Oconee First Steps is a local nonprofit that uses state, federal, and private funds to support programs that measurably improve school readiness outcomes for children. We achieve this goal by partnering with public and private organizations—including churches, schools, neighborhoods, childcare providers, and businesses. Our goals are to support a child’s family as his or her first and most important teacher and to ensure children enter school on track and ready to succeed.
South Carolina First Steps serves South Carolina’s young children and their families, with the goal of ensuring each is prepared for school success. Created by the legislature in 1999, First Steps has helped nearly 340,000 of South Carolina’s youngest children and their families get ready for school.
Nearly one in seven SC children are assessed as not ready for first grade. Research studies repeatedly show that children who arrive unprepared for first grade’s challenges have a difficult time catching up and succeeding throughout the rest of their school years. Many of these students drop out of school or do not find fulfilling productive jobs after high school as a result of their slow start.
A child’s readiness is determined by many critical components including good health, nurturing parenting, and positive learning environments. High quality early learning experiences in the home, childcare, and school settings allow children to thrive at a time when the brain is most formative.
Each of the six color blocks of the First Steps logo, represents a core area of service, outlining our comprehensive strategy to prepare children for long-term school success. OCFS partners with organizations and/or programs that specialize in each of these areas to accomplish our overall goal of SCHOOL READINESS. They are as follows:
A parent is a child’s first and most important teacher. That’s why we’re working to involve parents and families to create a supportive environment for children at home.
Primary Program: Principles of Parenting Successfully (POPS)
The facts are clear—children who participate in engaging preschool and early learning programs are more likely to start school ready to succeed. OCFS is working to expand both public and private learning opportunities for children.
Primary Program: Four 4K classes funded and monitored by SC First Steps to School Readiness.
Providing a healthy start in life for children is important. This includes prenatal and postpartum services for both mother and baby, and access to developmental screenings.
Primary Program: Nurse-Family Partnership Program (NFP)
Access to high quality childcare is essential to family financial stability. Oconee First Steps works to expand access through collaborative partnerships with public and private childcare providers.
Primary Programs: Child Care Training and Child Care Scholarships
Attending to the special needs of infants and toddlers who have disabilities and/or developmental delays with customized, community-based resources lessens stress on families and increases chances for future independence.
Primary Program: BabyNet
Each year, our results are summarized in our Annual Report and shared with our community. Below, you can read the highlights from 2021, as well as view full reports from recent years.