DSS Announces Grant to SC First Steps to Improve Quality

DSS Contact: Danielle Jones
(803) 898-7248
(803) 216-4858

First Steps Contact: Beth Moore
(803) 734-6312
(803) 238-5881


DSS Announces Grant to SC First Steps to Improve Quality


August 21, 2020- The South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) has granted a one-time request of $1.2 million in federal dollars to SC First Steps to improve quality in licensed child care centers that participate in the First Steps 4K program.


Funding for this grant comes from South Carolina’s Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), a federal and state partnership authorized under the Child Care Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG) and administered by states, with funding and support from the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Child Care that seeks to expand access to child care services and support child care programs to achieve higher standards.


“Our primary goal for child care at DSS is to increase access to safe, affordable, high-quality child care.  This has been our primary goal for some time and working to recruit child care centers throughout the state is a top priority,” said DSS State Director Michael Leach.  “South Carolina’s children, especially children who need extra support to overcome socioeconomic barriers, deserve a chance to begin their educational journey in a high-quality program.”


The First Steps 4K program operates in DSS licensed child care centers across South Carolina and is funded by state dollars through the Child Early Reading and Development Education Program (CERDEP).  Children enrolled in CERDEP could experience homelessness, foster care or transiency and could also be eligible other services including free or reduced-price school meals, SNAP/TANF and Medicaid.


“First Steps 4K values high-quality early care and education.  That’s why we are so proud to partner with DSS on this new initiative, which gives families enrolled in First Steps 4K access to the best of the best,” said Georgia Mjartan, Executive Director of SC First Steps. “DSS stepped in with federal funds to support this key part of our program.  All parents want to offer their children the best chance for success.  With this partnership, we are giving children just that – a high-quality educational program in First Steps 4K that is offered in a high-quality ABC Quality participating child care center.”


In an effort to encourage existing First Steps 4K child care centers to participate in the voluntary ABC Quality rating system and to recruit new centers to participate, First Steps received permission, via proviso, to pay a 10% higher tuition rate to centers that received a B or above rating in the ABC Quality program.


To learn more about the ABC Quality program administered by DSS, please visit here.  To learn more about SC First Steps, please click here.


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Do you have a complaint regarding services being provided to a child by a state agency? Please submit your complaint by phone (1-800-206-1957) or an electronic submission form here with the South Carolina Department of Children's Advocacy.