FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The annual Kids Count survey ranks South Carolina as 42nd in the nation for the well-being of our children.
According to the study, poverty and education are the main factors holding South Carolina kids back. The study analyzes economic well-being, education, family and community, and health into these rankings. The report states 27 percent of the Palmetto state's children live in poverty, 59 percent of kids of preschool age aren't attending preschool, and 43 percent of all kids in South Carolina live in single-parent homes.
"This study gives us a lot of information about that and what is generally happening in South Carolina across the board," said Dr. Floyd Creech, the early childhood coordinator for Florence County School District 1. "But then we try to look at it and localize it and design programs for the kids that are going to help them overcome the barriers that they face in the environment."
School leaders in the Pee Dee and the Grand Strand acknowledge the overwhelming problem and that there is not an easy fix. But the early childhood development programs at FSCD1 are working to take care of young kids before they even get to school.
"We knew we had to go back to birth because education really starts at birth," said Dr. Creech. "So what we do, we look at the conditions in families."
Teachers and social workers are hired by FCSD1 to visit families with children ages zero to five years old. The educators help parents interact with their children to promote learning from a young age. Dr. Creech said the district is doing about 350 home visits currently.
"We talk to the parent about what their needs are," said Dr. Creech. "More as a support to the parent. We're not telling them how to raise their child. We're just telling them what's good for their child's well-being."
Lela Gregg signed her child William up for home visits when he was just two years old.
"I think the earlier you start, the more comfortable the child gets," said Gregg. "So when he gets to being in school or school-age in kindergarten, he is more confident and comfortable with himself."
During one visit, Miss Singleterry, from FCSD1, brought an activity and a new book for Will to try. Gregg read the Dr. Seuss book out loud to Will. Afterwards, she and Miss Singleterry asked Will questions to help him process the letters and animals he learned in the book.
"So what's the first letter?" Gregg asked Will. "A!" he shouted.
The activity helped Will work on his fine motor skills. And it was something that Gregg could make on her own with a belt, tissue box, and ball.
"Just seeing how excited he gets to learn," said Gregg with little Will on her lap, "That has just been the best thing for me. Because when I teach him at home, it's different when you're a parent trying to show your kid things. But when Miss Singleterry comes, he just gets so excited. And when she leaves, he's like, 'Okay we have to do it again, mom. Where's the book!'"
Gregg says Will likes to have homework each week, just like his four older sisters. But she says her daughters' homework definitely isn't as fun. Will is now three years old and gets very excited for Miss Singleterry's visits every two weeks.
The school district budgets $2.5 million on the early childhood development program each year, including the home visits.
"Every parent loves their child," said Dr. Creech. "So giving them these little clues along the way is so rewarding. Our programs are as much concerned about the families as they are about the child. The family is sort of the microcosm of where the child grows up and learns. Children are a result of their environment and how they're raised and who works with them."
The Kids Count survey also details statistics by county if you would like to look further into the research.
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