SC First Steps celebrates opening of new child care center

Improving child care access across the state, that’s one goal of South Carolina First Steps.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 6:53 AM EDT
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KERSHAW, S.C. (WCSC) - Improving child care access across the state, that’s one goal of South Carolina First Steps, an initiative designed to make sure all children can start school ready to reach their highest potential.

For a town of 2,500, the new Clyburn Early Childhood Center will help families and will open its doors Thursday to children in Kershaw and Lancaster County. The new Clyburn Early Childhood Center is the only licensed child care center in the town.

The new center is located in a former bank building, a two-story 10,000-square-foot structure built in 1910. Lancaster County First Steps is the operator. They’ll offer free full-day education at the Clyburn Center to children K4 before they go to kindergarten.

Georgia Mjartan, Director of South Carolina First Steps, says South Carolina has a problem. The problem is that child care is scarce. Mjartan says this was a problem before COVID. It’s about the financial infrastructure of child care. And the town of Kershaw and all of its residents were experiencing that challenge. She says the lack of child care access is in both rural and urban communities in the state.

“In some of the urban communities, there may appear to be lots of children when you see a child care center when you’re driving down the street, but many families’ experiences are that many of the providers are full,” Mjartan says.

Mjartan says access to early learning is important for First Steps and filling in gaps where there are needs. Resources to build the centers, sustain them, renovate and provide an appropriately compensated educator workforce are all needed to make sure child care is provided.

“And ultimately, it’s a partnership between parents and early educators to make sure that their young children start school with everything they need to thrive,” Mjartan says, “To be ready for success in kindergarten and beyond. That’s what a 4K program is all about. And that’s why we’re so pleased to be a part of this project.”

Mjartan says if you don’t live in the area not to fret, they have over 250 4K programs across the state that families can enroll in fully free and publicly funded. The application is completely online, and you can click the link to apply.