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Children First

Our mission is to strengthen children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health, and well-being.

For eligible families, our services are offered at little to no cost. 83% of the families we serve live at or below the Federal Poverty Level.

Children First holds the distinction of being a 4-time designated Head Start “Program of Excellence" and has been ranked in the top 1% out of over 1,800 Head Starts nationwide.

This designation is awarded to Head Start organizations that consistently demonstrate excellence in program management and service performance, and that continually support the achievement of robust outcomes for at-risk children birth to 5 years, pregnant women, families, and their communities.

Only 9 other Head Start programs throughout the country have achieved this level of recognition. Children First is one of just two programs to receive this coveted designation four consecutive times.
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At Children First, we believe every child deserves the opportunity to achieve their full potential. As Sarasota County’s exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start services, Children First offers high-quality, comprehensive services to hundreds of at-risk children and families annually at multiple locations.

Children First serves children from six weeks to five years and their families. The first five years of a child’s life is when the brain completes 90% of its growth and is the foundation for all future development. The early experiences children have and the environment in which they live shape a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. The education, care, and comprehensive services we offer ensure a healthy and strong foundation for success.

Providing high-quality care for their children has become an economic impossibility for many families, especially those living in poverty. Employment is an important pathway out of poverty, but childcare challenges have become a barrier to work. By providing parents with childcare, Children First makes it possible for parents to work full-time or attend school, increase their job stability and financial security.

Families work with a Family Advocate to set and meet financial, educational, and occupational goals. Our award-winning Families First Institute offers free courses to parents and the public including parenting, budgeting, and career readiness to help families achieve self-sufficiency and success.
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Children First envisions a vibrant community that cherishes education, provides opportunities for children and families to grow and thrive, and encourages and empowers families in supporting their children.... Read more


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.
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Additional Culture Details

Our comprehensive health and nutrition program is geared towards improving the overall health and well-being of children. Every child who attends Children First receives a healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack each day to ensure that they are healthy enough to learn.

We also provide vision, hearing, and dental screenings to detect concerns and remove barriers to academic success through appropriate follow up.

On-site support services are offered to any child who requires them, which includes occupational therapy, physical therapy, or speech and language therapy. We have on-staff Mental Health Specialists who provide classroom support, as well as individualized emotional and behavioral support for children and their caregivers.

Our agency is proud to have been recognized as a top 50 nonprofit employer nationwide in the 2024 and 2021 Best Nonprofits to Work For competition. Created by The NonProfit Times, the leading national business publication for nonprofit managers, this survey and awards program is designed to identify, recognize, and honor the top 50 best employers in the nonprofit industry, benefiting the industry's economy, workforce and businesses through a two-part competitive process.

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.
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Children First Cares
Our values are accountability, commitment, compassion, excellence, trust, and quality.

As leaders of Children First, our mission guides us as we: empower our staff, volunteers, and families to work together in the best interests of children, collaborate with our community partners and investors, and encourage innovation and flexibility in helping families and children achieve their full potential.

Recent Awards

Company Snapshots

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