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Morningsong: helping homeless kids cope with change

Published on: January 01, 2005

In December, ParentMap announced its Giving Together
Campaign benefiting Family Services, a nonprofit agency in King County
committed to strengthening families and creating a safer community.
This month, we profile Morningsong, a Family Services-sponsored specialized early learning child care program for homeless children.

Michael was 2-1/2 years old when he came to Morningsong. He and his
mother, Karen, had become homeless after fleeing a domestic violence

The teachers noticed right away that Michael had some emotional and
behavioral issues and showed a high level of separation anxiety. In
addition, he was not very affectionate toward Karen, and Karen lacked
the parenting skills necessary to address his special issues.
A typical morning drop-off included Karen bribing Michael with a
bottle, food or toy to get him to come to child care. Once she signed
Michael in, Karen found it difficult to leave because he would cry,
scream, kick, curse or hit her. She would respond by yelling or
cursing. A similar scene was repeated when Karen picked him up.
Teachers modeled for Karen appropriate ways to speak with Michael and
gave suggestions to ease separation from him.
In the classroom, a teacher had to be nearby to help keep him calm and
stop him from lashing out at his friends. Teachers worked intensely
with Michael to provide him with ways to display anger other than by
hitting, kicking or throwing toys.

Karen had also shared with staff that Michael would run away while they
were walking down the street. Teachers worked with Michael on holding
his mom's hand and not running from her.
During the last few weeks of his enrollment, Michael ran happily into
his mother's arms when she came to pick him up. He often directed the
other children to better solve conflicts. He would say, "You ask for a
turn and I'll say 'In a minute,' and then you can have it." He also
learned to ask for a teacher's assistance when conflicts with others
were difficult for him. He was more willing to play with others and was
a leader in the group.

When Michael left Morningsong for a daycare close to their new home,
Karen reported that his language skills had improved and that he
overcame his separation anxiety. In addition, he was no longer angry or
shy and was much more disciplined.
A steady caring staff helped Michael to cope with all the changes that were going on in his life.
To make a contribution to Family Services, contact
Steve Winter at 206-826-3039 or

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