COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — The South Carolina Early Childhood Advisory Council announced the launch of an application that streamlines the process of applying for publicly funded early childhood programs.
The application is available on the First Five SC website, which allows families with young children (ages 0-5) to find information and check their eligibility for more than 40 programs. The announcement was made today at the South Carolina State Library.
“This is a game changer for families in South Carolina,” said Georgia Mjartan, executive director of South Carolina First Steps and the Early Childhood Advisory Council. “We know that navigating the complex world of public services can be overwhelming, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible for parents and caregivers to access the resources they need to support their children’s development.”
According to officials, the First Five SC common application is the result of two years of development, collaboration across 16 state agencies and public entities, and coordination with hundreds of local providers. South Carolina is the first state in the nation to create a resource where families can access information about the full spectrum of taxpayer-funded services available to young children, determine which ones they are eligible for, and apply for multiple programs at once – all from their smartphone or computer.
“We believe that this tool will break down the barriers that have historically prevented some families from accessing the services they need to thrive,” said Mjartan.
Officials say First5sc.org initially launched in February 2022 with information about more than 60 statewide early childhood programs and an interactive form that checks a child’s eligibility for 44 of these programs. In its first year, the website attracted over 100,000 visitors. Of the individuals who completed the eligibility screener, 78% qualified for at least one program.
“When our two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with an extremely rare syndrome that impacted her hearing, we didn’t know where to start,” said Katie Hagan, a parent in Columbia. “First Five SC connected us to the resources we needed and coached us through the application process. Having all that information in one centralized place was key to getting the right kind of help – fast.”
The initiative is supported by a federal grant. The First Five SC common application is now available. Families across South Carolina can check their eligibility and apply online at first5sc.org.