What We Do

Through the Early Childhood Advisory Council, South Carolina’s leadership works together to support families and help young children thrive.

South Carolina’s Early Childhood Advisory Council is a collaborative group representing the state’s early childhood system.  Established in state statute, the Early Childhood Advisory Council includes the directors of state agencies, elected officials, and other state-level early childhood leaders.  The purpose of the Early Childhood Advisory Council is to carry out the ten duties of early childhood state system leadership as defined in statute.

Duties of the Early Childhood Advisory Council

  1. Conduct a periodic statewide needs assessment concerning the quality and availability of early childhood education and development programs and services for children from birth to the age of school entry, including an assessment of the availability of high-quality prekindergarten services for low income children in the State;

  2. Identify opportunities for, and barriers to, collaboration and coordination among federally funded and state-funded child development, child care, and early childhood education programs and services, including collaboration and coordination among state agencies responsible for administering these programs;

  3. Develop recommendations for increasing the overall participation of children in existing federal, state, and local child care and early childhood education programs, including outreach to underrepresented and special populations;

  4. Develop recommendations regarding the establishment of a unified data collection system for public early childhood education and development programs and services throughout the State;

  5. Develop recommendations regarding statewide professional development and career advancement plans for early childhood educators in the State;

  6. Assess the capacity and effectiveness of two-year and four-year public and private institutions of higher education in the State for supporting the development of early childhood educators, including the extent to which these institutions have in place articulation agreements, professional development and career advancement plans, and practice or internships for students to spend time in a Head Start or prekindergarten program;

  7. Make recommendations for improvements in state early learning standards and undertake efforts to develop high-quality comprehensive early learning standards, as appropriate;

  8. Develop and publish, using available demographic data, an indicators-based measure of school readiness at the state and community level;

  9. Incorporate, within the periodic statewide needs assessments required in 42 U.S.C. Section 9837b, any data related to the capacity and efforts of private sector providers, Head Start providers, and local school districts to serve children from birth to age five, including fiscal, enrollment, and capacity data; and

  10. Perform all other functions, as permitted under federal and state law, to improve coordination and delivery of early childhood education and development to children in this State.



Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five

A $3.5 million grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Administration for Children and Families was awarded to the SC Department of Social Services in December, 2018. Known as the Preschool Development Grant Birth Through 5 (PDG), this one-year grant required work in five key activity areas over the course of a single year: Needs Assessment; Strategic Planning; Maximizing Parent Knowledge; Sharing Best Practices; and Improving Overall Quality. South Carolina First Steps was a key strategic partner in obtaining and executing the grant, receiving $1.3 million in grant funds and providing more than $1 million in state match. Due to a delay in the receipt of funds a no-cost extension was granted and work on the grant officially concluded on February 29, 2020.

The Preschool Development Birth Through 5 Renewal Grant to build upon the initial work of the PDG grant is a federal grant to support the expansion of early childhood programs and services in South Carolina. The award provides $11 million per year for up to three years. The South Carolina Department of Social Services is executing the grant, and activities are being coordinated and administered by partners SC First Steps, the Department of Education, the SC Head Start Collaboration Office and the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council. Funding will allow South Carolina’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) system to continue to work towards its goal to increase access to quality early childhood programs and services for vulnerable children.

(Click for more on the Preschool Development Grant B-5 Activities)

Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Work

South Carolina has received a $3.3 million federal grant to incorporate early childhood programs into the state’s existing system for capturing and tracking student progress through school. The Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program awarded the funds competitively based on South Carolina’s plan to extend its existing K-12 data system to early childhood programs, and to make the information more accessible to the public. The four-year grant is part of a national effort to help states and educators better understand what works for students and facilitate research to increase student achievement and narrow achievement gaps. 

Read more in our press release.

Listen 4 Good Project

South Carolina First Steps was selected to be one of the very first public agency participants in a national cohort of organizations committed to building and sustaining client feedback loops. As a grantee of Listen4Good, First Steps and the ECAC will benefit from survey design, collection, and analysis expertise offered by the national funders collaborative, Fund for Shared Insight. We will also have access to national benchmarks against which we can compare the quantitative feedback we receive from our clients.

Every day, families with young children invite us into their homes to help them in their time of need, to coach them through the challenges of parenting, to offer them support as they work hard to close the gaps in development that could set their child behind. Now, with the launch of First Steps’ Listen4Good project, we will have a formal structure within which to ask those clients how we’re doing. And just like the hotel chain that brags about its ratings or the phone company that changes the way it interacts with its customers based on the feedback they received, we too will have a numerical score (a “net promoter score”) that will clearly tell us how the people we ought to be most accountable to think we are doing.

Two-Generation Approach

The Two-Generation (2Gen) Approach guides our work by encouraging programs to serve children and their caregivers together by building well-being supports for whole families.

Build It Back Better Survey

The Build It Back Better survey was developed to ask parents and caregivers of children ages 0-5 how they were managing child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was conducted by the South Carolina Early Childhood Advisory Council, United Way Association of South Carolina and South Carolina First Steps with support from the Alliance for Early Success. Results were release at virtual press conference on September 1, 2020.

Stay up to date on News + Events.