For a lot of human history, the solution to the problem of poverty-stricken children, no matter how young they were, was to find them a job. For 15 years in the early 20th century, Italian boys from poor families and orphans could better themselves by going to sea on the ship Caracciolo, run by educator Giulia Civita Franceschi.
The idea of a training ship for disadvantaged children wasn’t new in Italy. In 1883, Genoa had established the training ship Garaventa and in Venice, Scilla was open to orphans of fishermen. In Naples, the situation of the poor was particularly desperate. Housing was unsanitary and overcrowded. Malnutrition was common. The cholera outbreak of 1910–11 killed an estimated 2,600 people over five months. In 1911, a law was passed to approve the donation of Caracciolo, a former Navy ship, to the city. In August 1913, Civita came aboard as head of the program, which was open to boys between the ages of six and 16 (despite being referred to as a “kindergarten ship”).
But it wasn't just a job, or even just vocational training. The ship Caracciolo incorporated a real education along with training as a sailor. The pictures are grim, but many boys were proud of their training and accomplishments, and went on to live lives they wouldn't have otherwise. Read about the "kindergarten ship" Caracciolo at Atlas Obscura.