.

To reduce inequities in our County, Best Starts for Kids strategies were designed to be both universal and targeted, with the large majority of Best Starts for Kids levy funding competitively bid in outcomes-focused contracts to community-based organizations. This could help ensure that the strategies are implemented in a manner that is appropriate for all cultural and ethnic groups and that each child and her caregivers receive the tools and level of support they need.


This program was supported by many organizations, such as Care Resources Children’s Alliance, Save The Children Action Network, Kent Youth & Family Services, and Children’s Seattle Foundation. Besides, these media were also involved: The Seattle Times and The Stranger.

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