Reflecting On 22 Years of South Carolina Early Intervention

Just like all businesses, Bright Start began with a big idea. In 1999, our founders Teri and Beth were actually working for the state of South Carolina, overseeing the state’s entire Early Intervention program for the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. Back in those days, the family’s ability to choose a local specialized provider for their child’s early intervention was essentially non-existent. It was a much smaller system and far less mature than it is today. 

But Teri and Beth saw these needs in the community and felt there was a better option – opening and operating their own Early Intervention company, while remaining in partnership with SCDDSN. All parties completely agreed and were in full support. This was a wonderful idea which held great promise for elevating South Carolina early intervention services. 

Growing From Our First Early Intervention Office in Columbia, SC

We officially opened our doors in Columbia in March of 1999. There were many new things to figure out, like how to operate as our own specialized entity to serve children in the state with developmental delays, along with their families. Pretty quickly, we had to hire for Early Interventionists from all around the area. Our caseloads grew quickly, and so did our team. 

Our first Early Intervention office in the Upstate would soon follow in Spartanburg, SC. And over the past twenty-two years, we’ve been growing gradually and steadily to support additional local offices and service more counties across the state. While we knew the need was great back in 1999, we never would have guessed just how much our local community presence and the assistance we’re able to offer would grow as well.

Adding Case Management and Speech Therapy for our SC Families

As more and more families became part of our Bright Start family, it was clear that the growing hadn’t stopped. In fact, since Early Intervention stops at age six, we soon saw that expanding our services was necessary if we wanted to provide comprehensive help for our families. So, we added Case Management. Case Management allows us to offer support and guidance to our kids and their families as they enter their teens and on into adulthood. Through Case Management, we connect these individuals with disabilities and special needs to the breadth of SC resources and opportunities available to them.

It didn’t stop there! In fact, another very clear need arose – speech therapy. Bringing on trained and licensed Speech Pathologists really brought our vision of comprehensive services to life. With these three pillars in place – Early Intervention, Case Management, and Speech Therapy – we were truly able to offer unparalleled support to our community.

Early Intervention Today, versus Twenty-Two Years Ago

The goal of Early Intervention remains the same today as it did back in the beginning – support and help children with developmental delays and their families. That definitely has not changed, but indeed a lot has. We sometimes joke about “the old days of real carbon paper copies”, which of course doesn’t exist anymore in today’s computer world. 

Yes, many of the state’s policies have changed. Some of the procedures and methods have evolved over time as well. Perhaps the most noticeable change is the wide range of providers that now exist. Even in just the past few years, we’ve been amazed to see how many new available providers are popping up across the state. On the one hand, we’re so happy that families now have choices. Since 1999, this was our dream and our vision, and it’s finally here. On the other hand, we hope that as more providers spring up, the level of early intervention care for children and their families will remain top-notch across the state. The highest quality care standards have always been our focus here at Bright Start, and we promise they’ll remain that way forever. 

Our Unique Best Practices – Coaching & Conversations

Five years ago, we made a major shift to the way we here at Bright Start deliver our early intervention services. You see, for over a decade, the focus was all on helping the child ourselves. After all, certainly our Early Interventionists are trained to do just that. However, we began to see exponential improvements when we began to focus on coaching the parents as well. The parents of that child know their child better than we ever could. By equipping the parents themselves with the same tools and techniques we use, we’re able to ensure they are confident and playing an active role in their child’s developmental milestones just like we are. After seeing success with our families in Early Intervention and Speech Therapy, we decided to carry the practice over into our Case Management. Through relationships and conversations with families and individuals, we dig deep to understand their unique needs, goals in life, and how we can help.

Good news – we’ve also tamed the paperwork. All state sponsored programs come with sizable but important paperwork that can get very complex. Well, we realized that dry checklists and clipboard forms weren’t serving our families with the service experience we pride ourselves upon, so we changed it. When you receive Bright Start services, you’ll notice all our intake and questions are geared on conversations instead. We’re here to help you, and that means a relationship – not forms, forms, and more forms. We trust you’ll find this unique Bright Start approach warm, helpful, and reassuring.

Still Going Strong with 100+ Employees and Staff

A business is only as good as its people. We believe that. So we make sure our county-by-county teams of Early Interventionists, Case Managers, and Speech Therapists are treated like family and entrusted as such. We maintain a culture, a mission, and a vision which guides us all every day. Sure we’re a little biased, but we don’t think you’ll find a more passionate bunch of folks anywhere. 

The work required for a child and his/her family to overcome disabilities or developmental delays can be hard and taxing. Well, we see ourselves not only as experts, but as your coaches, cheerleaders, and support every step of the way. We’re on your team and single minded in our efforts to achieve the greatest quality of life and future prospects for your child.

Today, we have grown to 130+ members on our team serving 25 SC counties. We aren’t going to say that it was easy to get here and that we had it all perfectly managed since day one. No, just like any other business we worked long days and nights to achieve what we have attained today, because we believe in our work. And you know what? Here 22 years later, we still do today. 

As long as the need for comprehensive services in Early Intervention, Case Management, and Speech Therapy exist in South Carolina, we will continue to grow and employ passionate people who are willing to accept the mission of making sure families are taken care of and that the children under our wings soar higher than ever before.

It truly has been a wonderful 22 years, but if we’re being honest – our eyes are on the next 22. Our thanks to all the families we’ve been able to serve, and to those we’ll serve in the future.

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