After School and Summer Programs
The National Collaboration for Youth believes that:
- After-school programs provide a rich opportunity to supplement developmental experiences in order to build competencies and skills as well as enhance academic learning so children can move successfully from childhood and adolescence to adulthood.
- Programs for school-age children, including those with disabilities and special needs, help address the needs of working families.
- School-age programs should adhere to standards of quality and accreditation similar to those developed for early childhood development programs, supporting:
- Safe, enriching, non-formal settings;
- Well-trained and well-compensated staff who convey care and concern for each child;
- Activities appropriate to each child's stage of growth, unique personality and interest; and
- Appropriate screening, professional development, and adequate pay and benefits for program staff.
- Transportation is key to successful after-school programs, whether the program is operated in schools or the facilities of community-based organizations.
- The Younger Americans Act (YAA), originally introduced in Congress in September 2000, is needed to link programs together into a community-wide system, avoiding duplication and yielding greater cost-effectiveness and accessibility.
- Collaboration between all segments of the community should be mandated.
- After-school and summer programs, if school-based, should rely on multi-program delivery systems, with a variety of agencies acting as full and equal partners to provide diverse activities and expertise, with schools offering consistent access to cafeterias, recreation areas, computer, and library facilities as needed.
- After-school and summer programs can, if affordable and appropriately scheduled, contribute to workforce productivity by allowing working parents, particularly those transitioning off welfare, to meet on-the-job responsibilities without worrying about their children's safety, need for companionship, homework help, recreation, and other developmental opportunities.
PUBLIC POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
- Congress should pass the Younger Americans Act (YAA), which creates a national youth policy and authorizes funds to mobilize American communities to ensure that all youth have access to the competencies and character development they need to be fully prepared as adults and effective citizens.
- Congress should amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to assure partnerships between schools and community-based organizations in providing after-school and summer programs.
- Congress should amend The Child Care and Development Fund to provide a larger set-aside for school age programs and help parents meet the cost of school-age care.
- Federal efforts should encourage the expansion of proven programs, as well as the development of new ones.
- Federal, state and local governments should take action to ensure accessible, affordable, high quality programs for school-age youth, including those with disabilities and special needs, during non-school times. Any resulting legislation should:
- Encourage meaningful partnership (including shared revenue and other resources) between community-based organizations and schools in order to provide a wide range of activities in non-school hours;
- Structure funding programs so that youth-serving organizations and coalitions are able to apply directly for school-age program funds at the local level so that programs will accurately reflect the needs of families and respect parental choice;
- Stipulate that facilities that house school-age programs designate appropriate, consistently available spaces for such programs;
- Stipulate that all children, including children with disabilities or other special needs, must have access to school-age programs offering developmentally-appropriate opportunities;
- Allow funding for the renovation of facilities to adapt them for after-school programs;
- Allow funding for facility costs and upkeep, including utilities and janitorial services;
- Provide incentives to assure that school-age care programs conform to the working hours of parents, including programs provided during the summer and other periods when schools are not in session;
- Provide incentives to private employers, including private not-for-profit employers, to increase their employees' access to quality and affordable after-school care;
- Include funds for transportation to and from school-age programs, perhaps offering incentives for schools to use their buses to provide flexible service, especially in low-income communities and in rural areas;
- Provide funding for screening and training for paid staff and volunteers;
- Promote an adequate level of pay and benefits to workers to ensure high quality care; and
- Establish rewards and incentives for adherence to recognized standards of quality, such as those developed by the National School-Age Care Alliance and other accrediting bodies.