South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness was created in 1999 by the South Carolina General Assembly for the purpose of having every child in South Carolina arrive at kindergarten ready to learn. Sadly, many South Carolina children possess one or more risk factors that put them at high risk (greater than a 1 in 3 chance) for “early school failure” – either being retained or scoring below grade level in reading or math – by third grade.

First Steps exists to bring together efforts in early childhood at the state and local level, public and private, to focus and intensify services and assure the most efficient use of all available resources to serve the needs of South Carolina’s young children and their families.

First Steps works to accomplish its mission through a state coordinating office and a network of county partnerships (46), each a private non-profit organization led by a board of early childhood stakeholders. With a modest recurring appropriation of state funding, First Steps leverages cash and in-kind resources at the federal, state and local level to improve services for young children in five strategy areas:

Family Strengthening
A parent is a child’s first and best teacher.

Healthy Start
Children’s development and ability to learn are profoundly impacted by their health.

Quality Child Care
Access to high-quality care is a critical component of a child’s healthy development.

Early Education
Quality preschool opportunities set the stage for success in school.

School Transition
Preparing children and parents for a successful transition into full-day kindergarten.

Each First Steps county partnership determines how to spend its funds based on an annual needs and resources assessment and collaboration with community partners to fill gaps in local services for young children and their families. First Steps has proven its impact through strong program and fiscal accountability and independent evaluations every three years - a requirement of its enabling legislation.

All programs that receive First Steps funding - whether they are operated by a First Steps county partnership or a collaborating partner, such as a school district – must adhere to program standards that require programs to be research-based and operated with fidelity; staff who have appropriate qualifications, training, and supervision; services to be comprehensive and coordinated with available community resources; standard assessment instruments that document client outcomes; and programs that target services to children most at risk for not being developmentally ready for school.

First Steps is the lead agency for BabyNet, South Carolina’s early intervention system for children under 3. Parents of children 0-2 years old with disabilities or suspected developmental delays should contact their local BabyNet office to schedule an evaluation.  To contact BabyNet in Kershaw County please call (843) 669-8689.