SC Summit on Early Childhood - SC First Steps

SC Summit on Early Childhood

Join us for the state’s premier early childhood conference presented annually by South Carolina First Steps and the Early Childhood Advisory Council.


The 2023 Summit on Early Childhood theme is “We Are Family: Building our Future Together.” Plenaries, training and workshops reflect the two-generation approach, an approach that supports success for both parents and children. Conference activities include a special message from pediatrician Dr. Dana Suskind and a full day of learning, sharing, and connecting. Dr. Raquel Hatter, Kresge Foundation, will open the morning session. In addition to renowned speakers and expert-led sessions, hallmarks of the Summit tradition, the day will conclude with family-friendly comedy about the joys and challenges of parenting from Zlata Cass.

The SC Summit on Early Childhood is designed to pique the interest of parents, state leaders, early childhood professionals and advocates, no matter their area of influence or expertise. Since 2015 the Summit has provided not only high quality professional development that meets the needs of early childhood professionals, but also a platform to share strategies, research, and dialogue that supports and fosters a strong foundation for South Carolina’s children and their families.

Thursday, December 7 | 9 a.m. - 3:45 p.m. |

DoubleTree by Hilton Columbia S.C.

Space is limited.

Featured Speakers

Dr. Raquel Hatter

Dr. Dana Suskind

Zlata Cass

Conference schedule

8:00 a.m. Registration | Pre-conference breakfast networking

Enjoy a light breakfast with pre-conference networking.

9:00 a.m. Morning Plenary

Georgia Mjartan, Executive Director of South Carolina First Steps and Early Childhood Advisory Council, opens the Summit.

S.C. Family Voice Council holds a panel discussion on the topics planned for the day. 

Dr. Raquel Hatter, Kresge Foundation, delivers the morning keynote presentation.

Dr. Raquel Hatter is the is managing director of the Human Services Program at The Kresge Foundation, which seeks to advance social and economic mobility with an applied racial equity lens driven by a two-generation, whole-family approach. Prior to joining The Kresge Foundation, Hatter served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services where she identified ways to improve the outcomes for individuals and families across various support systems including child support, TANF, SNAP and vocational rehabilitation. This work included integrating a two-generation approach throughout the state with public and community-based organizations.

11:00 a.m. Morning Breakout Session


Breakout Session -
Option #1

Facilitator: Leesa Aiken, SC State Library
Panelists: Wendy Burgess, SC Department of Education
Kenna Hoover, SC First Steps,
Leigh Ramey, SC State Library

Best Practices for Reading with Young Children/ Lap Reading

Parents and families play a huge part in a young child learning to read, from their earliest moments. In this panel session, moderated by Leesa Aiken, SC State Library Director, early childhood literacy experts will share insights and best practices for early educators to best support parents on their child’s reading journey.

Breakout Session -
Option #2

Presenters: Roddrick Dugger, Ph.D., SC First Steps and ECAC & Lexi Jones, SC First Steps

Can we do this together? Co-creation approaches to program evaluation

Assessing participant satisfaction is important for program improvement. The challenge lies in identifying effective, low-burden strategies to gather and interpret participant perspectives. Discover user-friendly approaches to engage participants throughout the evaluation process in this interactive workshop.

Breakout Session -
Option #3

Facilitator: Heather Googe, Ph.D., SC Child Care Inclusion Collaborative
Panelists: Amy Holbert & Jena Martin, Family Connection SC
Laquanda Clark, Kimberly Tissot & Dori Tempio, Able SC

Disability is Not Different: Building True Inclusion

Children with and without disabilities thrive in high quality early learning settings when families are welcomed as partners in caregiving. From policy development, to enrollment, to everyday routines and activities, to family engagement, it is important that early childhood programs intentionally include strategies that welcome each and every child and their families. This panel presentation will discuss the relationship between ableism and early childhood inclusion including how teachers, directors, and other leaders can support children with disabilities and their parents with or without disabilities in early childhood settings.

Breakout Session -
Option #4


Presenters: Churmell Mitchell, A Father's Voice Matters,
Samanthia M. Valentine, Moore, Valentine & Associates

Spreading H.O.P.E in Health and Social Services

Significant attention has been paid over the last decade to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), the long-term health outcomes associated with childhood trauma, and the correlations between childhood trauma and adult health. The Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences (HOPE) framework encourages all providers who interact with children and families to use a strength-based approach that promotes access to key positive childhood experiences (PCEs). Research has shown that PCEs can mitigate the long-term health outcomes associated with childhood trauma and help create thriving and resilient children. Workshop attendees will learn key components of the framework, methods to create community buy-in, and common barriers and proposed solutions for implementation.

Breakout Session -
Option #5

Presenter: Caitlin Woodward, SC Educational Television

Teaching with PBS KIDS

Do you know about all the wonderful, educational, multicultural, and multigenerational resources provided by PBS KIDS? In this session, participants learn about the many distinct aspects of PBS KIDS and how it can impact your learning community.

Breakout Session -
Option #6

Presenters: Brittany Gandy, MPH, M.S., CHES®, Be Well Care Well - SC Program for Infant & Toddler Care,
Amaris Gibson LPC-A, IMH-E®, SC Infant Mental Health Association

Understanding Self Awareness and Self-Care: From The Lens of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health and Individual Well-Being

Caregivers of young children often find themselves selflessly pouring into the children they care for without awareness of their own mental or emotional wellness. Many caregivers are experiencing the impacts of toxic stress and neglected self-care. In this workshop, participants will be presented with a reflective space to learn about the power of self-awareness and the gift of self-care. Using an infant and early childhood mental health and individual well-being lens, this presentation is designed to support all caregivers, parents, educators, home visitors, and other professionals, who support young children.


12:15 p.m. LUNCH

Enjoy an Italian buffet. This is an opportunity to network and grab a great seat for the lunchtime plenary.

1:00 p.m. Lunchtime Plenary

Details coming soon!

2:15 p.m. Afternoon Breakout Session


Breakout Session -
Option #1

Presenter: Jennie Beck, MLIS, ABBE ( Aiken County, Bamberg County, Barnwell County and Edgefield County) Regional Library System

Pets: Allies in Early Learning

Animals can be powerful allies in education. Explore the types of animal programs that can benefit early learners, how to set up a program responsibly, and research that behind the benefits of learning with animals.

Breakout Session -
Option #2


Delores Rock, SC First Steps
Kendra Fulton, SC Department of Social Services &
Brenda J. Myers, Children's Law Center

Home Visit Safety Workshop

This workshop is designed for professionals who have frequent contact with children and who are mandated reporters.  Panelists will provide an overview of mandated reporter requirements and will discuss home visit safety.

Breakout Session -
Option #3

Presenters: Misty Pearson, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control

Moving the Conversation Outdoors: Encouraging Naturalized Environments that Promote Health, Play, and Learning

The outdoor environment can provide many opportunities for children to participate in quality early childhood education experiences. In this session, the presenter will share how South Carolina is encouraging young children’s access to outdoor environments that provide diverse opportunities for play and learning across all domains of development.

Breakout Session -
Option #4


Annie Fahy, Annie Fahy Consulting

Motivational Interviewing: The conversation is the medicine

Motivational Interviewing is a client-centered counseling method that elicits and then resolves ambivalence so that the client develops their own argument and plan for change. This session will introduce foundational concepts of creating conversations about change. The objective of this session is to motivate participants towards integrating MI into their work.

Breakout Session -
Option #5

Facilitator: Kimberly Tissot, Able South Carolina
Laquanda Clark, Able South Carolina

Parents with Disabilities

Working and learning from Parents with Disabilities is critical when working in the field of childhood as you will either work with children with disabilities or parents with disabilties in your profession. As we know, parenting is hard. Being a parent with a disability can be even harder. Hear from parents how they navigate an early childhood system that wasn't designed for them.

Breakout Session -
Option #6

Facilitator: Valencia Johnson, SC First Steps

AmeriCorps Meet-up

This networking session will provide an opportunity for First Steps AmeriCorps members from across the state to gather and share experiences.


3:30 p.m. Afternoon Plenary

Closing remarks will be shared by Georgia Mjartan. The Summit will close on a light note with a short comedic presentation. 

Presentation by:
Zlata Cass, comedian

Ms. Cass began performing comedy in Columbia, SC in 2016. She recently moved to upstate SC, where she continues to bring her life experiences and storytelling to the stage. Among her favorite comedic subjects are her experiences as a mother, daughter, and friend.

Grateful for our sponsors

Children's Trust of SC SC Department of Health and Human Services SC Department of Social Services
SC Department of Education SC Department of Health and Environmental Control
SC Department of Mental Health SC Educational Television SC State Library Healthy Blue SC
SC Head Start Collaboration Office Institute for Child Success Sisters of Charity Foundation