Frequently Asked Questions

Enrollment Questions

Who is eligible for services?
Children First serves those in the highest poverty levels throughout Sarasota County, with more than 90% of enrolled families being below the poverty line. To participate in the program, families must submit an application, as those with the highest need have first priority. A selection committee comprised of parents, community partners, and Head Start staff carefully reviews applicants to determine enrollment.
What is the cost to enroll a child?
The cost for care is dependent on the family’s income level, need, and other factors. Some families pay nothing, while others pay a discounted rate.
Do I have to be low income to enroll my child?
Up to ten percent of the children who are enrolled in Children First may be from families that exceed the low-income guidelines. These children may meet other criteria, such as a diagnosed disability.
Is there any obligation for the families who are accepted into the program?
A Children First Family Advocate works with each family to assist them in becoming independent and self- sufficient. Family Advocates conduct a minimum of two home visits per family within the program year. Every family completes a Family Assessment within the first 60 days of receiving services, which helps to show the growth of a family between the beginning and the end of the program year.

A Family Partnership Agreement, outlining the family’s long and short-term goals, is developed based on information obtained from the assessment. The Family Advocate follows up on progress throughout the year.
Does Children First provide transportation to its sites?
While transportation is not available for individual children, all child care centers are located in areas that are accessible by foot or via public transit.
I am a child’s legal caregiver (grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc.), but not a parent. Are we still able to apply?
Yes! We invite all families to submit applications, and offer informational classes for families beyond the traditional family unit.

General Questions

What is the difference between Early Head Start and Head Start?
Early Head Start is educational child care for those younger than age three. At Children First, the ideal scenario is that services begin with expectant mothers, when a trained Family Advocate guides her on proper prenatal care and preparation for motherhood. Head Start is designed for children ages three to five, to help ensure they will be ready to enter kindergarten on time and on level with their peers.
I would like to teach - what are your qualifications?
Qualifications for teaching vary, depending on the teaching role – Teacher Assistant, Teacher, VPK (Volunteer Pre-Kindergarten) Teacher, etc. Positions may require Bachelor or Associates degrees in Early Childhood Education plus State of Florida training, a Florida Child Care Professional Certificate, or other certifications. And, of course, anyone interested in joining our teaching staff should have a passion for molding young lives! For current openings, visit our Employment page. For specific details on position requirements, call our Human Resources Department at 941-953-3877.

Volunteering Questions

Do you accept volunteers? If so, what are the volunteer duties?
YES! We welcome volunteers and have a variety of opportunities, for groups and individuals, ranging from rocking babies or reading to children in the classroom to helping in the administrative offices to landscaping and playground updating. We are always in need of bilingual classroom volunteers to work with children that have English as a second language. Languages in demand: Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Portuguese, Arabic, Creole and European Languages. We also need volunteers to mentor parents in classes like Calendar-Based Budgeting or Career Readiness for Women. Check out our Volunteer link for more details.

Donation Questions

How are donations used?
At Children First, we focus on efficiency and effectiveness. Administrative and fundraising costs are kept low in order to provide as many children and families with the high quality early childhood education and supportive services they need. This includes safe, comfortable spaces for children, parents and staff. We are committed to being responsible with funds and transparent in our operations, which is evident from the Guide Star Gold rating we hold.