Youth After-School Programs
The number of children and adolescents without family supervision after school is increasing. Further, the once common notion that self-care led to greater maturity has been replaced with the knowledge that many "latchkey" children, home alone after school, may experience loneliness, fear, and worry. They also risk injury, victimization, bad nutrition, and the negative impact of excessive television viewing. Adolescents who care for younger siblings may experience great stress and must forgo constructive after-school activities. Those who "hang out" with similarly aimless friends may join gangs or engage in premature sexual activity, drug and alcohol use, and other anti-social behavior. Idle youth are particularly prone to many negative influences in urban areas (Marx, 1989).
Because studies show benefits for poor urban students who engage in planned after-school activities (Posner & Vandell, 1994), a large number of such programs have been implemented. They range from small projects with a single purpose, such as raising reading scores, to well-funded comprehensive programs. Over three million children participate in some type of after-school program (National Study, 1993). This digest describes the creation and operation of the larger and more structured programs, but community groups that want to initiate small projects can incorporate relevant ideas and experiences into their own designs.
Schools frequently sponsor after-school programs since many districts, public agencies, or legislation require it. The advantages of school sponsorship include credibility, a continuity of care, and easy access to good resources. Also, programs in schools eliminate the need for children to travel to get to them, and parents do not have to go to two locations to participate in their children's education. The disadvantages include higher personnel costs if after-school staff salaries must be equal to teachers', unexpected program cuts if the after-school program budget is tied to that of the school, and a perception by children that the program is merely an extension of the school day (Latchkey Guidelines, 1987).
Many community and religious organizations, either profit-making or non-profit, are also qualified to manage programs. Some operate independently, while others have a service contract with the local school district. A potential difficulty for non-school sponsors is the availability of a well-equipped site that is an easy commute from school and home. Ideally, the site has both educational and recreational resources, sufficient rest rooms, and a kitchen. Independent after-school programs sometimes rent school space since schools have the best facilities. Thus, they have some of the same advantages as a school-operated program.
Programs can either be self-supporting through tuition paid by participants (possibly on a sliding scale); supported by grants and contracts; or funded through a combination of both. In urban areas families usually pay nothing or only a very small fee.
Many Federal and local government agencies offer funding for after-school programs. For example, government anti-crime programs support afternoon anti-gang activities and special education programs support remedial education. It may be possible to combine special purpose funds from several agencies to create a full-service program. Some foundations also fund programs. Local businesses and organizations may contribute, possibly with in-kind gifts, such as sports equipment or even a site (Carnegie Council, 1994).
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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