Children First Expands Mental Health Support for Children and Families

SRQ Story Project Partner Spotlight


The children and families served by Children First, Inc., Sarasota County’s exclusive Head Start provider often face challenges most people couldn’t imagine. One of the goals of Children First’s recent Raise Your Hand Campaign was to help families overcome these behavioral and mental health challenges by offering on-site professional care. Children First introduced its first licensed mental health professional, Dr. Robert Nolan, to the team in December 2015 and added its second counselor, Sultanna McCormick, in 2017 because of the community’s support of the Raise Your Hand Campaign.  Since then, Nolan and McCormick have provided guidance to children, parents, and staff, creating an emotionally healthy environment for learning. One parent, Latasha, says having that access to a mental health counselor has been a critical component of reaching the personal and family goals she has established while working with Children First’s family advocates.

“We’ve become pretty close, as far as her being someone to talk to in my times of need.  She has really helped me through my situations,” said Children First parent Latasha.

With 13 sites across Sarasota County, it became clear Children First needed to seek ways to expand the scope of services.  That led to the acquisition of affiliation agreements with Argosy University and the University of South Florida, allowing six master’s and doctoral-level interns to enhance their hands-on experience while providing that extra support needed to reach more children and families. In January, Children First secured a new agreement with Nova Southeastern University to bring on six more master’s level students.

“Having the interns allows us to serve more children, particularly those who may not meet the requirements for services elsewhere,” says Children First Child and Family Services Manager Dr. Robert Nolan.

The master’s level interns have played an integral role in providing behavioral supports in the classroom and assisting with the Sunbeams groups; volunteers who work with identified 4-year-olds who are experiencing grief/loss issues.  Doctoral students assist the Sunbeams and are also available for individual and family sessions.  For more information on the services offered by Children First, visit

Children First

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