Prospective Families

Girl playing in a playground
A girl in a yellow shirt eating lunch in a classroom

Who is eligible for services

Children First ensures that all program sites operate at maximum enrollment to effectively cater to families that fulfill the eligibility criteria for Head Start and other programs. Families falling below the Federal Poverty Level ($25,820 for a family of 3), and those adhering to guidelines pertaining to income and family size are eligible for our services. Additional eligibility may be established based on various factors, such as having a child with a diagnosed disability.

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.

How to enroll

To begin the enrollment process, families should arrange an appointment with a Family Advocate by reaching out to us at 941-953-3877. These Advocates will guide parents and caregivers through the application submission. Initial priority is given to families with the most pressing needs. An evaluation panel composed of parents, community collaborators, and Head Start personnel assesses applications to determine enrollment. All families are ranked for enrollment based on their individual needs.

Ginger Caucasian toddler smiling at camera

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.
Child with glasses

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.