Children’s mental health & child care remain critical issues

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The trees have really embraced the transition to fall here in the Pacific Northwest. But for many of our students, transitioning back to in-person school after the COVID closures has been challenging and mental health concerns are on the rise. While it takes time to expand the mental health workforce and services for youth, we have begun the work and are committed to it!

The fall has also been challenging for parents returning to work but still finding child care difficult to find and afford. Updates on the significant steps the Legislature took this year through the Fair Start for Kids Act are below.

Mental Health for Kids and Youth

I am honored to chair the Children, Youth and Families Committee with jurisdiction over children’s mental health issues. Just this week, we had a two-hour work session on children’s mental health, hearing from impacted families, providers, and experts in the field. Watch the work session on TVW. In addition, here are some resources and information you may find useful!

  • If your child is struggling with mental health issues, you can call the Washington Mental Health Referral Service for Children and Teens, which we expanded in the 2021 Session. This service connects families with mental health providers in their community that work with your insurance and fit your child’s treatment needs. Families can call 833-303-5437, Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, to connect with a referral specialist.
  • This year, we funded $250k for scholarships for the UW Master’s in Applied Child and Adolescent Psychology to expand and diversify the provider network in the state. It must be easier to find providers that meet the needs of our youth, whether it be language access, cultural awareness, or availability.
  • UW Bothell and the Renton School District have been collaborating to bring mental health training and awareness to all educators in the school buildings. We hope to expand that program to other school districts in the future to help support our youth!

Children's Mental Health

Child Care Changes from Fair Start for Kids Act Now Live

On October 1st, many aspects of the Fair Start for Kids Act–the legislation I sponsored to make child care more affordable and accessible–went into effect. They benefit parents, caregivers, and students!

Fair Start for Kids

For families

Increased income eligibility and copay reductions in accessing the Working Connections Child Care program are key provisions of Fair Start for Kids:

  • A family of four can now earn up to $5,139 per month (or nearly $62,000 annually) and qualify for assistance.
  • The maximum copay will be $115 a month. Many families will pay less.
  • Call the Child Care Subsidy Contact Center at 1-844-626-8687 or apply online to find out if you are eligible.

For providers

There are major new supports for providers in the Fair Start for Kids Act and from federal funds.

  • Child care providers can now get subsidies to help cover health insurance premiums through the Washington Health Care Authority. For more information, call 509-574-0826 or email to find out if you are eligible.
  • $400 million in sustainability grants for child care providers are now available for child care centers, family homes, and family, friends and neighbors! The grants can help with increased costs, COVID expenses, staffing supports and more. Apply now!
  • Is your community or child care business looking for capital funds to expand your facility or build a new one? Check out the Early Learning Facilities Grants that the Legislature expanded this year to over $50 million.

I hope you have a great fall, that kids 5-11 become eligible for COVID vaccinations soon and that our communities stay healthy! Let’s look out for each other across our community and across our state!


Senn Sig

Rep. Tana Senn