DCHS Announces Funding Awards for New Child Care Subsidy Program Launched by King County

The Department of Community and Human Services is pleased to announce awards to five organizations that will help build, administer, and promote the new Best Starts for Kids Child Care Subsidy Program. This investment is meant to ease the costs for families where child care can be inaccessible. Funded partners will work to connect disparate systems, strategize around logistics, and strengthen what already works in the industry over the next six years.  

Over the next three years, nearly $61 million in Best Starts-funded child care subsidy will be paid to child care providers on behalf of families ineligible for existing subsidy programs. This newly created subsidy program is also focused on populations that have faced disproportionate barriers in accessing child care. This includes Black, Indigenous, and communities of color (BIPOC), immigrant communities and children with disabilities – so these families can sustainably access child care.  

As families struggle to afford the cost of child care, and the number of slots for child care doesn’t meet demand, our child care workers are making low wages that don’t keep up with cost-of-living in this region. We must make investments to address these connected inequities to ensure sustainable access to child care. 

More than 90 percent of child care workers in the U.S. are women, and about 43 percent are Black, Asian, or Latinx/a/o, while making wages that are consistently lower than in other sectors. According to a Best Starts survey, in 2019, 34 percent of children in King County lived in families that found it difficult to afford child care. This is a collective action problem that results in community-based organizations stitching together a complex web of systems, logistics and funding sources. King County, through the Best Starts For Kids levy is actively working to confront and solve these inequities. 

Five organizations that are deeply embedded in the communities they serve will receive funding for the next three years to coordinate outreach and distribution of subsidies and to connect families and children who have additional barriers to accessing care. 

  • A-4 Apple Learning Center awarded one FTE to serve on the Family Access and Support (FAS) Team, providing case management support for BIPOC, and especially the Black/African American families.  
  • Child Care Resources awarded the role of FAS Team Coordinator to convene the awarded organizations around training and best practice in child care resource and referral and family engagement as well as four FTE who will provide case management support on the FAS Team. 
  • Scholar Fund awarded up to $6.5 million to administer the subsidy, hosting the application and distributing the subsidy to eligible families. They will also host five FTEs that will provide general navigation assistance on the Family Access and Support Team.  
  •  Voices of Tomorrow awarded two FTEs to serve on the FAS Team, with an emphasis on reaching immigrant families. 
  • White Center Community Development Association awarded one FTE on the FAS team to provide case management support to serve the White Center and Highline School District communities. 

From Scholar Fund’s application: “We are Title 1 school attending, don’t open the door for ICE, FAFSA and WASFA grant receiving, former forklift driving, displaced into homelessness from Central District gentrification, high ACE scoring, status-quo-crashing, boundary-breaking, agents of change. We are our recipients, and while we are skilled at working with technology, banks, and bureaucracies, we are first and foremost an organization working in service to individuals and communities in need of opportunity.” 

This program is working to address existing gaps in child care subsidies. This subsidy cannot exist alone and we will continue to need other local, state, and federal subsidies and additional resourcing to meet the child care needs of our families.  

A-4 Apple Learning Center addressed the existing gaps in subsidies in their application: “For households living just on or slightly above the poverty line, many households find themselves ineligible for childcare subsidies due to earning as little as $10 too much to qualify.” 

The value of resourcing child care, particularly for families who don’t qualify for existing subsidies, goes beyond even just supporting the families who receive the subsidy, but in creating lasting impacts for children and their community. King County is applying what we learned about the child care sector during COVID and creating an aspirational goal to strengthen what currently exists and address the harm for families where child care is out of reach.  

From Child Care Resources’ application: “When we connect children with equitable access to high-quality early learning experiences, they are more likely to meet developmental milestones, be ready for kindergarten, meet indicators of academic and physical wellbeing throughout childhood, graduate from high school, avoid the school to prison pipeline, and achieve financial and housing stability later in life. When children are in stable care, parents have the time and opportunity they need to resolve housing and employment challenges and create more stable, supportive environments for children.” 

The contracts are anticipated to begin in July 2022 and the Child Care Subsidy Program will open for applications in the Fall of 2022.