By Ashley Cox

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10)–The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has provided Children First with a $30,000 Equity and Access Grant supporting access to mental health care for Sarasota County’s most vulnerable young children and families. Children First also received a Community Impact Grant from the Community Foundation in the amount of $4,963.17 to provide car seats to children in need.

The Equity and Access Grant for mental health services is supported by the Edward K. Roberts Fund, Edward K. Roberts Emerging Needs Fund, and Mary Colonna Schmid Fund for Preschool Children from the Community Foundation. Children First mental health services include classroom observation and support, caregiver consultation, creating and implementing individualized plans for children, and child-parent psychotherapy.

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Because of the critical importance of positive adult relationships in a child’s life, this grant will also fund a pilot Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP will provide staff with access to the resources they need to support their own emotional and mental well-being, increasing the quality of care for all children and families served.

The Community Impact Grant is supported by the Hilda Gold Fund for Children and Youth Services and the Sheldon L. German Fund from the Community Foundation. The agency also takes a comprehensive approach to child-passenger safety and works with community partners to help educate parents and caregivers. According to the Center for Disease Control, buckling children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts reduces the risk of serious and fatal injuries. Both grants will have an immediate impact as the need for services continues to increase due to the ongoing pandemic.

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“An important part of our work at Children First is to support a program-wide culture of mental and emotional well-being, as well as eliminating systemic barriers for our families in accessing critical services. Whether it’s a private session with our Early Childhood Mental Health Specialists, or a convertible car seat that allows a single mom to safely transport her child to and from school, each step is crucial in achieving self-sufficiency for our community’s most vulnerable and we could not be more grateful for this support from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County,” says CEO Philip Tavill.

About Children First:
Founded in 1961 and ranked in the top 1% out of over 1,800 Head Starts nationwide, Children First strengthens children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health, and well-being. At 15 sites throughout Sarasota County, Children First offers full-day preschool, infant and toddler care, and nutrition and health care assistance to children ages birth to five years old from low-income families. Through Children First, the children receive the social and cognitive skills needed to enter kindergarten and elementary school on track. For more information, call (941) 953-3877 or go to childrenfirst.net.

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About the Community Foundation of Sarasota County:
The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. With assets of $421 million in more than 1,500 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $48.9 million dollars last year in the areas of education, the arts, health and human services, civic engagement, animal welfare and the environment. Since its founding, the Community Foundation has been able to grant more than $323 million to area nonprofit organizations to our community thanks to the generosity of charitable individuals, families, and businesses. For more information, visit http://www.CFSarasota.org or call (941) 955-3000.