Homeless children face multiple risk factors that affect their happiness, mental and physical health, and subsequent school achievement. Homeless children get sick four times more often than other children and experience significantly higher rates of respiratory infections, ear infections, gastrointestinal problems and asthma. They are twice as likely to suffer from hunger as other children and much more likely to experience behavioral problems, depression, anxiety and emotional problems. Homeless children are more likely to fall behind in school, repeat a grade, require special education services, and less likely to show academic proficiency or graduate from high school. They enter kindergarten with serious, often long-lasting developmental and health problems. By providing early intervention to learning disabilities, delays, and health problems, Bright Beginnings ensures that children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
Each of the infants, toddlers and preschoolers we serve receive therapeutic and health screenings within 45 days of enrollment at Bright Beginnings, so we can assess their health needs and prepare individualized educational, developmental, therapeutic and social service plans. Our therapeutic and health screenings help us develop individualized curriculum, health, therapeutic and social service plans for each child. Our free on-site therapeutic services detect and address development delays and/or disabilities prevalent in homeless children (i.e. language, speech, motor development and self-regulation.) Bright Beginnings’ therapeutic service team (a clinical psychologist, occupational therapist and speech/language pathologist) works with children, teachers and parents to provide in-service trainings, classroom interventions and on-going consultations for children and families. Prior to and during enrollment, we monitor immunizations as well as health screenings, physicals and other requirements. Additionally, we promote healthy families and healthy bodies for children and their parents with nutritious meals, food demonstrations, health and wellness training and physical activity programs.
Bright Beginnings provides a unique and comprehensive therapeutic environment that includes early assessment of each child’s developmental progress and identification of any disability, mental health or therapeutic issues that need to be addressed by our therapeutic team. Our multi-disciplinary team of staff and consultants provide intensive on-site services as well as referrals to outside services as appropriate. Our therapeutic team includes an on-site Bright Beginnings social worker who coordinates mental health and disability services; a child psychologist, 2 post-doctoral psychologists, an occupational therapist from the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development; clinical psychology students from the George Washington University Center Clinic; and a speech pathologist from Metropolitan Area Communications Services, LLC. Our free on-site therapeutic services detect and address development delays and/or disabilities prevalent in homeless children (i.e. language, speech, motor development and self-regulation.) Bright Beginnings’ therapeutic strategy meets the following goals:
Eat Right, Live Well Program
Bright Beginnings cultivates healthy families by implementing our Eat Right, Live Well Program, which promotes healthy lifestyles, nutrition, healthy eating on a budget, and increased physical activity. Poor families suffer disproportionately from excessive weight, poor nutrition, and chronic poor health and are hardest hit by obesity and its related health complications. Bright Beginnings rectifies hunger and poor nutrition by providing daily well-balanced breakfasts, lunches and snacks for our children. We build on these nutritionally-balanced meals by teaching students the importance of taking care of their bodies, eating well and getting enough sleep.
Since healthy parents raise healthy children, Bright Beginnings encourages parents to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Through health and wellness workshops, seminars, cooking demonstrations and grocery store trips, families learn realistic ways to eat healthier and exercise on a limited budget. The Eat Right, Live Well Program improves the health and well-being of homeless children and their families through early detection of problems and preventative health screenings conducted by community partners.