We are thrilled to announce that VYFS is one of 17 non-profit organizations to receive a King County Best Starts For Kids grant.  

 VYFS Executive Director Kathleen Johnson with King County Executive Dow Constantine

VYFS Executive Director Kathleen Johnson with King County Executive Dow Constantine

This morning, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the awarding of more than $860,000 in funding from Best Starts For Kids, for projects that will improve access to healthy foods, safe environments and health care on Vashon‐Maury Island.  Vashon Youth & Family Services received a $100,000 grant from King County’s Best Starts for Kids (BSK) program to create healthier environments for Island children. The remaining funding is part of an award to Neighborcare Health and Vashon Island School District to create a School‐Based Health Center.

“This represents a substantial new investment on Vashon by King County,” said Kathleen Johnson, VYFS Executive Director. “VYFS and many others have been working with the County to help them understand the significant needs Islanders face. We are grateful to know that the County understands our needs and has taken this bold step to address them.”

VYFS is one of 17 non‐profits that successfully competed for 1.7 million in funding to help create safer, healthier environments for children and youth throughout King County. The grant that VYFS has received will go to fund the work of the Vashon Early Learning Coalition (VELC), a group of early childcare providers. VELC members will work with VYFS’ Family Education and Support Services (FESS) program to help improve their support of Island children and families. 

“VELC members will receive training in areas like increasing access to healthy foods, injury prevention, safe gun and medicine storage,” said Johnson. “We will provide the childcare providers with training for themselves, and material and information to pass on to families they serve.”

“The work is an opportunity for us to partner with other organizations like The Dove Project and Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA) to give our members tools for building safe, welcoming and healthful environments for the kids they serve.”

Another crucial part of the project is to help increase the number of licensed childcare slots for families with young children. Currently on Vashon Island, there is a critical lack of access to fully licensed, safe, full-day childcare. In a community of over 10,000 people, there are only two fully licensed providers, serving only 22 children.  These two providers are the only providers on Island able to accept DSHS subsidies to support low-income families.

VYFS will support VELC members who wish to pursue their Early Achievers certification.  VELC will work to support care givers in the use of evidence-based practices, bringing them closer to state standards and assisting in overcoming licensing barriers and pursuing full certification. Through VELC, FESS staff will “train the trainers”, meeting with care givers to increase their capacity for parent education.   

VYFS’ work through VELC will:

  • promote healthy eating at childcare centers and in homes through a partnership with Vashon Island Grower’s Association (VIGA)
  • promote safer childcare centers and home environments with a focus on poison prevention and gun safety
  • encourage increased physical activity in young children
  • promote safer home environments

Best Starts for Kids is a King County voter-approved initiative that will fund programs aimed at youth and families for years to come. BSK will generate up to $400 million over the next six years. Through a process of Requests for Proposal (RFP), the county will invest this funding in programs that help put every baby born and every child raised in King County on a path toward lifelong success. Community-based organizations, schools and others can apply for funding. Multiple RFPs will be issued in 2017 and beyond, that could positively impact Island services.  VYFS intends to continue to pursue these and other opportunities to positively impact and further our agency mission. 

“Best Starts for Kids is really a transformative opportunity for the children, youth and young adults of King County. As an agency that is dedicated to the welfare of all people on Vashon, we see this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build real capacity to grow programs to help every Island child thrive. We are grateful that King County has seen the importance of supporting this community,” said Johnson.