SC receives $3.5 million grant to help expand early childhood programs

SC receives $3.5 million grant to help expand early childhood programs

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina Department of Social Services has been awarded a $3.5 million one-year federal Preschool Development Grant to find and identify early childhood education services for parents.

In a press release, DSS stated the grant will pay for an “assessment of all services available to children from birth through age 5 statewide, with an aim of identifying the gaps where needs are not addressed and how to better align existing services.”

The department will work with other early childcare services, including S.C. First Steps, to help identify and streamline programs, like one to one teaching aimed at young children, especially those from low-income families.

Spencer Scott, Florence, and Marion County First Steps Executive Director said there’s a need for more services in this part of the state where funds are lower than other areas like Greenville or Columbia.

“We identify a lot of the kids and not having the funding to serve it hurts their ability to get a good education,” Scott said.

One of the programs the state will expand is the organization’s Countdown to Kindergarten initiative. It’s a 6-week program that allows the teacher and child to build a relationship by visiting the child’s home before school starts.

“So that first day of being nervous, the drop-off, the child crying and screaming, don’t want to leave home, don’t want to leave the parent that goes away,” he said.

The grant will also help fund a website or portal where parents can find specific programs in their community that meet the needs of their children.

"You can go to the website, you can go to the app so this gives more opportunity, more resources to find opportunities for their kids,” Scott said.

It’s opportunities, Scott said, that will help lead children away from the school to prison pipeline and instead to a brighter future.

"It’s similar to building a house. If you don’t have that foundation, the house is going to crumble,” he said. “That helps them to stay in school, love school and face issues more aggressively as I like to say when it comes dealing with emotional and social environments.”

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