Meet The Parenting Program Staff

Parenting Program Director, Christina Rodrigues, M.S. in Education with specialization in Early Literacy and has been part of the Parenting Program since 1998. Since 2009, Christina is responsible for overseeing the Parenting Education and Mental Health Programs. She has implemented mental health services and initiated many community partnerships, including SPARCC, SOLVE Maternity Homes, Salvation Army, Teenage Parent Program (TAPP), Selah Freedom and the Manatee County Public Library System. Christina led the expansion of the Parenting Program in 2014, increasing over 45% of services.

Emily, M.S., in Child and Family Studies and a B.S. in Psychology. Emily has over six years of experience working with families in the child welfare system. Her passion has always been helping mothers and fathers feel empowered in their role as parents. As a Parenting Educator, she facilitates parenting groups at the Parenting Center and Partners In Play® parenting groups at the Sarasota and Manatee libraries. Emily is the face behind Forty Carrots Facebook page, keeping families and professionals informed with the latest research in child development and parenting education. Emily is certified Circle of Security Parenting™

Erika, M.S., LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She earned her Master of Science degree in Applied Clinical Psychology from the University of South Carolina and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of South Florida. She worked as a therapist in a community Mental Health Center and as an adjunct professor teaching at the undergraduate level. Erika joined the team as a Parenting Educator and as a Mental Health Therapist, providing individual and family therapy services and co-facilitating parenting education groups at the CYESIS Teen Parent Program at Riverview High School.  

Jody, M.S.W, LCSW. Jody is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked in the mental health field since 1984. Jody’s focus for over 20 years has been with children and families working as a Mental Health Therapist. She was first involved at Forty Carrots as a parent with her twins and now, as a Therapist, is co-facilitating parenting education groups at First Step Mothers and Infants Program for mothers recovering from addictions and their babies and at SOLVE Maternity Homes, for young homeless expecting mothers at their Manatee facility.

Katie, M.A in the Art of Teaching and a B.A in Strategic Communication. Katie joined the team in 2015 with a background in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She taught overseas in Cambridge, England and Sarasota County School District as a Teacher. Katie co-facilitates Partners In Play® parenting groups at the libraries in Sarasota and Manatee counties, and at our Parenting Center, she co-facilitates the Welcome to Our World, newborn parenting group, as well as Partners In Play® parenting series. Katie is certified Circle of Security Parenting™.

Laura, M.A., in Early Childhood Education and Childhood Education and a B.A. in Fine Art and Education. Laura came to the Parenting Program in 2012 with a background in Early Childhood and Middle School Education with over 8 years of teaching experience. In addition she was inducted into the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Laura co-facilitates Partners In Play® parenting groups at Gocio Elementary, Mothers Helping Mothers, as well as Sarasota and Manatee Libraries. Laura completed her Graduate Certificate in Infant Family Mental Health from USF in 2017.

Melissa C., M.A in Curriculum and Instruction and B.A in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education.  Melissa worked for Pittsburgh Public Schools in various early childhood education roles, her most recent position was Early Childhood Education Delivery Manager, overseeing the education program, assisting with curriculum writing and implementation. Melissa joined the team of Parenting Educators in 2016 and she co-facilitates Partners In Play® parenting groups at the libraries in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Melissa is certified in Circle of Security Parenting™.

Melissa M., B.S. in Liberal Studies and Elementary Education. Melissa taught for eleven years at the middle school prior to moving to Sarasota. As a teacher she received many honors, including “Building Level Teacher of the Year” and “First Year Teacher Award.” She became involved with Forty Carrots by attending our parenting education groups with her children. In 2014, she joined the Parenting Program as a Parenting Educator and co-facilitates Partners In Play® parenting at various library locations in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Melissa is certified Circle of Security Parenting™.

Rebecca, M.S. in Guidance and Counseling and a B.S. in Psychology. Rebecca joined the Parenting Program in 2013 as a Parenting Educator and most recently, has joined Child & Family Therapy Center as a Therapist. Rebecca is a registered Circle of Security Parenting™ Program Facilitator, co-facilitating the series to families working towards reunification with their children. She also co-facilitates parenting groups at the CYESIS Teen Parent Program at North Port High School and at the Teenage Parent Program (TAPP) for Manatee Public School System. In 2016, Rebecca received the Maternal Mental Health Professional Certificate Training.

Sonia, B.A., in Early Childhood and Elementary Education.  Sonia has over 30 years of experience in the early childhood field and has presented at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Annual Conference. Sonia co-facilitates bilingual Partners In Play® parenting groups at Gocio Elementary, Mothers Helping Mothers, as well as Sarasota and Manatee Libraries. She is certified in “Abriendo Puertas”, an evidence-based parenting program for Latino families, and offers this series at Gocio Elementary Parent University to incoming Kindergarten families.

Wendy, M.S., in PreK/Primary Education and B.S. in Communication. She began working as a Parenting Educator in 2008, and holds The Happiest Baby on The Block certification and is a registered Circle of Security Parenting™, offering this series to families working towards reunification. Wendy co-facilitates parenting groups at First Step Mothers & Infants Program, SOLVE Maternity Homes, and the CYESIS Teen Parent Program at North Port and Riverview High Schools and at the Teenage Parenting Program (TAPP) in Manatee County. In 2017, completed her Infant Family Mental Health Graduate Certificate from USF.