Richland County First Steps to Expand Early Head Start Program

Richland County First Steps to School Readiness (RCFS) is expanding its Early Head Start (EHS) program for families with children prenatal up to age 3.  A $1.4 million contract with the US Department of Health and Human Services will allow RCFS to serve 53 new families. A total of 48 new high-quality infant/toddler child care slots will be provided, more than doubling the number of EHS classroom spaces RCFS currently offers to families. An additional 5 new expectant families with babies on the way will receive home-based services from an RCFS Family Support Advocate.

EHS is a comprehensive early childhood program, rooted in evidence-based practices and incorporating health, nutrition, mental health, developmental assessments, inclusion of children with disabilities, family partnerships, and parenting education into a community supported care environment. RCFS first began providing home-based and classroom-based EHS services to qualifying families in 2010.  At present, RCFS has 40 center-based slots and 56 home-based slots.  There are currently 72 families on a waiting list for slots to open.  This expansion will help to shrink the waiting list, but RCFS Board Chair Davida C. Price knows there is still much to do: “On behalf of the board, I’d like to say how thrilled we are to have received this contract.  It is our desire at Richland County First Steps to support families and for every child to have a success story.  Our goal is to help ensure that all families have the tools needed to help their children thrive.”

A play area at the Ridgewood Early Head Start site

One new classroom to meet the needs of families with infants currently on a waiting list will open this Spring at Ridgewood Missionary Baptist Church, a current EHS partner site.  5 more EHS classrooms serving children 0-3 will be located at a new partnership site, Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church.  All new classrooms will be open before the end of 2019 once renovations are complete.

“Virginia Wingard UMC is excited to partner with Richland County First Steps as we work to transform the lives of families in our community. Our partnership breathes new life into our church and provides an avenue of hope, love, and joy. Virginia Wingard UMC is committed to loving our neighbors and working together creating a future of hope for families in Richland County. I’m proud of the congregation’s willingness to walk by faith and not by sight. This is a new day for Virginia Wingard UMC and a new day for Richland County First Steps,” Rev. Scott W. Smoak, Pastor, Virginia Wingard UMC.

Virginia Wingard Memorial United Methodist Church

The EHS Policy Council, a group of parent and community volunteers was instrumental in making the dream of expansion a reality.  EHS Policy Council Chair Tyra Jefferson, “It’s a great joy, honor and pride to be part of the amazing growth and success of Richland County First Steps, supporting their expansion to promote a lifelong love of learning and confidence for children.  It’s tremendously exciting to expand services in a location that strategically fits the needs of families in Richland County. Not only does the expansion provide a fresh, new layout for services, it provides the opportunity for continued growth and success to come.”

Families with children under age 3 interested in learning more about EHS may click here to submit an interest form to be contacted by an EHS Intake Coordinator.


  • Awesome! I am happy about the progress of early care and education in Columbia SC

    Pam BradleyApril 9, 2019

Leave a Reply