After King County voters renewed the Best Starts for Kids levy in 2021, King County’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) started a new child care subsidy program that provides financial assistance so more than 2,000 children and their families can afford child care.
Over the course of November, DCHS is transitioning contracted administration of the Best Starts for Kids Child Care Subsidy Program to BrightSpark Early Learning Services, formerly known as Child Care Resources. Families receiving the child care subsidy should not experience service disruption during this transition.
In 2022, Best Starts for Kids launched the new Child Care Subsidy Program, dedicating more than $160 million over six years to ease the cost of care for families ineligible for existing subsidy programs. This amounts to $2 million per month that Best Starts is distributing to help families cover the costs of child care.
The subsidy program serves more than 2,000 children in partnership with four community based organizations, including BrightSpark as a Family Access and Support team partner. The program helps families afford child care. In April, the subsidy reached full enrollment and placed incoming applications from families who were eligible on a waitlist. The waitlist is temporarily closed to new applications as we transition to the new administrator. You can see what additional resources are available here.
Our region needs more accessible and affordable child care. It is good for kids, good for families, and essential for healthy communities. The program highlights a deep need for additional child care supports. Many more families across King County still struggle to afford the cost of child care. We know this program is making a difference, and there is more to do especially by way of local, state, and federal investments. Our region also needs to better support our child care providers so that they can afford to provide this critical public service.
Our new Best Starts Child Care Subsidy administrator, BrightSpark has a track record of strong support and deep relationships with child care providers, families, and community members. With their experience administering their own private subsidy funds, working on three emergency child care assistance programs for DCHS through the pandemic, and their work on the child care worker retention payments project for DCHS and the City of Seattle, they are exceptionally qualified to administer the subsidy.
“Since our founding in 1990, BrightSpark has supported parents and caregivers in finding and paying for child care,” says Phoebe Sade, Executive Officer at BrightSpark. “With support from our private donors and public funders we have distributed millions of dollars to families needing support from full tuition to assistance with co-pays. We are honored that King County has been a great support in this work and humbled that DCHS has chosen to partner with us in a collective goal to increase child care access for more families across King County.”
DCHS remains committed to supporting and partnering with community organizations so they have the capacity to effectively and equitably serve the families and providers who depend on this program. Any families or child care providers who have questions or who experience an unexpected impact from this transition can contact BSKChildCareSubsidy@kingcounty.gov for assistance. To learn more about what DCHS is doing to support families, children, and child care providers visit: King County’s commitment to child care – King County, Washington
– Best Starts for Kids Co-Leads Jessica Tollenaar Cafferty and Jamalia Jones