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Children's Alliance Agenda 2024

An agenda for children in 2024

Children's Alliance readies for state legislature session

Our state’s legislative session begins in just a few weeks on Monday, January 8. Though the 2024 session is short, it presents a great opportunity to advance policies that improve the lives of our kids and families. And it’s an opportunity we must seize. Despite recent progress, many of Washington’s families do not have access to affordable, high-quality child care; our early childhood educators continue to receive a salary that does not reflect the value of their work; and our young people are struggling with behavioral health issues at unprecedented levels.   

At Children’s Alliance, we design our legislative agenda to include policy solutions that advance racial justice and center kids and families who, due to present and historic systemic racism, are furthest from opportunity. We have spent the past few months conducting research, consulting with lawmakers, and listening to policy experts and community members to determine the legislation behind which we will focus our energy. Below are some highlights:

Get kids the behavioral health support they need

A report that we published earlier this year found that over half of Washington’s youth are experiencing anxiety or depression, and 20% require clinical care for these conditions. But our state’s health care system does not currently have the capacity to provide all of our kids with the support they deserve. When we’ve spoken with educators and school administrators, the behavioral health of their students is overwhelmingly their top concern. They are terrified of the potential tragedies that could unfold if our young people don’t get the help they need.

That’s why one of our top priorities in 2024 is to follow the recommendations of the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group (CYBHWG). The group, composed of experts and those most affected by the absence of care, proposes policy solutions that could have far-reaching positive impacts for our young people. Included among the proposals is funding for school districts to develop behavioral health plans; funding for clinical supervised hours for mental health providers, which would help diversify the field; and plans to expand programs to address behavioral health issues in early childhood.

Expand mental health consultations for our youngest children 

Young children also need support to ensure their social and emotional well-being. The  estimates that approximately 16% of children under age six need clinical care for mental health. Unfortunately, —a key program that provides this support through Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) for early childhood professionals—currently has a waitlist of at least 100 programs seeking consultation. Those delays prevent our youngest children from accessing mental health care and support in a timely manner. 

When children experience social or emotional stress, they may respond in ways that are unique to their development. However, children’s behavior is a form of communication, even when they cannot yet articulate exactly how they are feeling or why. The partnerships between mental health consultants, child care providers, and coaches in the IECMHC program establish a meaningful team. Children and families benefit from a collaborative approach that supports their development and well-being, prioritizing knowledge of early childhood development, manifestations of mental health needs, and context of each child. 

Meaningful access to consultations and close partnerships between early childhood providers is critical to ensure that our youngest learners are equipped to grow up healthy. We support  call to rapidly increase funding by $1.75 million each year to alleviate the current shortage so that children have choices that safeguard appropriate care without long waitlists or costs incurred by seeking private mental health care. 

Fund education through progressive revenue sources

Washington state’s capital gains excise tax, which Children’s Alliance played an integral part in passing, has so far brought in far more revenue than anticipated. This is great news for kids and families as a significant portion of those funds will go directly to fund early learning programs and improvements to our schools. It also shows that, despite opposition from some of our state’s wealthiest and most powerful residents, it is possible to make positive changes to our state’s regressive tax system. 

This year we plan to keep up this momentum by supporting a wealth tax that would impose a 1% tax on household wealth over $250 million. The tax would be applied primarily to intangible assets, like stocks and bonds, and will only be paid by about 700 individuals. Not only will this legislation help ensure that the wealthiest Washingtonians pay what they owe, it will also provide additional funding for education.

Make your voice heard

Policies like these will only pass with the support of our communities. Your lawmakers work for you – and they need to know what’s important to you and the kids you care about. That’s where Children’s Alliance can help. If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it. If you want to contact your legislators, we’ll help connect you. Change only happens when we work together.

Get involved

Sign up to the Children’s Alliance mailing list to receive updates and action alerts throughout the legislative session and beyond. Save the date for February 15, 2024 to join us in Olympia for our first in-person lobby day since 2020 – more details coming soon!

The Children’s Alliance 2024 Agenda for Lawmakers

The Children’s Alliance, one of the state’s leading children’s advocacy organizations, has set a strong agenda for lawmakers during the 2024 session of the Washington State Legislature, which ends March 8. Download a simple to read print-out of the agenda, which includes:

Early Learning and Child Care Initiatives 

Investing $1.75 million annually to expand access to Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC), addressing the 100+ IECMHC programs on the waitlist and other current needs.

Providing the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy to all child care staff regardless of whether they work around their own children or reside in a border state. 

Increasing Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) Rates as outlined in the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) decision package

Eliminating licensing fees for child care center providers. 

Directing DCYF to work with providers in connection to House Bill 2556 to address inequities in existing education requirements and educational equivalents and extend deadlines for completion. 

Safeguarding the Transition to Kindergarten program by ensuring that rulemaking follows legislative intent. 

Children’s Alliance also supports the following legislative  proposals: 

  • Funding stipends to retain and support experts with lived experience who serve on advisory bodies
  • Addressing the 1% levy growth limit
  • Paying providers for full months of Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) services
  • Banning isolation and mechanical and chemical restraints on children
  • Increasing non-standard hour bonuses to $500
  • Increasing the infant rate enhancement to $500
  • Closing loopholes in the capital gains tax
  • Expanding the definition of “family” under the paid sick leave law to align with the Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) definition
  • Increasing dedicated funding for rural communities
  • Supporting health & safety of agency staff
  • Supporting WCCC eligibility for all providers
  • Increasing coordination between health and early childhood systems
  • Increasing support and access to care in child care deserts
  • Aligning eligibility criteria across key programs to exclude non-taxed income from income eligibility decisions
  • Allowing eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program / Basic Food to mean automatic eligibility for ECEAP and Early ECEAP
  • Improving compensation and benefits packages for providers and their families

Health Equity Initiatives 

Improving youth behavioral health services as recommended by the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group to address the increased demand for intervention and crisis services and the decreased capacity in service delivery as a result of provider and facility shortages. 

Eliminating child marriage in Washington by amending current state law that allows marriages involving minors if certain conditions are met. (House Bill 1455/Senate Bill 5695

Ensuring universal free school meals by expanding current state law to provide free school breakfast and lunch to all students across all public schools. 

Increasing access to oral health care by ensuring that the 2023 dental therapy expansion is implemented according to legislative intent. 

Protecting minors from female genital cutting (FGC) by ensuring that implementation of the 2023 FGC law, which was passed thanks to the leadership of survivors, is effective and follows the legislative intent. 

Progressive Revenue and Economic Justice Initiatives 

Establishing a fairer state tax system by charging a 1% tax on household wealth over $250 million resulting solely from ownership of financial property like stocks and bonds. (House Bill 1473/Senate Bill 5486) 

Creating a statewide pilot program for guaranteed basic income to help those experiencing major life transitions or high economic instability and reduce economic inequality. (House Bill 1405).

Creating a baby bonds program that would help address barriers to wealth accumulation by allowing the state to invest money on behalf of kids from families with low incomes that the kids could use as adults toward postsecondary education, homeownership, and entrepreneurship. (House Bill 1094/Senate Bill 5125

Protecting consumers with low incomes against corporate greed by closing a loophole in state law that allows corporations to profit from unused money on gift cards and corporate rewards apps. 

Defending the capital gains tax by combatting continued efforts by greedy bad actors to keep the wealthiest few from paying their fair share. 

Safeguarding progress made through the Working Families Tax Credit by ensuring that implementation allows for continued success of the program. 


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About the Author

Dr. Stephan Blanford

Dr. Stephan Blanford is Executive Director of the Children's Alliance and has dedicated much of his career to advocacy and policymaking for children and families. He was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Washington Child Care Collaborative Task Force and Dental Therapy Task Force, serves on the national board of Partnership for America’s Children and serves Board Chair for Integrated Schools, a nationwide organization that mobilizes families to practice antiracist school integration.