Who is eligible for services

Children First operates all program sites at full enrollment to best serve the families meeting the eligibility requirements for Head Start and other programs. Children and families living below the Federal Poverty Level ($21,960 for a family of 3), and other guidelines based on income and family size, are eligible for services. Families may still be eligible for enrollment based on other criteria, such as a child with a diagnosed disability.

How to enroll

To enroll, families must set up an appointment with a Family Advocate by contacting us at 941-953-3877. Advocates will assist parents and caregivers with submitting an application. Families 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. All families are then prioritized for enrollment based on individual need.

How we are inclusive for children with disabilities

Children First is an Inclusive Preschool Program. An “inclusive” preschool serves children with and without disabilities in the same space. We pride ourselves on being one of very few preschools in Sarasota County that fully embodies the Federal Law (IDEA 2004) that states that children with disabilities shall be educated in the least restrictive environment. This law protects children’s rights to attend school alongside their peers. Inclusion works and research has shown benefits for those with and without special needs.

Children First’s Comprehensive Services Team also works with children and parents to create Individualized Education Plans (IEP). An IEP is a written plan that spells out the special education instruction, supports, and services children 3 years of age and older need to make progress and thrive in school. It supports children who learn and think differently and is designed to meet the child’s unique needs. Our staff work with the Sarasota County School District to evaluate and determine if a child would benefit from an IEP.

Studies have shown children without disabilities:

  • Were more helpful to children with disabilities and learned social skills such as empathy and compassion at a young age.
  • Learned how to assist others. This ability to help is a positive experience and increased their positive attitudes and self-esteem.
  • Avoided forming negative stereotypes toward people who are different from them. This acceptance of diversity led to less prejudice and a better understanding of others.

Studies have shown children with disabilities:

  • Demonstrated higher levels of social play, were more likely to initiate activities and showed gains in key developmental skills.
  • Increased language and social skills due to the ability to model their typically developing peers. This helped prepare them to function more appropriate in other real-world environments.
  • Were able to fully engage in activities that stimulate and challenge pre-academic performance.
Parents and Staff are provided many opportunities to encourage a discussion of similarities and differences, increase their tolerance for the diversity in our society and increase their acceptance and sensitivity to people’s differences.