State officials unveil plan to strengthen early childhood system

File photo of toddlers playing with blocks.
File photo of toddlers playing with blocks.(Pexels)
Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 2:11 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State leaders met with Governor Henry McMaster at the statehouse Thursday to unveil a plan to strengthen the state’s early childhood system and launch a new website for families.

The new website is called First Five SC and has information about 60 early childhood programs from 10 state agencies that include child care, health, early intervention, nutrition and parent support services. A form on the website will tell parents if their child is eligible for certain programs.

“Our goal is, and always has been, to make sure all of our children enter kindergarten ready to learn, and I’m grateful for the South Carolinians who came together to develop this plan that will help us realize that goal,” said McMaster. “Part of that is understanding that parents are busy and that they don’t always have the time to search dozens of websites, hoping to find the appropriate services for their child. Now, we’ve addressed that by establishing an online portal that will serve as a one-stop-shop to match families with programs and services that will help with their children’s development.”

The SC Early Childhood Advisory Council developed a plan that can be read here.

The four key goals of the plan are:

  • South Carolina’s youngest children are healthy and safe.
  • South Carolina’s youngest children are actively supported by their families and communities.
  • South Carolina’s youngest children arrive at school ready to reach their highest potential.
  • South Carolina’s early childhood system is aligned, coordinated, and family-centered.

“This plan serves as our call to action,” said David Morley, chair of the SC Early Childhood Advisory Council. “With strategic investment and continued collaboration, we can expand access to the programs and services that work and ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Officials say the plan was developed using input from thousands of parents and caregivers through surveys and focus groups.

“Families understand what they need and want better than anyone else,” said Georgia Mjartan, executive director South Carolina First Steps, which operates the ECAC. “In South Carolina, we have great choices for families. First Five SC makes it easier for families to understand their options and find the support they need, want, and deserve – programs that ensure babies are born healthy, parents have great, affordable, child care options, and preschoolers are given the learning opportunities they need to be ready for success in school. This is the most comprehensive early childhood portal in the nation.”

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