Thanking the leaders of King County’s Best Starts for Kids

A message from DCHS Director, Leo Flor on the outgoing Best Starts leadership team.

Since King County voters first approved the Best Starts for Kids Levy in 2015, Sheila Ater Capestany (she/her) and Marcy Miller (she/her) have grown a powerful idea into a cutting edge, nation-leading program that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of children, youth and families all around the region. Following a strong first levy, voters renewed Best Starts for Kids in 2021 and the groundbreaking investments in the health and well-being of our youngest residents, from birth to 24-years-old.  

What seemed novel to some, was a life-long pursuit for Sheila and Marcy: That governments and communities should want more for our kids than to avoid jail—that we must instead insist on and invest in a future where all our children, youth, and young adults are happy, healthy, safe, and thriving. Sheila and Marcy’s vision for these investments is changing the trajectory for thousands of people in King County. I am grateful to Sheila and Marcy for the way they led the Best Starts team and work.  

BSK by the numbers in 2022: 

  • 264,000 children, young people, families reached  
  • 500 programs in operation 
  • 450 community partners  
  • 12,000 child care workers received a one-time wage boost  
  • 800 families took part in the new Best Starts Child Care Subsidy program   

Sheila and Marcy have a bold vision and a record of successful implementation. They work across the Department of Community and Human Services and Public Health — Seattle & King County to defy false choices between heart and rigor in public policy. Sheila and Marcy have nurtured a culture within their team that blends science-based, community-based, and data-driven strategies. Sheila and Marcy have led the way for the County in prioritizing babies from their earliest days to their transition into youth and adulthood when growth and development are happening at remarkable rates. Best Starts is doing what so many in public policy aspire to: going “upstream” to support the conditions of health, safety, belonging, and happiness that can break our dependence on less effective systems and policies. We know that when kids get the start they need the benefits are lifelong.  

Over the last few years in the pandemic, I watched Sheila and Marcy double down as a team on their efforts to reach more people and families, adapt in the ways to connect, and really listen to the needs of the communities in a way that took true collaboration. This is inspiring work that sets a strong example for County initiatives.  

I look forward to the leadership of the new co-leads, Jamalia Jones (she/her) and Jessica Tollenaar Cafferty (she/her) who will pick up where Sheila and Marcy left off and continue the great work, while making innovations of their own. It is no mistake that leaders as capable as Sheila and Marcy have inspired, trained, and prepared new leaders who will keep supporting the development of Best Starts for Kids and our region’s babies and youth. 

Please join me in thanking Sheila and Marcy for their tremendous leadership of our Best Starts for Kids work and for welcoming Jamalia and Jessica to their new roles! 

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