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

Funds will deploy 19 AmeriCorps national service members; address growing need among SC parents and caregivers for resources and support

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 Teachers, Triple 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 scfirststeps.org.

“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