What’s next for Best Starts for Kids?

The Best Starts for Kids Initiative was renewed by King County voters, what happens now? How does community voice shape the next cycle of the County’s work to ensure that all of our children and families are happy, healthy, safe, and thriving? How can local program providers stay in the loop about applying for funding?

Shared below is an interview with Megan McJennett, Best Starts for Kids Implementation Manager. Stay up-do-date by subscribing the Best Starts blog. Learn more about the work School’s Out Washington is doing to support the 2018 – 2021 Out-of-School Time grant.

Last month, King County voters overwhelmingly chose to renew and expand the Best Starts for Kids levy. We’re thrilled to have our community’s strong support to continue building toward our shared vision for happy, healthy, safe and thriving kids and families. We sat down with Megan McJennett, Best Starts for Kids’ Implementation Manager, to find out more about what’s next for Best Starts as we head into the next levy, and answer your questions about our process, timeline for funding opportunities, and more.

What are you most excited for in the next Best Starts levy?

So much! We’re ready to hit the ground running and build on everything we learned from the first Best Starts levy to make the next Best Starts levy even more successful. Our team is ready to go from January 1, and we have new and exciting ways to reach our community’s goals. PLUS technical assistance for applicants and capacity building for funded partners will be available from day one—read on!

I want to get funded! How does that work?

Great question. The majority of Best Starts for Kids strategies will release an opportunity to apply for funding through our blog and newsletter. In government-speak, we call this a Request for Proposal or RFP process. The RFP will include everything you need to know about applying for funding—what types of work the request will fund, who is eligible, how much funding is available, and the criteria we’ll use to rate applications. It will also share details for information sessions you can attend to learn more about the opportunity and ask questions—anyone who is interested in the funding opportunity will be welcome to attend.

We’ll share all funding opportunities on our blog and through the Best Starts for Kids newsletter—be sure to subscribe so you get a notice whenever we post a new funding opportunity.

How does the RFP process work? Does it take long?

Equity is at the heart of everything we do, and that means we’re deliberate and thoughtful about our process. As stewards of our community’s money, we believe an equity-driven process takes time. In a county as big and diverse as ours, everyone needs time to learn about a funding opportunity, put together an application, and get help applying if they need it. We also need time internally to make sure each application is thoroughly reviewed. Once you submit your application, a panel of County staff, Children and Youth Advisory Board members, and community members review every application according to the criteria in the RFP. This process can take several weeks before we’re able to make final decisions and notify applicants.

Can I get help applying for funding?

Absolutely! We’ll contract with people independent of the County to support organizations who want help applying for funding. We call this technical assistance (TA). They’ll be able to help you with things like talking through the opportunity to make sure it is a good fit with your organization’s mission and vision, formulating a strong application, using data in your application, preparing a budget, and navigating the application process. Every application will include information about how you can contact technical assistance providers to get support.

When will the first funding opportunities post? Will they all go out at the same time?

The first funding opportunity will be for people who are applying provide technical assistance to applicants and capacity building for Best Starts partners. We plan to post this RFP the first week of October—keep an eye out!

The King County Council will review and approve the Best Starts for Kids Implementation Plan and budget this fall, so most other funding opportunities will not go out until after Council approves these plans (see below for more info.) We intend to start posting funding opportunities beginning in January of 2022. We’ll stagger funding opportunities throughout the year so that we do not overwhelm our community or internal processes with many funding opportunities at the same time.

Can I apply for more than one RFP? How will I know which make sense for me?

Yes! We welcome you to apply for any RFP that feels like it’s a good fit for your organization. We strongly encourage you to read the entire RFP before starting your application. Make sure you’re eligible and that the work described makes sense for your organization. If you’re unsure, you can attend an information session to learn more, or reach out to a technical assistance provider to talk through it.

How can I stay up to date?

Subscribe to the blog and sign up for our monthly newsletter! You can subscribe to this blog using the subscribe by email box right on the top of the home page. Subscribe to our newsletter using the form on the bottom of our website, kingcounty.gov/beststarts.

You can also follow @BestStartsKC on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the latest news.

How can I get involved with Best Starts?

There are lots of ways to get involved! We’re currently recruiting for open positions on the Children and Youth Advisory Board (CYAB). Made up of residents from across King County communities, this board makes recommendations and provides oversight to Best Starts for Kids.

Many strategies will have opportunities for community members to review funding applications. We’ll share information about how to get involved when we release funding opportunities. Stay tuned! (Note: If you apply for the funding or have a direct connection to an applicant, we may ask you to be on a different panel.)

We keep hearing about the Best Starts Implementation Plan. To start, can you tell us what an implementation plan is, and why it’s important?

The implementation plan is a strategy-by-strategy plan to guide how we’ll spend the proceeds of the Best Starts levy. It outlines the strategies we’ll invest in, shares how those strategies support our goals, provides details on how we’ll evaluate our results, and highlights how we’ll engage community throughout the process. The King County Council will review this plan in various committees, including the Regional Policy Committee, before voting on approval later this fall.

Click here to read the Implementation Plan.

Who decides what’s in the plan? Did you consult with community?

Over the past year, we hosted community conversations across all corners of King County to receive feedback on what went well in the first Best Starts levy, and what needed to change. This feedback informed the Implementation Plan for the second levy. This plan maintains our current investments because they’re the things we know that kids need to be happy, healthy, safe, and thriving. We’re excited that we’ll also be able to expand to meet needs we heard from our community, like expanded access to child care. The proposed plan is subject to changes and approval by the King County Council, including the Regional Policy Committee.

When will the Implementation Plan be approved?

The King County Council, including the Regional Policy Committee, will review and vote on the plan throughout the fall. We expect a full Council vote by the end of November.

I already have a Best Starts contract. Will it be extended in the next levy?

If you currently have a Best Starts contract, you’ll be hearing from your program manager soon with more information. The majority of Best Starts strategies will re-do the RFP process, but the timeline for each strategy will be different. Some strategies that started later in the first levy may extend their contracts before redoing the RFP process.

If you have questions, your best resource is the program manager for your strategy.

I have other questions about my contract or about Best Starts for Kids. Who can I talk to?

If you have a question about your contract, your Best Starts program manager is your best resource. They can answer your questions, or connect you to someone who can. If you’re not sure who to contact or have other questions, you can always email best.starts@kingcounty.gov