The mission of Children First is to strengthen children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health and well-being.
This statement reflects the organization’s underlying aspiration for the successful achievement of Head Start and Early Head Start goals and objectives, and our main priority of kindergarten readiness for the children we serve.
In 1961, the Junior League of Sarasota, formerly the Junior Welfare League of Sarasota, founded the Sarasota Day Nursery. Its mission was to prepare children from low-income families for Kindergarten. Their work changed lives and built a strong foundation. The organization became Sarasota County’s exclusive provider of Head Start in 1994 and Early Head Start in 1998.
Following a name change to Children First in 2000, the organization grew rapidly, driven by the high demand for quality early childhood education and family strengthening programs within economically vulnerable communities. Children First proudly merged with the historic Helen R. Payne Day Nursery, formerly the Newtown Day Nursery, in 2004.
Children First is honored to serve children and strengthen families. Our continuous commitment to the mission has been made possible by our generous community and for that we are deeply grateful.
1961Sarasota Day Nursery Founded by the Junior Welfare League
1993Appointed Head Start Grantee for Sarasota County
1995Approximately 180 Children Served Daily
1998Became Appointed Early Head Start Grantee for Sarasota County
2004Families First Institute
2005Helen R. Payne
2010Received NHSA Program of Excellence Award
2012Opened Facility in Venice