Dropping your child off at a safe and reliable preschool should ease nerves for most parents, but for many, the challenges of the day are just beginning. Financial trouble, food instability, reliable employment, and access to education are struggles many families in our community face. That’s why Children First has to be so much more than a preschool.
“When a child is enrolled at Children First, parents and caregivers are welcomed into the Children First family as a whole unit,” says Phillip Tavill, Children First CEO.
Recently, Children First received a six-year, $1,251,000 grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to support families through their challenges and help them achieve success. This grant will provide Children First the opportunity to expand their award-winning Families First Institute, a holistic approach to addressing the needs of both the children and their parents together.
“Our Board of Directors identified an opportunity to make a signature investment into a vital organization in our community,” says Teri A Hansen, President | CEO of Barancik Foundation. “This grant also opens the opportunity for other funders to collaborate with Children First and support their efforts to enrich the lives of those who need support the most.”
The expansion will allow the hiring of new Vocational Family Advocates (VFA’s), whose goal will be to advance the economic mobility of parents with children enrolled in the Institute. Parents will have new opportunities to receive workforce training, education, and obtain employment.
“The funding from this grant will be transformational for Children First. We could not be more appreciative of the Barancik Foundation’s commitment to children and families,” says Tavill.
Expanded support for the Institute will empower families to gain confidence by learning new skills and achieving personally identified goals.
Eliezer and Wendy Rivera are living proof of the impact a holistic approach to family well-being can have in creating a generational cycle of opportunity. Having had three children enrolled at the premiere Head Start agency, the couple discovered a new chapter in their family’s life.
Not only were their children’s education and childcare needs taken care of, Eliezer was able to focus on working full-time. He soon received his real estate license, and is currently on track to obtain his broker’s license. Wendy had the opportunity to begin work as a Teacher’s Aide for the organization. She recently earned her Florida Child Care Professional Credential and was promoted to Infant/Toddler Specialist. With extra income and confidence in hand, both parents were empowered to take advantage of further educational opportunities with the Families First Institute (FFI), participating in classes like the Nurturing Dads and Positive Solutions for Families programs.
The curriculum serves as a platform for a group of Children First families to share their parenting experiences, explore career opportunities, and overcome their fears around finance and budgeting.
“The classes taught me how important a role model is for my children, and that we as parents also need to seek personal growth and development,” says Eliezer Rivera. “If you have ever wondered where exactly your support for this amazing organization is going, my family is a powerful example.”
With the expansion of the Families First Institute at Children First, VFA’s will develop a Parent Training Program to provide families with the opportunity to work in one of three areas: early childhood development, food service, or clerical services. Parents will train alongside Children First staff members to develop their skills while earning a stipend for their work. Once training is completed, they will have expanded opportunities for employment.
To learn more, visit childrenfirstsrq.org.
About Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation
The Charles and Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida. The Barancik Foundation creates initiatives and awards grants in Sarasota and beyond in the areas of education, humanitarian causes, arts and culture, the environment, and medical research. For more information, visit www.barancikfoundation.org.
About Children First:
Founded in 1961 and ranked in the top 1% out of over 1,800 Head Starts nationwide, Children First strengthens children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health, and well-being. At 15 sites throughout Sarasota County, Children First offers full-day preschool, infant and toddler care, and nutrition and health care assistance to children ages birth to five years old from low-income families. Through Children First, the children receive the social and cognitive skills needed to enter kindergarten and elementary school on track. For more information, call (941) 953-3877 or go to childrenfirst.net.