Partnership Provides Childcare Scholarships For Families

COLUMBIA– Siblings of four-year-olds enrolled in the First Steps 4K program now qualify for child care scholarships thanks to a partnership between SC First Steps and the SC Department of Social Services.
First Steps 4K provides free four-year-old kindergarten to eligible children in more than 200 private child care centers in South Carolina. This new scholarship program, called “First Steps 4K + Siblings”, will extend free child care and after-school scholarships to any sibling, age 0-12, of an enrolled student.
First Steps 4K currently serves 2,209 children in 211 centers across 40 counties. Based on these enrollment numbers, First Steps estimates that more than 1,300 families will benefit from the new scholarship program during the 2021-2022 academic year. Scholarships will go into effect starting August 16, 2021.
Families can apply for both First Steps 4K and First Steps 4K + Siblings at Free4KSC.org. Sibling scholarships can be applied toward enrollment at any licensed child care center that participates in ABC Quality, the state’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system. ABC Quality is administered by the Division of Early Care and Education of the SC Department of Social Services.
The cost of quality child care is unaffordable for most South Carolina families. According to Child Care Aware of America, the average annual cost of center-based care for two children is $18,031 per year. That’s 21% of the state’s median income for married couples and 69% of the median income for single parents.
When families have access to safe, reliable full-day child care, they are better able to enter the workforce, pursue education and job training, and boost their earnings. An increase in family income improves outcomes for both parents and children.