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Community partnerships push Spartanburg's Hello Family initiative

Spartanburg County First Steps

Spartanburg County First Steps on 900 S. Pine St. in Spartanburg, S.C. Quality Counts is a Spartanburg County First Steps program with a goal to increase school readiness. Asia Rollins/staff

SPARTANBURG — In September, City Council approved $1.5 million in federal funding for Hello Family, an initiative that focuses on improving the outcome of children in Spartanburg from before birth to age five.

Getting the initiative off the ground has taken years and involved many community partnerships.

Hello Family is part of Spartanburg’s Way to Wellville program, a collaborative effort that addresses social determinants of health and partners with organizations that have programs to focused on community well-being. The program focuses on improving birth outcomes, reducing child abuse and neglect, and improving kindergarten readiness.

“The greatest investment a community can make is in its children,” said Molly Talbot-Metz, president and CEO of the Mary Black Foundation. “I also hope that other communities recognize Spartanburg as a community that cares about the well-being of our children and that we invest in their future.”

The Mary Black Foundation made a $1 million commitment to Hello Family and provided support over the last several years as the project was developed.

Some of the organizations and programs working on the effort are BirthMatters, Family Connects, the Hope Center for Children’s classes on the Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) and Quality Counts. The hope is to lower medical costs for parents and children, reduce child protective services costs and help those struggling with substance abuse.

Though City Council approved funding for the effort in September, community partners saw the need to improve child development and parent success in Spartanburg years before the initiative took off. Spartanburg’s City Manager Chris Story said the effort between community organizations started five years ago.

“Social scientists in the economic analysis community indicate that the highest return on investment that a community can make in its citizens is in the earliest years,” Story said. “Data indicates that children in the city of Spartanburg can greatly benefit from some early years support and that will make it significantly more likely that they do well in school and that translates to a successful and fulfilling adulthood.”

Mary Garvey, vice president of equity and innovation for the Institute for Child Success, said the city applied for technical assistance with the organization. A feasibility study was conducted to see what the needs were in child development and to create areas of improvement to address the needs.

The city's $1.5 million came from COVID-19 relief funds. Local philanthropic groups are also funding the project.

Financial partners in the effort include: South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services; Spartanburg County School District Six and Seven; Spartanburg Academic Movement; South Carolina First Steps; ReGenesis Heath Care; Institute for Child Success; The Duke Endowment; Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System; and BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

“I think that this will be, on a human level, the most impactful thing that's ever happened at the city since I've been here,” said Christopher George, the communications and marketing Manager for the City of Spartanburg.

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Follow Asia Rollins on Twitter at @asiarollins98.