Meet The Parenting Program Staff

Interim Parenting Education Director, Laura Josephson, M.A., in Early Childhood Education and Childhood Education from Manahattanville College and a B.A. in Fine Art and Education from The University at Albany. Laura is responsible for overseeing the Parenting Education groups in both Sarasota and Manatee Counties.  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.  Previous to a career in education, Laura was in corporate marketing and advertising.  In addition she was inducted into the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education in 2010. Laura co-facilitated Partners In Play® parenting groups at Gocio Elementary, Our Mothers House, Soar in 4, as well as Sarasota and Manatee Libraries.  Prior to becoming the Director she was the Parenting Program Administrator. Laura completed her Graduate Certificate in Infant Family Mental Health from USF in 2017.

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. 

Jennifer, MSW earned her Masters of Social Work degree and Bachelors of Social Work degree from the University of South Florida.  Jennifer has over 15 years of experience working with children and families in both public schools and non-profit organizations. 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, Gocio Elementary and Mothers Helping Mothers.  

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™.

Lauren, M.S.W., is a Registered Clinical Social Worker Intern. Lauren earned her Master's of Social Work degree and Bachelor's of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of South Florida. As a native to Sarasota County and bilingual communicator (Spanish), Lauren has cultivated a specialty of working youth and their families in Sarasota Schools and non-profit organizations in the community. Most recently, Lauren joined the Parenting Program as a Parenting Educator, where she will be co-facilitating parenting education Partners In Play® groups in Sarasota and Manatee Counties libraries. Lauren is also joining the Forty Carrots Child & Family Therapy Center as a Mental Health Therapist.

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.