A Child's Place
Children without stable housing have well-documented tendencies to have more frequent illnesses and higher incidence of emotional issues than housed children. They also tend to lag behind in their schoolwork due to frequent moves, gaps in enrollment and poor attendance. Homeless students are often one to two grades behind their peers and are twice as likely to repeat a grade. All children, no matter what their housing, commonly lose at least one month of academic progress during the summer months. A program of A Child's Place, My Place offers 50 homeless students whose parents cannot afford summer day care free qualified adult supervision, enrichment activities and an academic bridge over the summer months to help them catch up with their peers. And it's fun, too!
Kids who come to My Place have a lot of hurdles to overcome. Just getting there is an issue; that's why A Child's Place provides door-to-door transportation on big yellow school buses. Without that, students like Lakeisha who lives in a southwest Mecklenburg County pay-by-the-week motel would never have been able to come for the reading help she so badly needed.
They frequently don't have enough to eat; that's why A Child's Place collaborates with CMS administrators to ensure My Place camp is held at a CMS school with a federally-funded free breakfast and lunch program in the summer. Even so, thin little Michael and LaTonya took extra snacks at every opportunity, hoarding food and fearing hunger. They hadn't gotten over these tendencies (which are common among homeless children) by the end of the summer but they had gained a little weight.
My Place kids have lots of stresses and difficult living situations which impact the amount of sleep they get; that's why A Child's Place staff ensures every child has a sleeping bag and pillow at camp. If a child needs a nap, that child gets one. Daniel's family is crowded in with another family in a small apartment and the baby frequently cries at night. It was a rare morning when he didn't come to camp heavy-eyed and cranky. A nap made all the difference to his ability to participate and learn.
Homeless children often have behavioral challenges, lower self-esteem and confidence in addition to academic gaps. That's why the Summer 2009 My Place camp became a Freedom School in collaboration with Siegle Avenue Partners. Freedom School is a national literacy program developed by the Children's Defense Fund which doesn't just help children read better; it teaches them to love to read. It also incorporates lessons about leadership, civic involvement, behavior modification, health and nutrition, and family involvement.
Lastly, through My Place A Child's Place client homeless children get to do and see fun and exciting things they otherwise never might. They all have swimming lessons and go on field trips. Volunteers teach topics like sign language, drama and music. The kids perform for their parents and invited guests on the last day of camp - and leave with donated book bags filled with school supplies and new clothes for the first day of school in addition to prizes won for improved behavior and reading levels.
None of this would be possible without the Speedway Children's Charities support of A Child's Place and its My Place program. Because of this, so many things become possible for Charlotte area homeless children! On their behalf, thank you!