What We Do

Oconee First Steps partners with organizations and/or programs that specialize in six core areas—School Transition, Quality Child Care, Early Education, Healthy Start, Family Strengthening and Early Intervention—to accomplish our overall goal of SCHOOL READINESS.

We believe parents play the most visible and essential role in ensuring a child starts school feeling healthy and ready to learn. But for many parents in our area, the resources and opportunities to help children get ready aren’t easily accessible—or even available at all.

That’s why Oconee First Steps partners to promote school readiness initiatives by enhancing the work that worthwhile agencies like local schools, state agencies, churches, non-profits, and neighborhoods are already doing in our community.

Partner Projects

Quality Child Care

Childcare Training

OCFS provides free, high-quality training that meets the needs of the local childcare workforce in order to improve the quality of child care. First Steps –sponsored training is certified through the SC Center for Child Care Career Development and includes topics in nutrition, health and safety, curriculum, child guidance, professional development, and program administration. It includes not only training but also follow-up with participants in their classrooms.

Childcare Scholarships

One of the biggest challenges for new parents is finding affordable quality child care so their family can return to school or work. Oconee County First Steps provides resources to help families overcome this barrier, reducing the number of those who resort to low cost, often unsafe, options for child care. Oconee County First Steps provides a limited number of child care scholarship to income eligible families who attend school or are employed for at least 20 hours per week or currently enrolled in the Oconee Nurse/Family Partnership Program. The scholarships are provided through agreements with B and above licensed centers, and scholarship families are required to attend monthly health-related training provided in collaboration with Heath’s Haven.

When visiting a childcare center, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Is the provider Licensed? If they are, they are required to display this license.
  • Are the staff certified in First Aid/CPR? This is not necessarily a requirement, but is the best way to ensure children are safe.
  • Does the provider have any licensing violations? DSS lists violations, and the resolution, for all licensed providers on their website. An individual violation may not be a deal breaker (staff sometimes have bad days). The main thing to look for is what type of violation (was it safety related, or paperwork related), and was the violation resolved?
  • What ratios are in place? Typically, ratios range in infant rooms from 1 adult to 6 children to 1 adult to 4 children (depending on what other certifications the center meets). Ratios for toddlers and preschools are higher. You can check ratio requirements for your age group at www.scchildcare.org.
  • Is the environment welcoming, safe, and nurturing? We encourage families to “test drive” centers. Visit during the day, when children are there. Do they staff seem engaged? Are the children happy?
  • What sort of curriculum, accreditation, and national models do they follow? While a few centers are NAEYC accredited (the gold star of childcare quality), others follow faith-based curriculum, or built their program around national or international standards. Find the program that suits your needs.
Early Education

4-year-old Kindergarten

SC First Steps to School Readiness began funding 4K classes in eligible child care centers in Oconee County immediately after the SC General Assembly passed the 4K Expansion Bill in May 2014. Centers currently funded and monitored by SC First Steps to School Readiness are as follows:
  • Our Club House in Seneca
  • Upstate Children’s Center in Walhalla

The following elementary schools in the School District of Oconee County also offer early education programs:
  • Blue Ridge Elementary School
  • Fair Oak Elementary School
  • James M. Brown Elementary School
  • Keowee Elementary School
  • Northside Elementary School
  • Orchard Park Elementary School
  • Ravanel Elementary School
  • Westminster Elementary School

Healthy Start

Nurse-Family Partnership Program (NFP)

Nurse-Family Partnership is a nurse home visitation program, with 30 years of longitudinal research that is designed to improve the health, well-being, and self-sufficiency of low-income first time parents and their children. Home visits span a 2 ½ year timeframe and begin prenatally and continue through the second year of the child’s life. Visits range from weekly to every other week, but can be altered if the nurse feels there is a need for more visits. Bachelor’s degree-level nurses utilize guidelines, clinical consultation, and intervention resources to implement the program in a way that is adaptable to each family. (In Oconee County, Nurse–Family Partnership is implemented through the Greenville Health System in partnership with Greenville and Pickens County First Steps.) To learn more about this program, visit the Nurse Family Partnership National Service Office here.

Virtual Tours – Home Safety

What does a nurturing, engaging home look like? Thanks to a partnership between Greenville First Steps, Safe Kids Upstate and LiveWell Greenville, the following virtual home tours provide safety tips, paired with healthy and engaging activities. House Tour:

Apartment Tour

Family Strengthening
Principles of Parenting Successfully (POPS)

POPS is a voluntary holistic, long-term, in-home parenting education prevention program geared toward assisting “high risk” families with children prenatal through age five in preparing their children to arrive at first grade healthy and ready to learn.

The program uses two evidenced–based curriculums: Parents as Teachers (PAT), and Systematic Training for Effective parenting (STEPS).

POPS is a PAT Affiliate, and services provided include:

  • Personal Visits designed to meet the needs of individual families with intensity ranging from anywhere from twice monthly to daily.
  • Monthly Group Connections with other POPS/PAT families.
  • Screenings and Assessments to identify developmental concerns
  • Connections to Outside Resources that families may need to succeed

Virtual Tours – Learning Excursions

There are all kinds of great learning opportunities throughout the community, but how can your child get the most out of these experiences? The following virtual tours provide tips and insight into what various locations have to offer.
Early Intervention


BabyNet is South Carolina’s interagency early intervention system for infants and toddlers under three years of age with developmental delays, or who have conditions associated with developmental delays. According to recent federal evaluations, outcomes for clients participating in BabyNet early intervention programs are above national averages. BabyNet matches the special needs of infants and toddlers who have developmental delays with the professional resources available within the community. Services are provided in everyday routines, activities and places relevant to the life of the family. BabyNet is funded and regulated through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and managed through South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness.

Anyone (a parent, doctor, caregiver, teacher or friend) can make a referral by the number listed below. The earlier a baby or toddler receives help, the better!

To make a referral or to get more information call 1-877-621-0865 or send an email to [email protected] for assistance.

BabyNet for Oconee County is provided by State First Steps: (864) 225-6465 or click here for more information.

Week of the Young Child

Week of the Young Child

Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). WOYC 2019 is scheduled for April 8-12.

OCFS will have a series of special events that week, so please check our FB page in 2019 for specifics.

For more information visit the Week of the Young Child website here.

Pinwheels for Prevention

Pinwheels for Prevention

Pinwheels for Prevention is a collaborative project to help promote the little things every family can do to help keep children safe and secure. Pinwheels are a symbol of happy childhoods. This uplifting image draws the attention away from the problem of abuse and neglect to the solution of effective prevention. Pinwheel gardens are a reminder of the work our community is doing to support children and families. Pinwheels for Prevention runs each year during the month of April. If you would like to be a pinwheels garden site, please contact us here.

For more information visit the Pinwheels for Prevention website here.

Healthy Families America

Healthy Families America

Healthy Families America (HFA) is a program of Prevent Child Abuse America designed to support parents who may be experiencing a range of current or past challenges, including single parenthood, low income, a history of maltreatment, substance abuse, mental health concerns, or domestic violence. HFA is designed as a prevention program; thus, visits begin prenatally or within the first three months after a child's birth and continue until children are between 3 and 5 years old. .

For more information, visit the HFA website here.