Two bills for young people in Pierce County

Two bills for young people in Pierce County

Pierce County lags behind our peers in most socioeconomic measurements. Whether it’s poverty rates, educational attainment, behavioral health, child dependency, or crime we see clear signals of social policy failures.

That’s why Councilmember Ladenburg and I have proposed two bills scheduled for a final vote at this Tuesday’s Council Meeting.

Proposal №2019–6, establishes a Prenatal-to-25 Commission for child, youth, and young adult development while Proposal No. R2019–15 declares the Council’s commitment to prioritizing prenatal-to-three policies.

The new P-25 Commission would be an advisory body to the Executive and Council making recommendations on policies and appropriations specific to the needs of young people.

“The P-25 Commission shall propose to the County Executive and County Council a long-range plan with policy, systems, and environmental change recommendations to ensure the successful development of infants, children, youth and young adults ages Prenatal to 25. The proposed long-range plan and policy recommendations shall consider and leverage current research, innovative and promising programs, as well as proven, evidence-based development strategies likely to be effective in Pierce County.”

It’s not a new idea. King, Kitsap, and Snohomish Counties all have similar advisory bodies. The commission would be comprised of 21 members, larger than most other advisory boards and commissions, but is designed to ensure geographic distribution as well as encompassing a diverse set of expert perspectives. In practice, we envision that the commission would break into committees focused on each stage of development, but think that acknowledging the overlap is essential.

Some councilmembers and members of the public questioned the inclusion of young adults. While I do suspect most of the focus will be more on early childhood and adolescence, there’s ample reason for Pierce County to be thoughtful about the impacts of our policies on young adults. We’ve increasingly turned attention to workforce development, foster-children aging out of the system, and their unique needs while experiencing homelessness.

It’s also important to be clear that we don’t believe the government could, or should replace strong parenting. On the other hand, we also recognize even the most committed parents sometimes need support. For example, the cost of infant childcare is more than 50% of the median Pierce County millennial’s salary.

The P-3 resolution is a statement of the Council in support of a nationwide movement led in part by the National Association of Counties (NACo). Pierce County won a grant to participate in the first cohort of the National Collaborative for Infants and Toddlers (NCIT) in support of our Help Me Grow (HMG) pilot program.

HMG grew out of alarm expressed by our Juvenile Court and legislative delegation at the dramatic rise in child dependency cases in Pierce County. More than half of the filings are for children under the age of five; one-third are babies in their first year.

Working with the Attorney General’s Office, Rep. Laurie Jinkins, and Judge Kitty-Ann van Doorninck, we settled on HMG to offer nurse home visits to new families to prevent neglect and abuse before it occurred. It’s also an opportunity to teach best practices for early childhood development.

The resolution, requested by NACo, expresses the Council’s intent “to prioritize prenatal-to-three policies, best practices, and cross-coordination to improve child and family outcomes in Pierce County.”

Both measures intend to go “upstream” to address problems before they become more difficult and costly to resolve. Walking into our jail is like taking a tour through unaddressed childhood trauma. By most accounts, two-thirds of the inmates in jails are suffering from one or more behavioral health disorders, most of which are attributable to some adverse childhood experience.

Based on emails and calls we’ve received, some are organizing against passage of these bills. If you want the Council to hear from you before Tuesday, start here to send us a message. Make sure to click “all councilmembers.”