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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

A Helping Hand for Parents

February 23, 2003

Orange County public television station KOCE is taking on the role of expert grandparent in a live, 26-episode series titled "Help Me Grow." It's a particularly smart programming move for the station, which, like the parents it seeks to help, has floundered in recent years.

With this new series, which began Friday, KOCE distinguishes itself as a locally based public station with a bent toward community service. The show, featuring a panel of experts to answer viewer calls, also reaches out to the county's growing Latino population, providing information sorely needed by the county's many poor immigrant families.

How many children ages 4 and 5 are riding in cars restrained only by an adult seat belt? And how many of their parents know that this is punishable by a $100 fine? California law changed a year ago to require a car seat for children up to 6 years and 60 pounds.

It's time for preschool. What does a good child-care center look like? Do parents know they're entitled to see the inspection records? How do they get those?

These are fundamental questions, but many Orange County parents lack the answers. In a peripatetic place where grandparents often live too far to consult, many parents are lost when it comes to knowing the proper age for a child's first dental exam or whether that suspect behavior is really normal for a 3-year-old.

The subject matter may be ages-old, but KOCE is venturing into new ground to bring "Help Me Grow" to target audiences. After the initial series in English, it will be rerun in Spanish via the SAP channel.

The program is funded by Proposition 10 tobacco taxes and will include a bank of multilingual phone operators who are trained to refer viewers to social service providers. The station is providing 100 TV sets and VCRs to community organizations, Head Start preschools and employee lunchrooms so parents can watch and participate in the broadcasts. Those sites also will receive free tapes to record the series for future viewing.

The concept is simple, but the result is a wealth of information, economically delivered.

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