It is estimated that over 8 million school age children are left unattended after school is let out. Statistics show that the hours between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. are when kids are most likely to take part in high risk behaviors such as drug use, drinking alcohol and youth violence. Between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. is when the highest amount of teen criminal activity takes place. This sends a loud message that the after school hours are a crucial time to get our kids into structured activities and programs that are supervised in order to keep them safe.
Researchers have found that kids who spend one to four hours per week in after school programs and extra curricular activities
have better school attendance and display fewer behavior problems
than their unattended peers. After school programs are a time to enrich the lives of these kids and to teach them new skills that will boost their self esteem and help them become responsible adults.
Government agencies are identifying the needs of these children and putting programs in place. Right now 90 % of people say that after school programs
should be available to all kids regardless of financial ability. However, 2/3 of parents and caretakers will tell you that they find it hard to find such programs locally.
Perhaps while the government is working on putting more programs in place, communities need more willing citizens who will head up programs and donate their time and talents at schools and community centers in their area. This is a great opportunity to help your community and to better the lives of so many.
In this country today over 28 million parents work outside the home. It is estimated that some five to seven million children come home to an empty home after school, with the numbers topping out at fifteen million. Many areas have begun to address this by starting after school programs. These programs are designed to keep kids safe and out of trouble but also to keep them involved in activities that help them to learn.
Most people think that it is beneficial to a child to have a place to go after school that helps them develop learning skills and social behaviors in a safe environment. There are many different types of after school programs
such as child care centers, tutoring centers, dance programs, sports clubs, drop in centers that are offered in conjunction with community facilities like libraries
and recreational centers. There is no single cause for the success of these program, both the researchers and facilitators of the programs agree that in order for a program to be effective it must offer both academic enrichment and recreational activities.
- Set milestones for the children to reach
- Have staff that are qualified
- Have community partnerships
- Family involvement
- Learning environments
- Evaluation of program and success of activities
Children of low income families and between the ages of 5 and 9 have been shown to show the most benefit from these programs. Improved grades, better behavior and work habits are just a few of the things that have been noted.
Teens who are involved in programs like these are less likely to be involved in dangerous behavior and sustain better grades. But since these programs are not mandatory it may be that the more motivated students choose to attend the programs. Associating with these programs has also been linked to improved attendance in students.
State and Federal budgets for education, public safety, crime prevention and child care provide some of the funding for after school programs. Private companies are an additional source of support for after school programs. The majority of the support for these programs comes from the parents in the communities themselves.