First Steps 4K - SC First Steps

First Steps 4K

First Steps 4K offers free, full-day four-year-old kindergarten to qualifying children in South Carolina. We partner with more than 270 licensed child care centers and private schools across the state, making it easy for families to find a high-quality program that meets their needs.

PLUS! First Steps 4K students and their siblings, ages 0-12, are now eligible for child care and after-school scholarships for up to 52 weeks. Learn more here.

Check Eligibility

Check to see if your child is eligible for the First Steps 4K program

Find a Program

Find a First Steps 4K Program near you

Apply Now

Submit an application to enroll in the First Steps 4K program


To be eligible, a child must be:

  • 4 years old on or before September 1 of the school year you are applying to.
  • Eligible for Medicaid, free/reduced-price lunch, or SNAP/TANF recipient; experiencing homelessness or transiency; or in foster care
  • A resident of South Carolina
  • Students and their siblings now qualify for child care scholarships thanks to a partnership between SC First Steps and the SC Department of Social Services. Learn more here.

 First Steps 4K +

  • First Steps 4K students qualify for free extended care scholarships (before- and after-school)
  • Siblings, ages 0-12, of enrolled First Steps 4K students qualify for child care and after-school scholarships
  • 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.
  • Learn more here!

How It Works

Families can select the private, community-based, or faith-based program of their choice. All First Steps 4K programs are in-person, 5 days per week, throughout the school year. Most providers offer a full day (8 hour) program and/or operate year-round, continuing through summer.

Find a Program

Target Outcomes

Research shows that children who attend a high-quality preschool program are more successful in kindergarten and beyond. First Steps 4K aims to increase participation, quality, and professional development in private, community-based, and faith-based 4K programs across the state.

Community Impact


children served with the First Steps 4K program in 2023-2024.


approved First Steps 4K program providers in 2023-2024.

More Programs in Early Care & Education

Early Care & Education

Quality Enhancement

Intensive support to child care centers, Head Start and preschool classrooms to improve quality

Early Care & Education

Quality Counts

Quality Counts is a community-based child care quality improvement strategy, designed to build and sustain high quality in early care and education programs.

Early Care & Education

Child Care Scholarships

Eligible children receive tuition-free enrollment at quality child care centers

Early Care & Education

Child Care

Providing local families with access to high-quality early care and education.

Early Care & Education

Early Head Start

Nationally, Early Head Start programs serve over 160,000 children and pregnant women annually.

Early Care & Education

Training and Professional Development

Certified and registered training hours for the early childhood workforce

Early Care & Education

Enhanced Early Education

The Enhanced Early Education strategy seeks to enhance education services offered by early childhood classrooms.