Strategic Plan & Needs Assessment

Our vision: We will be successful when all children reach their highest potential.

For Our Future: South Carolina's Birth through Five Plan is a five-year roadmap for optimizing our state’s early childhood system and moving toward our shared vision of success for every child, from birth through age five. Led by the South Carolina Early Childhood Advisory Council, the planning process originated in 2019 with a statewide needs assessment that engaged thousands of families and service providers.

The plan's principles, goals, objectives, strategies, and key measures of progress were presented for approval and adopted by the Early Childhood Advisory Council in October and December of 2021.

The plan was published and presented to Governor Henry McMaster on February 17, 2022. View the document here.


All children and families deserve a fair chance at a good life.
We envision universal access to strategies that work, and in this five-year plan we are starting where there are known disparities: by family income, race, geography, home language, and for adults and children with disabilities.

A focus on equity proactively addresses disparities and levels the playing field.
Addressing disparities ensures all children have the opportunities and resources to be successful.

Parents are a child's first and most important teachers.
Parents, including all adult caregivers in parenting roles, need and want to connect with their infants and young children in positive ways that help children grow, thrive, and achieve their full potential.

Children do better when they are raised in healthy, stable, and attached families.
Our work to improve outcomes for children must also include efforts to help families thrive and prosper.

Policies and programs are more effective when inclusive, developmentally appropriate, culturally and linguistically responsive, and delivered with excellence and respect.
We must meet children and families where they are, be respectful and compassionate, and deliver the highest quality programs possible.

Policies and programs become more effective when we authentically reflect the voices of families, including their ideas, concerns, and aspirations.
Families understand what they need and want better than anyone else.

South Carolina has an excellent opportunity to build on and reinforce our strong state and local infrastructure to better support and serve children and families.
We get better when we align initiatives, work collaboratively, and focus on the areas that lead to healthy and thriving children, families, and the places where they live.

Key Measures of Success

1. Increase the percentage of children, ages 0-35 months, who have full immunization coverage from 68.0% to 78.0%.

2. Increase the percentage of children, ages 1-5, who have received at least one preventive dental visit in the past year from 60.8% to 65.8%.

3. Increase the percentage of incoming kindergartners who are ready for school from 27.0% to 40.0%.

4. While increasing kindergarten readiness for all students, reduce the disparity between Black and white kindergartners by 25%, from 18% to 13.5%.

5. While increasing kindergarten readiness for all students, reduce the disparity between Latino and white kindergartners by 25%, from 22% to 16.5%.

6. Reduce the percentage of children in counties with low child care access from 40% to 35%.

7. Increase the percentage of child care providers participating in ABC Quality from 45.4% to 55.0%.

Goal 1: South Carolina’s youngest children are healthy and safe.

Objective 1.1. Mothers and infants are healthy, safe, and supported before, during, and after birth.
1.1.1. Expand access to health care before, during, and after the birth of a child.
1.1.2. Improve the quality of health care before, during, and after the birth of a child.

Objective 1.2. Young children receive consistent, coordinated medical care and meet recommendations for well-child visits, immunizations, and oral health.
1.2.1. Expand access to consistent, coordinated pediatric medical care.
1.2.2. Improve the quality of pediatric care and ancillary services.

Objective 1.3. Young children are screened, assessed, identified early, and connected with services that address developmental, intellectual, chronic, or acute health concerns.
1.3.1. Expand access to screening, identification of disabilities, and referrals for treatment and services.
1.3.2. Ensure young children receive timely, appropriate early intervention services for disabilities.
1.3.3. Improve efficiency and responsiveness of early intervention services through better data collection and reporting.

Objective 1.4. The behavioral and mental health of young children and their families is promoted and supported through: nurturing, responsive and caregiver relationships; supportive environments; targeted social-emotional supports; and intensive interactions including, when appropriate, intervention and treatment.
1.4.1. Promote and support personal- and social-skill building.
1.4.2. Expand access to behavioral and mental health care.
1.4.3. Improve the quality of behavioral and mental health care.

Objective 1.5. Young children are safe and nurtured in their families, homes, and communities.
1.5.1. Improve child safety.
1.5.2. Reduce child abuse and neglect.
1.5.3. Promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity, and intervene to lessen the immediate and long-term harms of adverse childhood experiences.
1.5.4. Build resilience within children and families through policies and practices.

Objective 1.6. Families are food secure and utilize education and resources that address nutrition and physical activity.
1.6.1. Improve food security. Increase uptake and utilization of public nutrition benefits.
1.6.2. Increase opportunities for physical activity in neighborhoods and communities.
1.6.3. Connect families to nutrition and physical activity resources.

Goal 2: South Carolina's youngest children are actively supported by their families and communities.

Objective 2.1. Parents have the knowledge and skills to be excellent caregivers and are actively engaged in their children's development, health, learning, and transitions.
2.1.1. Expand proven home visiting programs so more families can participate.
2.1.2. Expand access to information and resources that promote children’s health and safety and strengthen families' ability to participate more fully in the development of their children.
2.1.3. Help parents support successful transitions from home to early childhood programs and to school entry.

Objective 2.2. Parents have the time, ability, and resources to attach to their infants and care for their children.
2.2.1. Streamline family access to services that meet their needs.
2.2.2. Expand support to help families access the services and supports they need.
2.2.3. Recognize and increase family-friendly workplace policies.

Objective 2.3. Parents have skills, training, and education to obtain good jobs and achieve financial stability.
2.3.1. Increase opportunities for parents of young children to participate in training and education programs to ensure more parents of young children have jobs with family-sustaining wages.
2.3.2. Support parents to grow small businesses and build good jobs that work for families with young children.

Objective 2.4. South Carolina's communities provide children with healthy environments, enriching opportunities, and community resources like libraries, schools, outdoor learning environments, community centers, and museums.
2.4.1. Provide training and materials grants to library and museum staff for specific 0-3 and pre-K programs and activities.
2.4.2. Increase the prevalence of natural outdoor learning environments for use by children and their families.
2.4.3. Increase participation in a community's cultural resources.
2.4.4. Provide training to local parks, recreation, and other community services staff about ways to deliver recreational programs and activities to families with young children.

Goal 3: South Carolina's children arrive at school ready to reach their highest potential.

Objective 3.1. Early care and education programs operate with demonstrated quality in schools, child care centers, and family child care homes.
3.1.1. Strengthen design and impact of quality improvement investments.
3.1.2. Increase family child care and child care center participation in South Carolina's ABC Quality system and other quality initiatives.
3.1.3. Increase investment in family child care programs and child care centers.
3.1.4 Increase child care center and family child care program enrollment in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Objective 3.2. Families have choices for reliable, safe, affordable, high-quality early care and education for their children that meets their family's needs in all areas of the state and especially in areas of low child care access.
3.2.1. Increase the number of child care centers and family child care homes to maximize slots available to families.
3.2.2. Increase business supports to child care providers with a focus on new and struggling programs.
3.2.3. Increase access to quality early learning options.
3.2.4. Expand access to Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Objective 3.3. Families have support to afford reliable, safe, high-quality early care and education for their children that meets their family's needs.
3.3.1 Expand access to 4K for more four-year-olds to participate.
3.3.2 Increase supply of infant and toddler care.
3.3.3. Increase the number of family child care homes and child care centers that accept subsidy.
3.3.4. Create tax credits to help more families use and pay for quality care.
3.3.5. Reduce hurdles and increase supports to make it easier for families to apply for and enroll in care and services.

Objective 3.4. The early care and education workforce is prepared, skilled, supported in their work, and appropriately compensated for the critical role they play in South Carolina’s success.
3.4.1. Increase funding for programs to support quality improvements and benefit the early childhood workforce.
3.4.2. Create accessible career pathways that reward achievement.
3.4.3. Recruit and retain a diverse and well-prepared early childhood workforce.
3.4.4. Expand professional learning opportunities for the early care and education workforce to support their practice in family child care homes, child care centers, and schools.

Goal 4: South Carolina's early childhood system is aligned, coordinated, and family-centered.

Objective 4.1. Public programs and resources for young children and their families are aligned and easily accessed, holistically address all aspects of children's and families' well-being, and provide choice for parents and caregivers.
4.1.1. Create shared outreach, eligibility, application, and enrollment processes.
4.1.2. Conduct an annual analysis of eligibility versus enrollment of South Carolinians for programs referenced in this document.
4.1.3. Pursue funding to address service gaps, those that impact families with fewer resources, or those that address the lack of comprehensive support for young children and their families.
4.1.4. Connect early childhood system efforts with other public systems like housing, transportation, higher education, workforce training, and technical education to ensure the concurrent and interconnected success of children and their parents.

Objective 4.2. Families are at the center of system and service design, programming, and implementation – their voices solicited, heard, and amplified – to ensure services are available, accessible, and acceptable.
4.2.1. Deepen and expand local parent leadership formally and informally.
4.2.2. Increase family input to statewide plans.
4.2.3. Ensure the needs of families inform state-level decision making.

Objective 4.3. Early childhood program data are connected across agencies, funding streams, and programs to enhance service delivery, to build an effective early childhood system, to report on outcomes and investments, and to reduce redundancies to benefit young children, their families, their communities, service providers, and policymakers.
4.3.1. Establish an Early Childhood Integrated Data System.
4.3.2. Implement and foster sound data governance policies and practices for an Early Childhood Integrated Data System that is flexible and sustainable.
4.3.3. Build and sustain web-based data visualization tools that incorporate child, family, program, outcome, and population data.

Objective 4.4. South Carolina's early childhood system governance structure ensures coordination, accountability, and effective and efficient use of public resources.
4.4.1. Drive accountability and outcomes through monitoring and action.
4.4.2. Adopt a two-generation approach to early childhood system governance, policy making, outcomes, and analysis.
4.4.3. Strengthen and align local service delivery systems.
4.4.4. Strengthen and expand the Early Childhood Advisory Council.

Objective 4.5. Create innovative public-private partnerships that maximize the skills, knowledge, and assets of business, philanthropy, and state and local government.
4.5.1. Expand public-private partnerships on behalf of young children and their families.
4.5.2. Engage business and civic leaders to serve as early childhood champions and to promote the economic value of early care and education in the state.

Building of the Plan and Needs Assessment

The groundwork for the collaborative plan gives voice to the many participants heard in the SC Needs Assessment Report, a document produced using Preschool Development Grant Birth-5 funds to understand statewide priorities for South Carolina's young children and their families. Three data collection strategies, which engaged more than 5,000 people, were used to determine statewide needs and priorities:

  • 15 regional meetings were held across the state with 440 participants
  • An online survey garnered 3,114 responses focused on priorities of parents/caregivers
  • Approximately 130 focus groups engaged more than 1,495 people with each South Carolina county focused on engaging families/caregivers and young children.

Participants in the regional meetings provided input in the development of four goals and related objectives in each of three areas:

  • Early learning and development
  • Health and well-being
  • Family and community

In September 2021, the ECAC held a public comment period for feedback on a draft strategic plan. The comments were collected using a survey form, email submission, and a public input session held Wednesday, September 22. View the recording here.

Progress Reports

Regular reports share the outlook for and progress on the For Our Future: South Carolina's Birth through Five Plan.

2023 Progress Report

2024 Progress Report

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