(StatePoint) Research shows that afterschool programs not only help keep kids safe, but also help them succeed in school and life. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough such programs in the country today, experts say.
While participation in afterschool programs has increased to 10.2 million students nationwide, for every child in an afterschool program, two more are waiting to get in, according to “America After 3PM,” a household survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization.
“At this time when afterschool programming needs more funding, federal investments are under threat,” says Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance. “And any cuts would mean that more children are unsupervised in the afternoons and more working parents are left without the assurance that their children are safe until they return home from their jobs.”
The positive effects of afterschool programs are broad. More than 5,000 sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors of the organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids recently issued a report confirming that the hours between 2 and 5 pm are still prime time for juvenile crime. The report also documented positive outcomes for youth who participate in high-quality afterschool programs.
In many cases, these programs serve as a lifeline, offering nutritious suppers to children from low-income families who might otherwise go hungry.
Organizers of the recent “Lights on Afterschool” rally say the 20th anniversary celebration underscored the need to invest in afterschool programs, which offer students homework help, mentors, college and job readiness, healthy snacks, as well as programming in subjects like robotics, computer programming, arts, music and sports.
The only national rally for afterschool, the celebration, organized by the Afterschool Alliance, included some 10,000 events, including roundtable discussions, open houses, science fairs, fun runs, student showcases, academic contests, community service, sports competitions and more. Events focused on the environment, growing and cooking healthy food, space exploration, technology, arts and literacy, and other issues, providing an opportunity for community members to see the skills and talents students hone at their afterschool programs.
“Financial support is needed to expand access to afterschool programs and help keep their lights on,” says Grant. “Every citizen can urge lawmakers at every level, as well as businesses and philanthropies, to invest in these programs, which help children, families and communities.”