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Best Starts: A Local Levy That Promises To Invest In Kids

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Bryce Kasota and her 11 year old daughter Ayana. Kasota says being mentored by a nurse from the Nurse Family Partnership Program is one of the reasons why she went from being a 17 year old High School Drop out to graduating with a nursing degree

 

King County Executive Dow Constantine says if we invest in young children we can prevent them from ending up in jail and, in turn, save tax dollars. This is why he wants voters to approve a six-year levy to fund an initiative called Best Starts For Kids.

 

 

Constantine detailed the levy during his State of the County Address which was delivered in Federal Way. It would raise $58,000,000 a year and cost the average homeowner about $56 annually.

 

Constantine said Best Starts For Kids would focus on three areas:

-          Prevention and early intervention programs for children before age five;

-          Intervening early at key developmental milestones for school aged children and youth

 

-          Prevention strategies at the community level that support a child’s positive development

 

Best Starts For Kids isn’t just about reducing the number children entering the juvenile justice system, Constantine says, it’s also about saving money.

 

The county’s annual general fund is more than $1 billion dollars. Almost three quarters -- 73 percent -- is spent on criminal justice. Constantine says the levy’s investment in prevention and early intervention could cut those expenses and save millions each year.

 

One example of what the levy dollars could be spent on, Constantine said, is the county's Nurse Family Partnership Program.

 

NFPP pairs public health nurses with low-income mothers. The nurses do home visits every other week from the time the women are pregnant until the child is almost three years old.

 

When Bryce Kasota had her daughter, Ayana, and was first connected to a NFPP nurse, she says she was was at rock bottom.

 

“I was 17 when I had my daughter and had no confidence in myself. I had no plan for the future, didn’t know where I was going. I was a high school drop out.”

 

Kasota worked with a nurse named Denise Jacobson. Kasota  says Jacobson helped her get out of an abusive relationship and got her back in school. Jacobson taught Kasota everything from good nutrition to which developmental milestones her child should reach and when.

 

“I think this really allows you to watch this amazing nurse interact with you and the baby and how they communicate,” says Kasota.

 

Kasota is one of the more 2,000 women who have been served by the Nurse Family Partnership Program since it began in 1999.  She credits the incredible bond she has with her 11-year-old daughter to all she leaned from Jacobson. She’s puts her parenting skills to work every day as she juggles going to nursing school and raising her child.

 

“Just last night we were doing, ‘okay I’m doing 20 minutes of homework and five minutes of play.’ We would set the timer for five minutes and then 20 minutes of homework and then timer would go off and we’d get to play again.”

 

Kasota is 28 now. She’s graduating in June with an associates degree in nursing. She has a 3.9 G.P.A. and is applying to schools to get her bachelor's degree. She’s lost touch with Jacobsen but would love to find her so she could tell her that she too wants to go into public health and work with young mothers who are at rock bottom.

 

The Best Starts For Kids levy now goes before the County Council. If it’s approved, it will be on the November ballot.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.