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South Carolina Launches a New Human-Centered Portal to Transform Access to Early Childhood Services

First Five SC is a new comprehensive portal that aims to increase access and knowledge of South Carolina public early childhood state system programs and services. The portal is unique to the state since it was created by responding to the needs and concerns of South Carolina parents and caregivers.

In 2019, Alliance allies at First Steps SC identified issues families faced when navigating the public early childhood system. Through the statewide parent needs assessment, allies identified, allies identified issues with lengthy application processes and a lack of information about available services in the system, as well as a need to regularly convene groups of parents and caregivers for input into public programs.  This led to the SC Family Voice Council being established in 2021. These issues created disparities in access to quality early learning opportunities and support services and reduced choice among families.

Allies also listened to the members of the SC Family Voice Council to develop the First Five SC portal. The portal was created as a holistic solution, and Council members helped define what should be included in the innovative one-stop shop and how it can best be shared with families. The First Five SC portal aims to reduce disparities in access, increase knowledge of programs, and support families to choose what works best for them. Allies will continue using a whole family approach to develop the portal, centering the needs of families.

SC First Steps Executive Director Georgia Mjartan announces the launch of First Five SC at a statehouse press conference.

The First Five SC portal will connect families to the following programs and services: child care & early education, health & safety, special needs & early intervention, food & nutrition, and parenting & family support. Additionally, SC First Steps has partnered with community organizations to assist with outreach and to help families navigate the new portal.

The Family Voice Council ensured that the needs of families were reflected when First Steps curated the services that would be included in the portal, which led to more intentional and equitable processes to streamline search and application practices within the public early childhood system. The portal is funded through the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five Initiative (PDG B-5) and will be supported by the Early Childhood Advisory Council.

“In South Carolina, we have great choices for families.  First 5 SC connects families with the programs they want, need, and deserve – programs that ensure babies are born healthy, parents have great, affordable, child care options, and preschoolers are given the learning opportunities they need to be ready for success in school.  This is the most comprehensive early childhood portal in the nation.” 

Georgia Mjartan, Executive Director
South Carolina First Steps, Early Childhood Advisory Council