Best Starts for Kids Health Survey: What we learned about parent support of early child development

Every other year, we ask our community to help us understand the strengths & needs of King County families through the Best Starts for Kids Health Survey (BSKHS), a critical tool to help us understand our impact. However, numbers can only tell us so much. Before the survey opens on June 1, we’re sharing how we partner with communities to help us understand the stories behind the numbers.

This is the 2nd blog post sharing what we learned from our community about parent support of early child development. Read the first blog post here.

In 2017 and 2019, we asked parents and caregivers of babies, toddlers, preschool and grade school aged kids a few brief questions about how they support child development in our Best Starts for Kids Health Survey (BSKHS).  Specifically, we asked how often they practice habits of:

1) Taking turns going back and forth while talking, playing, or exploring

2) Talking about the things they see, hear, and do together, and

3) Responding to children’s sounds, actions, and words.  

Overall in King County 74% of parents and caregivers reported they do all of these activities often, and it was higher for those with children under 5 (80%) compared to those with children 5 to 11 (69%).    

Community Café 2017

It’s important to note that this data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic that has dramatically changed what families’ day to day lives look like.  When BSK Community Liaisons held cafes in 2020 (during the pandemic) with their communities to review and interpret data from the BSK Health Survey, the “support of child development” data point was more reflective compared to other data points, despite concerns around survey methods, inadequate context setting for questions, the effects of the pandemic, and cultural relevance.   

Many American Indian/Alaska Native families felt that the data was pretty accurate, and children were well supported. African American, Chinese and Ethiopian families similarly felt that the data points matched their experiences. However, they also stressed the importance of the pandemic and the impact on community interactions: “there isn’t as much time now compared to pre-COVID.” 

The Pasifika community felt that a survey was not the best way to capture these insights and that words used were not culturally relevant. There was a need to “use words that [are] ours,” “allow us to speak on what our experiences are and let us be heard.” 

Korean families also felt that while parents may know how to raise kids, they face barriers in applying that knowledge.  

Most Latino participants felt that the data was “surprisingly high, and thought more like 2 out of 4 would do this.” They theorized that parents who took the survey might have been participants in parenting programs and overrepresented in the survey data.  

“Most interact at night, but they discussed a lack of time to interact with children because of work or the number of children they had.”

Latino Café participant 

Russian families stressed the importance of context behind the surveys: immigrant families might be working longer hours, and thus have less time to spend with kids. Regardless, many felt the data was not accurate because they “play games and spend a lot of time together outside,” and tend to be more critical of themselves compared to reality. There was also a call for after-school programs and non-profit oriented programs to provide supports that parents could not.  

“When my kids were little, I would interact with them more. As they got older, I would do it less. But I try to read with my kids, even my older children every night. Maybe not as often as I would like, but I try. I try to read to him and tell him stories about my childhood. My kids enjoy my stories. It also depends on how I’m feeling, but I think I do enough.”

Russian Café participant 

Somali families emphasized the importance of culture—some thought 80% of parents promoted child development through these activities, but immigrant parents who had been here longer were better at promoting early childhood education for kids compared to recent immigrants due to “cultural beliefs and influence of how they were raised.” 

LGBTQ2+ parents wanted to see demographic breakdowns by race, class, education, but generally felt that they would be engaged in all these activities as an educated group.  Because LGBTQ2+ parents had, in many cases, already overcome many obstacles to becoming parents, they felt they were prepared to put similar effort into parenting their children.  

The topic of supporting child development is extremely important for BSK to keep learning about, so we will keep working with our partners and participants to find the best way to measure it for the communities in King County, and are planning to include more ways of gathering data in addition to the survey. 

For an example of how BSK invests in communities to support child development, check out our recent blog about Kaleidoscope Play and Learn.

Please contact if you have further questions, and keep an eye out for the next blog in the series to learn more about how communities experience school environments!

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