For Parents Concerned About South Carolina’s Outcomes: Now What?

In our recent South Carolina
Early Childhood Databook
, we highlighted over 80 indicators of early
childhood well-being impacting children, ages 8 and under, in South Carolina,
compared to North Carolina, Georgia, and the United States as a whole. Our hope
is that this report enables policymakers, schools, and service providers to
make smart investments in the future of children and families.

But what about the parents who see these statistics and say “Yes,
that’s us! What do we do about it,
right now?”

Children are only young once, and for families, simply hoping for
systems-level change, which can be slow-moving, is not enough. We are sharing
here a list of resources and recommended reading for families in South Carolina.
While this list is by no means comprehensive – our state is lucky to be served
by many large and small organizations, agencies, community organizations, and
houses of worship – we hope it gives families a map of options to do what’s
best for the children they love.

80% of brain development happens

during the first three years of life.

South Carolina is home to the Palmetto Basics campaign, a community education campaign powered by Greenville, Pickens and Spartanburg County First Steps to School Readiness Partnerships with support from a number of other South Carolina organizations. The Basics, based on the successful Boston Basics framework, highlights “five fun, simple, and powerful ways to help all our children become the happiest and most successful they can be,” with a focus on children ages 0 to 3. For each basic, Greenville First Steps hosts a list of suggestions for children ages 0-12 months and another for ages 12-36 months as well as a video for parents to learn more!

Maximize Love, Manage Stress: Children thrive when the world seems loving, safe, and predictable. When you express love and respond to their needs, you teach them that they can count on you. In addition, take steps to avoid stress when you can, and to cope effectively with stress when you can’t avoid it.
Talk, Sing, and Point: Children learn language from the moment they are born. Day by day, babies learn that sounds have meaning. Talking with your toddler and answering questions is a way to teach them about the world. Every time you talk, sing or point to what you are talking about, you provide clues to the meaning of what you are saying.
Count, Group, and Compare: Children are pre-wired to learn simple math ideas, including numbers, patterns, and making comparisons. You don’t need to be a math teacher to start
preparing your child to be a problem solver. There are fun and simple activities that you can do now to build math and thinking skills.
Explore Through Movement and Play: Children learn by touching, banging, dropping, stacking, pounding, crawling, walking, and running. They are excited to explore their surroundings. Their brains build mental maps of places and spaces. Helping your child become an explorer helps develop their “mind’s eye.” It prepares them for sports and even being good at math!
Read and Discuss Stories: The more we read with young children, the more prepared they become to enjoy reading and do well in school. It is never too early to begin reading. When you read to your infant, they will be learning how books work and developing new language skills. What toddlers learn about people, places, and things can be important building blocks to later life success.

South Carolina First Steps allows its funding at the local level to be used largely to support programs defined as “evidence-based” or “evidence-informed.” Not all programs are offered in all areas – each county-level First Steps agency makes determinations regarding services to fund, based on local need and capacity. Connect with First Steps in your County.

Sometimes, the hardest part of parenting is knowing what your needs are or what could really benefit your family, but not being sure where to go next. Several resources in the state exist that could help your family get what you need:

  • Help Me Grow South Carolina: Help Me Grow is a program that links families to existing, community-based resources and services for children at-risk for developmental, behavioral, or learning problems. It is a free resource available to parents of children from birth to five years old who reside in Anderson, Greenville, Laurens, Oconee,  Pickens, Spartanburg, Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Beaufort, Jasper, and Colleton counties. For more information, visit their website or call their hotline (1-855-476-9211) to speak with a child development expert who will listen to your concerns and offer a free, confidential assessment of your child’s needs.
  • South Carolina Child Care Resource & Referral Network:  The state “CCR&R” helps parents navigate their child care options by providing: referrals to local child care providers; information on state licensing requirements; information on availability of child care subsidies; and information on quality child care indicators. You can reach them by phone (1-888-335-1002) or start online with their search directory.
  • South Carolina Department of Social Services: Families are often aware of financial assistance available through the state but not sure how to find out if they are eligible. To ensure you have the most accurate information on financial supports available to families, start your search on the DSS website.
  • Free Tax Filing: The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $60,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. South Carolina recently passed an “Earned Income Tax Credit” which is intended to get more money back to low-income workers in the state – VITA sites have a very high accuracy rate and can help you understand if you are eligible. Find a local provider on 211’s site.

Parents and other family members play an essential role in
the development of young children, and all families want the best for their
children. It can be difficult for families to know how to navigate the
resources that are available to help set them up for success, especially when
paperwork stands in the way. We hope this article helps more families connect
with organizations that can make a difference for them, and welcome additional
suggestions from the many partners we work with across South Carolina on behalf
of all young children.

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