LOS ANGELES — The parents of every child born in California will receive a free, bilingual parenting kit in an unprecedented statewide education campaign funded by a voter-approved tobacco tax.
The effort, spearheaded by movie director Rob Reiner, is believed to be the first in the country, officials of the California Children and Families Commission said Thursday. It is expected to benefit as many as 500,000 babies a year.
“I am unbelievably excited today to announce the single biggest parent education program in the history of this country,” Reiner, the commission’s chairman, told a news conference at a family center where the kits were unveiled.
Each one includes a guide containing a list of organizations helpful to new parents, as well as information on such subjects as childproofing a home and finding quality child care.
The kits also include a series of celebrity videos taped in both English and Spanish on topics such as child care, safety, nutrition and discipline.
The videos, done by such celebrities as Gloria Estefan, Maria Shriver, Phylicia Rashad, Andy Garcia and Jamie Lee Curtis, are available in both English and Spanish.
Garcia, who narrated a Spanish tape on safety, said he was proud to be part of the program.
“What a noble thing to be doing,” he said. “If one life is saved, it’s worth it.”
A pilot project showed 94 percent of parents who used the tapes found them helpful, with 74 percent reporting they would be “very likely” to use them again, commission officials said.
Forty-eight percent of new mothers reported changing their thoughts on child-rearing as a result.
Jessica Roosinisalda, who has a 1-month-old son, said she wished she had the information sooner.
“Had I had the manual, it would have been a lot easier those first few days,” she said.
The kits are being paid for by the 50-cents-a-pack tobacco tax voters approved in 1998.
The commission has projected a first-year cost of $25 million, with $15.6 million dedicated to advertising alone.
The campaign will include a series of television, radio and newspaper ads in 11 languages encouraging parents to get the kits.
They will be distributed at family centers and hospitals throughout California in the weeks ahead. Close to 40,000 will be handed out in Los Angeles County alone in the coming weeks.
Reiner, who spearheaded the campaign to pass the tobacco tax initiative, said the kits will fill a key need in building a solid future for children.
“We know based on years of research that the earliest years are the most critical,” he said. “We need to get this information to parents and give them the tools that they need.”