Rural-based daycares use READY grants to fund improvements to staff, resources

Published: Jul. 20, 2023 at 4:54 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2023 at 11:05 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Early childhood education programs in the Berkeley County area are using state funds to improve resources in often underrepresented areas of the Lowcountry.

READY grants are allocated from the annual statewide budget and the South Carolina First Steps organization.

The partnership gives childcare providers the ability to improve staff training, increase pay and introduce resources meant to address well-being for families, including behavioral disabilities or disruptions in young children.

The Berkeley County chapter is one out of 33 statewide counties impacted by READY funds.

The grant focuses on rural communities that often lack a multitude of sources for quality childcare.

“At one point, 74% of Berkeley County prior to the pandemic was deemed a childcare desert,” Berkeley County First Steps Executive Director Adrienne Troy-Frazier said. Troy-Frazier added the funding not only increases the number of care spaces but helps already existing centers thrive.

“We are really happy when we see new childcare centers open up in those areas, but we’re also happy to see childcare centers that have been a foundation of the community. We have centers open for over 2 decades that are really struggling because of cost of living and inflation and because parents have to travel a great distance to have employment.”

One daycare in St. Stephens has made significant progress since the chapter was awarded the funding in April.

“They have been monumental in helping us progress our quality of care here,” Betty’s Daycare Director Kristen Smalls said. “Even if it’s with training of staff, to basically making sure we stay on our Ps and Qs with regulation and so forth.”

Smalls added that being in a rural area has not been without hardships, solidifying why this is a necessary initiative.

“Because we’re further out in the rural area, it can sometimes be hard to get the resources we need.”

Troy-Frazier said she hopes to see providers introduce more inclusive environments and stability for kids who often feel unwelcomed within their communities.

“Inclusion as we define it is ensuring that children who have developmental disabilities have the opportunity to participate fully.”

Smalls said the initiative gives providers a reminder of why it is a job worth the time and effort.

“Seeing the progress in the children, seeing how when they initially first start out they’re a little closed off and trying to get used to the teachers. That’s the most rewarding part.”

Troy-Frazier says the goal is to have a few improvements in place by the time the next school year rolls around, including extensive training, parent, teacher and child support and scholarship funding, to name a few.