SC First Steps invests over $1 million to support families with young children during the COVID-19 crisis

South Carolina First Steps has awarded over $850,000 in grants and invested an additional $190,000 in support for an AmeriCorps service program to meet the needs of young children and families in South Carolina. Awarded competitively to local First Steps partnerships in 15 counties, the funds will be used to expand evidence-based parenting programs, family support services, and community outreach efforts.

“This major investment comes at a critical time for young children and families in our state,” said SC First Steps Executive Director Georgia Mjartan. “We know that access to child care is limited, social networks are strained, and parents are overwhelmed.”

The agency recently asked SC families with young children to complete a survey assessing the impact of COVID-19 on child care needs. Among the 2,431 responses, 59% of parents and caregivers say they are more stressed and anxious than usual. The same percentage worry that their young children are missing out on important developmental opportunities, such as socialization and learning.

“First Steps is uniquely positioned to address this issue,” Mjartan said. “Our local partnerships have the training and experience to support parents where they are, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to succeed in being their child’s first and best teacher. We are pleased to award these grants, knowing that they will have a direct and lasting impact on young children and their families.”

Eight grantees plan to use the funds to expand the reach of home visiting programs including Parents as TeachersTriple P – Positive Parenting Program, and Early Steps to School Success. Three additional grantees will launch new programs in their communities: Nurturing Parenting in Dorchester and Berkeley Counties, and Nurse-Family Partnership in Pickens County. All programs are evidence-based and utilize voluntary home visiting as a strategy for providing intensive, one-on-one support to parents.

In addition to expanding the reach of services currently offered by First Steps, the grants will introduce to the state an internationally-recognized parenting model proven to be effective in improving school readiness. HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) is an evidence-based home visiting program that emphasizes a peer-to-peer, parent-to-parent approach.

To support First Steps partnerships in expanding their offerings, the grant awards provide grantees with the funding and support to deploy part-time AmeriCorps members as parent educators, family support specialists, and community outreach specialists. First Steps is now recruiting applicants across the state for a 10-month term of AmeriCorps service beginning October 1. An online application is available at

“Recruiting a diverse cadre of AmeriCorps members will allow us to expand access to services for young children and families, and to do so in a way that reflects the diversity of our state and builds on the skills, knowledge, and experiences that exist within the communities we serve,” said Mjartan.

The First Steps AmeriCorps program is funded by a three-year grant from the United Way Association of South Carolina. Additional funding for the grant program comes from the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5), a federal grant awarded to the South Carolina Department of Social Services by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, and from private contributions. South Carolina First Steps is a primary partner for the PDG B-5 grant and provided 100% of the required state matching funds.

Below is a list of the grantees, their funded programs and AmeriCorps positions, and the total value of their awards:

Bamberg County First Steps: Parents as Teachers expansion ($71,500)

Barnwell County First Steps: Parents as Teachers funding; 1 1200-hour AmeriCorps position; 2 900-hour AmeriCorps positions; and HIPPY program support ($48,865)

Berkeley County First Steps: Nurturing Parenting (new); 2 900-hour AmeriCorps positions; HIPPY program support ($98,967)

Tri-County First Steps (Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester): 1 1200-hour AmeriCorps position ($9,450)

Colleton County First Steps: 1 900-hour AmeriCorps positions; and HIPPY program support ($13,750)

Dillon County First Steps: Nurturing Parenting expansion ($51,915)

Dorchester County First Steps: Nurturing Parenting (new) ($50,071)

Greenville County First Steps: Triple P Level 4 expansion ($78,000)

Marion County First Steps: 2 900-hour AmeriCorps positions; and HIPPY program support ($27,500)

Newberry County First Steps: Parents as Teachers expansion; 2 900-hour AmeriCorps positions; HIPPY program support ($87,575)

Orangeburg County First Steps: Early Steps to School Success expansion; 1 900-hour AmeriCorps position; HIPPY program support ($91,750)

Pickens County First Steps: Nurse-Family Partnership (new); 1 900-hour AmeriCorps position ($85,250)

Richland County First Steps: 5 900-hour AmeriCorps positions; HIPPY program support ($61,750)

Williamsburg County First Steps: 1 675-hour AmeriCorps position ($5,143)

York County First Steps: Parents as Teachers expansion ($78,500)

Total Grant Awards: $859,986
Support for 19 AmeriCorps members: $82,671
Support for HIPPY program $106,880
Total investment by SC First Steps: $1.05M

Topics: Local Partnerships, Home Visiting, Parenting, 2Gen

More Press Release Posts

SC First Steps announces Early Childhood Innovation Grants

Read More

South Carolina First Steps has awarded competitive grants totaling $282,731 to seven local First Steps nonprofits as part of its Early Childhood Innovation Grants program. The funding will expand programs and services that help prepare children for kindergarten.

$14.7 million in Federal Education Relief Awarded to First Steps for Early Childhood Health, Education, and Parenting

Read More

July 28, 2021, State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced the South Carolina Department of Education will provide $14.7 million in ESSER III funding over the next three years to carry out early childhood initiatives in partnerships with South Carolina First Steps. The initiatives, which range from expanding pre-kindergarten education and home visiting programs to supporting infant and toddler health interventions and developmental screenings, will allow 25,000 children, parents, and caregivers to have access to resources and supports proven to improve education and health outcomes. Funding will expand the reach of Countdown to Kindergarten and Countdown to 4K, deepen the impact of afterschool and summer language and literacy programs for First Steps 4K students, expand evidence-based parenting programs for children birth through five and their families with a particular focus on families of infants and toddlers including Parents as Teachers and Early Steps, and establish or sustain Healthy Steps and PASOs early childhood health interventions based at primary care clinics and in the community. Read the press release for more details.

South Carolina First Steps awards $17,664,476 in grants to support children’s healthy development and school readiness

Read More

South Carolina First Steps has awarded its largest funding amount in more than 15 years - $17,664,476 in grants to its network of 46 local First Steps partnerships. A combination of state, federal and private dollars, the funds will directly impact more than 30,000 children and will expand parenting programs, increase the quality of child care, support positive transitions between early childhood and elementary school, and improve the health of South Carolina’s youngest citizens.