I am very thankful to have returned to Early Childhood Education with a non-profit as the Executive Director for Laurens County First Steps (LCFS). I am thrilled to be an integral part of ensuring all children from birth to five are ready to be successful in their personal educational and life journey. As the new executive director, I am eager to grow our programs and services for the infants through 5-year-olds of Laurens County.
While the FY22 Annual Report will not be published until later this year, I wanted to bring your attention to a few successful highlights.
The Reach Out and Read program, a partnership program with our four pediatric offices, gave out 2,172 books during well-child visits. We estimated the partnership with Reach Out and Read to grow 20% this fiscal year. We are thankful to the pediatric offices in Laurens County for their participation in this program. Collectively, we will make reading a part of each child’s life, building a healthy foundation for success.
Through First Steps and DSS-funded child care scholarships, we provided tuition free enrollment for 15 children at quality child care centers. These 15 children, along with their families, were enrolled and took part in our Parents as Teachers (PAT) program. Our parent educators conducted 224 personal home visits with these 11 families. We currently are providing 12 child care scholarships, and hope to grow that number to 15. However, there is the issue of space availability in our Early Childhood Care and Education centers. Our PAT program has expanded to both high schools with a Partnering with Teen Parents program.
Laurens County is growing! Having high-quality Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is vital for a community to thrive and sustainably grow for future generations. We know that Laurens County is an Early Childhood Care and Education desert. LCFS will conduct a formal Needs and Resource Assessment, including an Early Childhood Care and Education needs assessment this fiscal year. This will benefit not only LCFS in providing additional Child Care Provider Training, it will statistically validate the need for additional ECCE in our community, as well as highlight the challenges and tough decisions your constituents make with finding ECCE. The lack of ECCE in Laurens County is VERY alarming. This deficit is clear in our counties 2021 Kindergarten Readiness Scores of only 28.95%. Should you wish to discuss this challenge, please do reach out to me!
My staff and I are looking forward to working to ensure young children are healthy and safe, ready for school, and actively supported by their families and communities. I know that First Steps of Laurens County will grow our footprint and successfully serve our children and families.
For the health of our children in Laurens County,
Toni Able, GCDF
Executive Director, Laurens County First Steps