60th Anniversary

A girl in a pink shirt that says 'girls have all the fun'
A boy in a black and red striped shirt playing in the playground

2021 Marked the 60th Anniversary of Children First!

In 1961, the Junior League of Sarasota founded the Sarasota Day Nursery with a mission to prepare children from low-income families for Kindergarten. In 1994, the agency became Sarasota County’s exclusive provider of Head Start services. With Early Head Start services added in 1998 and a name change to Children First in 2000, our organization grew rapidly, driven by the high demand for quality early childhood education and family strengthening programs within economically vulnerable communities.

As the exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services for Sarasota County, Children First has grown to serve hundreds of children and their families annually at 15 locations annually throughout Sarasota County with campuses in Venice, North Port, and Sarasota. As a four-time designated Head Start Program of Excellence, our agency ranks in the top 1% of over 1,800 programs nationwide. Through our award-winning Families First Institute, comprehensive curricula is offered at no cost to all community members.

Children First’s founding principles are woven throughout our history, continuing the vision of providing children and families with opportunities for success, regardless of circumstance at birth or in life.


Learn more about our community’s impact through heartwarming stories, exciting updates, and upcoming events as we continue our mission of strengthening children and families.

Group shot of a classroom of children and two deputies, posing in front of a large hand that reads 'Raise Your Hand'


No matter the size, your contribution will have a meaningful impact on the well-being of the children and families under our care. Invest today and see the benefits to your community for years to come.

A family sitting on the floor, posing for a photo, in a classroom setting


Dedicating just a small portion of your time can hold immense value for a child, educator, or caregiver. Discover a range of possibilities and learn about our many opportunities.

An elderly woman holding a sleeping baby