About Us

Young boy eating lunch in classroom
A baby drinking milk or formula from a bottle
National Head Start Association's Program of Excellence Accreditation Badge

Children First has earned the prestigious title of a “Program of Excellence” designated by the National Head Start Association four consecutive times, an accomplishment achieved by only nine other Head Starts nationwide.

This recognition is a testament to our consistent demonstration of excellence in program management and service performance.  We take pride in our continuous achievement of robust outcomes for at-risk children aged from birth to five years, along with pregnant women, families, and the broader community we serve.

Notably, among the over 1,800 Head Starts across the country, Children First ranks within the top 1%, solidifying its place as a standout performer in the Early Childhood Education field.

63 Years Helping Families

Lundlum family

Multiple Locations across Sarasota County

Map of Sarasota, FL

1,000+ Children and Their Families Served in Sarasota County Daily

Three boys embracing

At Children First, every child is provided with a top-tier early childhood education facilitated by highly qualified staff within a caring setting that promotes their holistic growth. Our approach nurtures children’s development of socialization, communication, and critical thinking abilities, while also instilling a genuine passion for continuous learning. Our emphasis lies in crafting classrooms that inspire children to delve into their curiosity, engage in meaningful interactions, and harness their imaginative creativity through purpose-driven play.

Dedicated to enhancing the lives of our children, our comprehensive health and nutrition program is designed to promote their overall health and well-being. Each child enrolled at Children First receives a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and snack daily, fostering their optimal health for effective learning. Additionally, we conduct thorough vision, hearing, and dental screenings to identify potential issues and eliminate obstacles that might hinder academic progress.

We extend on-site support services to children in need, encompassing occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech and language therapy. Our team includes dedicated Mental Health Specialists who offer classroom assistance and personalized emotional and behavioral support for both children and their caregivers.

During their children’s enrollment at Children First, parents are provided with family strengthening services. Each family collaborates with a dedicated Family Advocate to establish and achieve financial, occupational, and educational objectives. These advocates offer valuable guidance as families progress toward self-sufficiency. Additionally, parents have the opportunity to participate in courses offered by our award-winning Families First Institute, enabling them to acquire proficiencies in areas such as parenting, career readiness, and effective budgeting.

Partial sponsorship for Children First programs is generously provided by Sarasota County Government. Collaborations of this nature with the community play a crucial role in enhancing our ability to support vulnerable children and families.

For eligible families, our services are offered at little to no cost. Nearly 77% of the families we serve live at or below the Federal Poverty Level.

2024 Poverty Guidelines

Persons in family/householdPoverty guideline
1$15,060
2$20,440
3$25,820
4$31,200
5$36,580
6$41,960
7$47,340
8$52,720

For families/households with more than 9 persons, add $5,380 for each additional person.

Children First Leadership making a heart shape with their hands

Vice President of Philanthropy Jessica Rogers, CEO Philip Tavill, Vice President of Programs Kathleen Sullivan

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

Every child entering a Children First program with a suspected or diagnosed disability will receive a quality education in an inclusive setting that is individualized through a positive strength -based approach. Developmentally appropriate accommodations and modifications to the curriculum and any related discipline specific support services from our local education agencies and community partnerships are provided on site, during the child’s school day.