Children First holds the distinction of being a 4-time designated Head Start “Program of Excellence" and is ranked in the top 1% out of over 1,800 Head Starts nationwide.

This designation is awarded to Head Start organizations that consistently demonstrate excellence in program management and service performance, and that continually support the achievement of robust outcomes for at-risk children birth to five years-old, pregnant women, families, and their communities.

Only nine other Head Start organizations throughout the country have achieved this level of recognition. Children First is one of just two programs to receive this coveted designation four consecutive times.

At Children First, all children receive a high-quality early childhood education from qualified teachers in a nurturing environment that supports their healthy development. Children develop skills in socialization, communication, and problem solving, as well as an enthusiasm for lifelong learning. We focus on creating classrooms that encourage children to explore, interact, and exercise their creative imagination through purposeful play.

Our comprehensive health and nutrition program is geared towards improving the overall health and well-being of children. Every child who attends Children First receives a healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack each day to ensure that they are healthy enough to learn. We also provide vision, hearing, and dental screenings to detect concerns and remove barriers to academic success through appropriate follow up.

On-site support services are offered to any child who requires them, which includes occupational therapy, physical therapy, or speech and language therapy. We have on-staff Mental Health Specialists who provide classroom support, as well as individualized emotional and behavioral support for children and their caregivers.


Parents receive family strengthening services while their children are enrolled at Children First. Every family works with a Family Advocate to help them set and meet financial, occupational, and educational goals. Family Advocates provide guidance and support as families navigate their way to self-sufficiency. Parents can also take classes through our Families First Institute to gain skills in topics such as parenting, career readiness, and budgeting. 

Children First programs are sponsored in part by Sarasota County Government. Community partnerships like this help to better serve vulnerable children and families.

For eligible families, our services are offered at little to no cost. Nearly 89% of the families we serve live at or below the Federal Poverty Level.

2022 Poverty Guidelines
Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,720 for each additional person.

Children First admits students without discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, disability, or national or ethnic origin.

Every child entering a Children First program with a suspected or diagnosed disability will receive the highest quality special education and related services based upon the child's individual needs.