COVID-19 Support Grants for Child Care Providers

DSS is issuing an application for the fourth round of Child Care Operating Grants to help child care providers that
have had to close or have lost revenue due to low enrollments during the last several months as a result of
COVID-19. This grant opportunity is available to assist providers in paying for their child care facility expenses,
including rent/mortgage payments, utility bills, cleaning or sanitation costs, and personnel costs which may
include salary increases, retention bonuses, etc.

Read full details below …

First Steps 4K + Siblings, in partnership with DSS, will extend child care and after-school scholarships for up to 52 weeks, to ANY siblings, age 0-12, of a First Steps 4K enrolled student

Siblings of four-year-olds enrolled in the First Steps 4K program now qualify for child care scholarships thanks to a partnership between SC First Steps and the SC Department of Social Services. 

First Steps 4K provides free four-year-old kindergarten to eligible children in more than 200 private child care centers in South Carolina. This new scholarship program, called “First Steps 4K + Siblings”, will extend free child care and after-school scholarships to any sibling, age 0-12, of an enrolled student. 

“This is a transformative opportunity for families,” said Georgia Mjartan, executive director of SC First Steps. “With First Steps 4K + Siblings, parents will be able to fully return to work or school, knowing that all of their children are learning and growing in a safe, nurturing environment.” 

“We all agree that high quality early education benefits both children and their families, and DSS stands ready to lead with First Steps to implement this partnership,” said DSS State Director Michael Leach. “Under the First Steps 4K + Siblings voucher program, DSS will provide 12 months of child care vouchers for younger and older siblings of a 4K eligible child. Parents will not be charged a co-pay, and there is no work, school, or training requirement or income limit for families enrolled in the 4K + Siblings program.” 

First Steps 4K currently serves 2,209 children in 211 centers across 40 counties. Based on these enrollment numbers, First Steps estimates that more than 1,300 families will benefit from the new scholarship program during the 2021-2022 academic year. Scholarships will go into effect starting August 16, 2021. 

Families can apply for both First Steps 4K and First Steps 4K + Siblings at Free4KSC.org. Sibling scholarships can be applied toward enrollment at any licensed child care center that participates in ABC Quality, the state’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system. ABC Quality is administered by the Division of Early Care and Education of the SC Department of Social Services. 

The cost of quality child care is unaffordable for most South Carolina families. According to Child Care Aware of America, the average annual cost of center-based care for two children is $18,031 per year. That’s 21% of the state’s median income for married couples and 69% of the median income for single parents. 

When families have access to safe, reliable full-day child care, they are better able to enter the workforce, pursue education and job training, and boost their earnings. An increase in family income improves outcomes for both parents and children. 

To view a video of the partnership announcement, please click here. For additional information, visit https://www.scfirststeps.org/first-steps-4k-siblings/.

Sign Up for FREE Four-Year-Old Kindergarten!

About First Steps 4K summer programs:

  • Open to rising kindergartners  (age 5 by Sept. 1) and rising 4K students (age 4 by Sept. 1)
  • Classes are in-person, 5 days per week, starting June 1.
  • Many providers offer free extended day options (8 hours).
  • Families can check their eligibility and fill out an application online at Free4KSC.org.

About First Steps 4K 2021-2022 School Year:

  • Open to 4K students (age 4 by Sept. 1)
  • Classes are in-person, 5 days per week, starting August 16.
  • Many providers offer free extended day options (8 hours).
  • Families can check their eligibility and fill out an application online at Free4KSC.org.

About First Steps 4K + SIBLINGS:

  • First Steps 4K + SIBLINGS, in partnership with DSS, will extend child care and after-school scholarships through the SC Voucher Program, for up to 52 weeks, to any siblings, age 0-12, of a First Steps 4K enrolled student.
  • For this scholarship program, a sibling is considered any child that lives in the same home as the First Steps 4K enrolled student. 
  • Sibling scholarships can be applied toward enrollment at any licensed child care center or afterschool program that participates in ABC Quality, the state’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system.
  • Families can express their interest in a + SIBLINGS scholarship by completing a First Steps 4K Student Application at Free4KSC.org.

COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program

Through SCThrive, this COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program is designed to provide emergency rental assistance to South Carolinians facing financial hardships as a result of the coronavirus crisis — in cooperation with the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority.

Go here to apply now!

Ready – Set – Go

Jasper County First Steps is ready! Ready to engage. Ready to empower. Ready to educate.

Duchette Hylton, Executive Director

The release of the year one Kindergarten Readiness Assessment results for Jasper County has definitely shed a light on the ongoing and critical need for organizations that serve young children to engage, empower and educate. An our efforts must be multi-faceted, targeted, and intentional.

Ready to Engage – We must be ready to engage and convene key stakeholders to address areas of need, such as educators (school district, HeadStart, private child care providers), support agencies (ABC Quality, CCCCD, CCR&R, etc), and business partners (employers of parents) to work toward common objectives.

Ready to Empower – We must empower parents to advocate for the well-being of their children in areas of health, social exposure, and academic readiness. Parents must know that they should have an expectation that systems do not fail their children; and parents must know that they are their children’s first and most important teacher.

Ready to educate – We must take seriously our mandate to get children ready. Ready to learn, ready to grow, ready to thrive in kindergarten and beyond. For every child who enters a formal educational, social service, or community action environment, we must be ready to give that child what they need from us to be able to be assessed as “demonstrating”. Its time for Jasper County to be on the bottom of the state only on a map. But our children must rise to the top.

So we are ready… are you?