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New King County law prioritizes children and youth

King County - Contributed art
King County
— image credit: Contributed art

The following is a release from King County:

The Metropolitan King County Council gave its unanimous approval to legislation that sets priorities for King County’s next generation by ensuring that young people in King County have access to the resources and opportunities they need to become healthy, productive adults. The legislation adopted by the Council at its January 21 meeting calls for the development of a Youth Action Plan to create a holistic approach to delivering the needed resources to young people throughout King County.

“As a kid growing up in Renton, King County played an important role in my life. I played in our county parks, and received health care at our Public Health clinics. Today’s kids deserve our best efforts to ensure that they have every opportunity to grow up healthy, safe, and succeed in life,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, the prime sponsor of the ordinance. “This legislation brings together the broad spectrum of participants from throughout the region who help King County’s children and youth to recommit our collective efforts and honor our obligations as adults to the next generation. I look forward to working with these leaders to reform, renew and reinvest in our work to help King County’s kids achieve their full potential.”

“Ensuring young people in King County have access to services like public transportation, public health, parks, and a social safety net can make a big difference in helping them reach their full potential in life,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips. “The Youth Action Plan will help improve access to these services, benefitting youth, families, and our community.”

“The Youth Action Plan ensures that coordination of youth services is maximized among all of our partner organizations,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “I welcome the depth of representation of the stakeholders and see an opportunity to have young people be part of task force as well.”

“Through our transformation of the health and human services system, we will stay focused on what works for kids,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I applaud the Council for passing this legislation and look forward to working to ensure the health and well-being of King County's children, youth and young adults.”

Over the last 50 years, King County has been a leader in supporting programs for children, youth and young adults – including developing sports fields in local neighborhoods, providing public health visits for low-income infants and children, establishing a Youth & Family Services Network to help at-risk teens and families, and assisting youth who have become involved with the criminal justice system to take a fresh path. However, the Great Recession reduced or eliminated County support for many programs, and the programs still receiving county funding are operated through many different agencies, too often with little coordination between them.

As part of an initiative adopted by the Council in 2012, a countywide task force has worked to develop a plan for a collaborative, accountable, and integrated delivery of social safety net services in King County. The Youth Action Plan builds on that work.

“I appreciate all the good work that has gone into developing this plan to benefit the youth of King County,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “I look forward to reviewing the recommendations that are produced by this task force and supporting their efforts.”

“It is critical to invest in our youth to strengthen the foundation for the future of our communities,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “I am excited about the opportunity to coalesce and coordinate with our richly diverse set of South King County community partners to explore, plan and implement the best solutions to invest in our youth.”

The goal of the Youth Action Plan is to ensure that King County’s Strategic Plan objective to “promote opportunities for all communities and individuals to realize their full potential,” is applied to the County’s young people and reflected across all County departments, programs and initiatives. The plan also seeks to ensure that King County is a strong partner with the state, cities, private sector, non-profit and philanthropic organizations.

“The Youth Action Plan recognizes that youth really are our human potential, our future, as described in the King County Strategic Plan,” said Mike Heinisch, Executive Director of Kent Youth and Family Services. “We all should be supportive of the King County Council’s recognizing that potential can become reality by moving this Youth Action Plan forward.”

“As a leader focused in moving the lives of young people forward on positive, productive and healthy paths I applaud Councilmember Dembowski's innovative approach,” said YouthCare Executive Director Melinda Giovengo. “This effort will build on the work our community has done in developing a comprehensive plan for addressing youth and young adult homelessness, creating a vision for our community that puts our young people first and taking the first step towards an efficient, effective, outcome driven investment in the future of King County. Thank you.”

“We are thrilled to see the development of a comprehensive plan for services and opportunities for young people in our region,” said Jessica Werner, Executive Director of the Youth Development Executives of King County. “The time is right as we emerge out of the great recession to do something bigger and broader for our young people.”

“As a former member of the King County Children and Families Commission, I am pleased to see King County leaders renewing their commitment to focusing on our community’s children and youth,” said State Representative Ruth Kagi, Chair of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee. “The proposed legislation offers fresh hope for prioritization and investment in our kids.”

“The success of our community is directly linked to the success of our kids,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. “This proposal will help coordinate multiple efforts designed to help young people grow up healthy, safe and smart.”

“The Sheriff’s Office is proud to participate in King County’s Youth Action Plan,” said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. “Devoting more attention and resources to our youth will pay dividends in the long run by helping them to succeed and keeping kids out of the criminal justice system.”

“Providing children and young adults in King County with the tools they need to grow and thrive is not only the right thing to do, but is essential to the welfare of our community as a whole,” said retired Washington state Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge, President of the Center for Children and Youth Justice. “The Youth Action Plan will provide a collaborative unified approach to providing services and support so all our young people will have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential.”

The adopted legislation calls for the creation of a broadly-based task force to develop a Youth Action Plan that would include the following elements:

  • Mission, vision, and defined outcomes that enable the County to advance its Strategic Plan and social justice and equity goals as they relate to youth,
  • A Bill of Rights for Youth,
  • Whether a single point of accountability should be established to lead the County’s children and youth services, programs and policies, and if so, it’s form, role and duties,
  • Identification of reform efforts and efficiencies, gaps, opportunities to take programs to scale, and recommendations to overcoming barriers to success,
  • Prioritization of programs and methodologies and recommendations related to funding,
  • Evaluation and reporting structure and implementation timeline.

The proposal calls on the County Executive to appoint members to a Youth Action Plan Task Force. The members of the task force would include elected officials, leaders from Seattle and suburban cities, and non-profit community partners that serve infants, children, youth and young adults. It would be charged with conducting information meetings with community members, stakeholders and consumers to keep interested parties informed on the development of the Plan.

The Youth Action Task Force is charged with preparing a Youth Action Plan for the King County Council by the spring of 2015.

 

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