Thursday, February 28, 2013

"So that homeless children will be successful now and the rest of their lives"

Last month, I blogged about some of the things homelessness does to a child. The impact is undeniable, but there is good news, too.
First, the bad news.
As our Children’s Program Director wrote, “Homelessness influences every aspect of a child’s life from the moment they are born all the way into adulthood.”
“Homeless children are often confronted with stressful situations and traumatic events that lead to severe emotional distress which is evident in their emotional and behavioral development.”
“Chronic stress has such a tremendous impact on the anatomy of a child’s brain because the younger a person is, the more malleable their brain is. These changes harmfully affect functions like self-regulation and impulse control, goal oriented behaviors, the ability to plan, and to persevere. These character traits aren’t an indication of IQ, but they are a better determinate of success in adulthood.”
Now for the good news.
“Unlike IQ, these character traits are learnable, and the outcome is that students do better academically.”  And, that is the purpose of our Children’s Program.
Again, from our Children’s Program Director, “We decrease the tremendous negative impact that poverty and homelessness have on a child’s life. We give children hope for their future by providing them with the skills and resources they need to be successful now and for the rest of their lives. What I personally try to do for our kids is to help them become caring ethical decision makers. So no matter what is thrown their way, they know the right way to deal with it.”
He shared one story of the impact on one child. “We were able to work a lot with this particular student because she spent the days she was suspended from school with us.”
“One of our major topics that we discuss with our students is anger management and impulse control. Many of our students struggle with understanding how their actions now will have negative consequences later. This was the case for one of our previous 7th graders named Tina. Tina attends a very rough school and is picked on a lot because of her height. She has shared stories with me about being spit on, made fun of, and beaten up. Tina’s grades have suffered tremendously because she has been suspended many times for fighting at school. The last conversation we had with Tina she told us a story about an altercation with several girls after school.”
“She explained when the bullying started she wanted to fight them but thought about the advice she received here. She said she knew it would just lead to another school suspension and she was able to walk away from the confrontation.”
“I think she felt empowered knowing that she now has a choice of how to react (she always thought fighting was the only option), and proud of herself knowing that she was able walk away. She has also told me that she knows her younger sisters look up to her and that she wants to be a better example for them.”