toddler working on a puzzle

Overview of Proposition 10

Proposition 10 – The Children and Families Act of 1998

In November 1998, California voters passed Proposition 10, the “Children and Families Act of 1998” initiative, which then became effective on January 1, 1999. The act levies a tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products in order to provide funding for early childhood development programs. The ultimate goal is to enhance the early growth experiences of children, enabling them to be more successful in school and ultimately to give them an equal opportunity to succeed in life. Revenues generated from the tobacco tax will be used for the following purposes:

  • To create a comprehensive and integrated delivery system of information and services to promote early childhood development;
  • Provide funds to existing community based centers or establish new centers that focus on parenting education, child health and wellness, early child care and education, and family support services; and
  • Educate Californians via a statewide multimedia campaign on the importance of early childhood development and smoking cessation.

Tobacco tax revenues are accumulated in a designated trust fund to meet the needs of children ages prenatal to 5 throughout the state. Almost $600 million per year is being placed in this trust fund. 80% of these funds are then allocated to the 58 counties of the state according to the live birth rate of each county, according to the birth mother’s county of residence. The remaining 20% of the money is directed to statewide programs, research, and media campaigns.

The Importance of Early Childhood Development

Young children learn and grow because of the key role their parents play in their development. Although a wide range of individuals and institutions impact the health and well-being of young children, the role of parents is paramount. Parenting is much more important during the ages birth to five than we once believed. By providing children with safe, nurturing and stimulating environments, parents and caregivers influence long-term growth and development during these important early years.

During the first three years of a child’s life, the early physical architecture of a child’s brain is established. Research has proven a number of important points:

  • At birth, the brain is remarkably unfinished. The parts of the brain that handle thinking and remembering as well as emotional and social behavior are very underdeveloped.
  • In the early years, a child develops basic brain and physiological structures upon which later growth and learning are dependent.
  • The brain operates on a “use it or lose it” principle. Emotionally and socially as well, the child develops many of the abilities upon which later social functioning is based.
  • The brain matures in the world, rather than in the womb; thus young children are deeply affected by their experiences.
  • Their relationships with parents and other important caregivers; the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings they encounter; and the challenges they meet, affect the way a child’s brain develops.

The early years of a child’s life form the foundation for later development. Attention to young children is a powerful means of preventing later difficulties such as developmental delays and disturbances. Physical, mental, social, and emotional development and learning are interrelated. Progress in one area affects progress in the others. This means we must pay attention to all of the needs of children, including:

  • Physical development: Meeting children’s basic needs for protection, nutrition and health care.
  • Cognitive development and social-emotional development: Meeting children’s basic human needs for affection, security, social participation and interaction with others, as well as educational needs through intellectual stimulation, exploration, imitation, trial and error, discovery and active involvement in learning and experimentation within a safe and stimulating environment.

These early childhood development needs are the basis for Proposition 10, the California Children and Families Act.

Strategic Results Sought by Proposition 10

Activities sponsored with Proposition 10 funds are expected to focus specifically on children prenatal to age 5 and their families. Further, according to state level guidelines that have been established, four strategic results should be pursued:

1. Improved Child Health: Healthy Children. Children who are healthy in mind, body and spirit grow up confidant on their ability to live a fulfilling, productive life. Healthy children have sufficient nutrition, health care, nurturing and guidance, and mental stimulation, and they live in families and communities that value them. The research on child development and the impact of the early years emphasizes the importance of children beginning life with healthy nutrition and healthy environments.

2. Improved Child Development: Children Learning and Ready for School. The importance of preparing children to succeed in school is critical. The role of education in a child’s later ability to create a healthy, fulfilling life has been well documented. Skills that allow one to problem solve and think creatively are developed in early childhood education settings and nurtured through community and parental reinforcement. The National Association of Elementary School Principals has stated that “better childhoods” would be the single greatest contributor to improvement in school achievement.

3. Improved Family Functioning: Strong Families. Successful and strong families are those who are able to provide for the physical, mental and emotional develop­ment of their children. Young children are entirely dependent upon caregivers for survival and nurturing. It is the interaction of the parent or primary caregiver with the child that shapes the child’s view of himself or herself as an individual capable of interacting with the world and achieving desired outcomes from that interaction. Parents and caregivers provide the foundation for a child’s ability to create successful relationships, solve problems and carry out responsibilities. Children who are encouraged to develop a strong self-concept from an early age are more likely to achieve a productive and fulfilling life.

4. Improved Systems: Integrated, Consumer-Oriented, Accessible Services. Many parents and caregivers with young children have difficulty in accessing existing forms of assistance, much less being able to learn about and utilize new services that are introduced. Proposition 10 therefore included a mandate that strategic plans created by County Children and Families Commissions must show how each county will promote integration, linkage and coordination among programs, service providers, revenue resources, professionals, community organizations and residents. Further, services must be available in a culturally competent manner, embracing the differences in cultures and languages within the county. The system of children and family services should also recognize the challenges faced by families whose children have disabilities or other special needs, and work to make services more accessible to these families.

These four strategic results served as the initial basis for strategic plans that are developed at both the state and county levels.

Components of the Proposition 10 System

Proposition 10 created two types of entities through changes to state law – a state-level entity called the California Children and Families Commission (often referred to as the State Commission or First 5 California) that operates as an agency within the State of California governmental system, and county-level Children and Families Commissions within each of the 58 counties in California. Later, in June 2000, a statewide association now called the First 5 Association of California (previously, the California Children and Families Association) was created to bring together the 58 County Commissions. Each of these entities is briefly described below.

State Commission. The State Commission initiates, funds and oversees statewide projects to enhance various types of services related to early childhood development, conducts research on state-level issues and programmatic best practices, sponsors extensive media and public education campaigns, provides technical assistance to the 58 County Commissions, monitors legislation related to early childhood development issues, and serves various other roles to benefit children and families throughout the state.

County Commissions. The duties of each County Commission include evaluating the current and projected needs of young children and their families, developing a strategic plan that promotes a comprehensive and integrated system of early childhood development services that addresses community needs, determining how to expend local monies available from the state Children and Families Trust Fund, and evaluating the effectiveness of programs and activities funded in accordance with the strategic plan. A requirement of the state laws governing the County Commissions is to ensure that money from the Children and Families Trust Fund is not used to replace or “supplant” existing local funding for programs and services. In other words, Proposition 10 funds must be used to increase the level of services available.

The main statutory mandates that govern the work of the State and County Commissions are contained in California Health and Safety Code sections 130100-130155 together with Revenue and Taxation Code sections 30131-30131.6.

First 5 Association of California. The Association is a nonprofit membership organization comprised of all 58 County Children and Families Commissions along with other groups that are also dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children and families. Roles of the association include creating a collective voice for the 58 County Commissions on policy issues, facilitating information sharing and communications among the counties and between the County Commissions and the State Commission, providing resources and assistance related to Proposition 10 implementation, and promoting collaborative efforts between the County Commissions and many other partners who share an interest in early childhood development.

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