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Homeless Kids Get Taste of 'Normal' at Massachusetts Preschool Just For Them

Head Start, the federal preschool program for children living in poverty, educates a significant portion of the few homeless children who are enrolled in preschool across the country. (Only about 3 percent of homeless children are enrolled in public preschools, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.) But a summer program in the Boston area, in its second summer this year, caters specifically to these children, with the idea of offering them a few "normal" hours in the midst of their often hectic and disorganized lives.

The program is called Pathways, and it's tiny. This summer, 36 children signed up.

"A Pathways worker typically goes to each hotel and sets up a table at which families can sign up, according to Holly Curtis, a social worker who spends most of her time with those families," reported Arianna MacNeill in a profile of the program for The Salem News, in Salem, Mass.

Playing, learning, trips to the park and twice a month field trips make up a typical day at Pathways, which is funded by grants from the Cummings Foundation—a Boston-based family foundation—and the local United Way. The routine can be a haven for kids, the Beverly, Mass.-based program's director told The Salem News.

More than half of children in federally funded homeless shelters are age 5 or younger and a quarter of infants and toddlers experiencing homelessness have been found to have developmental delays, compared to 10 percent of the general population, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth warns in its report on access to early-childhood education for homeless children. 

One mom, who has two children in the program, told The Salem News that her kids came home with art every day, have learned to communicate better, and now like healthy food.

This is the first I've heard of a preschool program specifically designed for homeless children. Am I missing others? Email me at lmongeauATepeDOTorg and let me know if there are more I should look into.

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