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Laying a foundation for childhood success

Last updated November 24, 2014

By News administrator


The Institute for Child Success recently offered a snapshot of the well-being of South Carolina’s youngest citizens in a newly-released publication, the South Carolina Early Childhood Annual Data Report for 2014. Two Furman alumnae and a Furman student, Caitlin Vaka ’15, were involved in drawing the picture.

The early childhood report was authored by Molly (Holtzclaw) Griggs ’06, with assistance from Katy (Carlson) Sides ’07, ICS Director of Research and Grants, and Vaka, who worked as a research and policy intern with ICS this summer.

With a ranking of 45th in the nation for child well-being, “an emphasis on improving the well-being of children from birth to age five is critical to increasing the potential for South Carolina’s future adults,” the report said. It provided a comprehensive look at indicators of child well-being in the state, including topics such as prenatal care, family structure and engagement, and school readiness.

“Our hope is that the data report will start conversations about the well-being, safety, and education of young children in our state,” said Sides.

In addition to the data report, Vaka was able to complete an original research project that ICS will publish and will serve as the basis of her research for her Senior Honors Essay in political science. She presented her research, an economic comparison between early childhood education systems on an international level, at the ICS Early Child Research Symposium last month in Columbia.

“Caitlin worked very hard and was always willing to take on new challenges,” Sides said. “She saw her internship as a way to learn and grow professionally.”

Vaka, a double major in political science and philosophy, said a highlight of the internship was being able to get to know and work with two Furman graduates. “This internship gave me incredible experience and skills. I really enjoyed having the ability to perform my own research,” she said. “I also learned how to make my writing accessible to different audiences and have learned how to better communicate what are seemingly complex topics in an easy-to-understand way.”

After graduate school, Vaka, a native of Tampa, Fla., is planning a career in international education development. She hopes to work with developing countries to better their primary education systems.

The Institute for Child Success, a partnership of the Children’s Hospital of the Greenville Health System and the United Way of Greenville County, supports service providers, policy makers, and advocates focused on early childhood development, healthcare, and education to build a sustainable system that ensures the success of all children, pre-natal through age five. It is a private, nonpartisan research and policy organization with offices in Greenville, Columbia and New York City. For more information, visit


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