Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Afterschool Worker Shortages: An Overview

Source: (Clockwise, Top to Bottom): Jill on Money, WINGS For Kids,
The How Kids Learn Foundation and Coaching Corps


By Sam Piha

Recruiting, hiring, and retaining afterschool workers have been long standing issues in afterschool programs. This is due to low wages, mostly part-time hours, the lack of opportunities for advancement, and the lack of job security due to the reliance on temporary grants and funding. (Many say that low wages are also the result of childcare being a “women’s profession,” as well as our society’s undervaluing of the education and care of children and youth).   
 
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit—and these issues were greatly exacerbated. They had resulted in programs closing, drastically reducing capacity, and adding stress to afterschool workers. Many of these challenges are not unique to the afterschool field- they are being experienced by those in education and a wide range of fields. 

This is the first in a series of LIAS Blogs to address this issue. This blog is an excerpt from a larger, briefing paper entitled, Understanding the Shortage of Workers in Afterschool Programs developed by Temescal Associates. The full paper can be downloaded and read here.


“The most pressing problem facing afterschool is the nationwide shortage of workers.”Michael Funk, Director of CDE Expanded Learning Division



VOICES FROM THE FIELD




In Afterschool Alliance’s Wave 5 survey of the field, conducted June 2-28, 2021, they found:
  • 80% of program providers surveyed reported that they were concerned about finding staff to hire/staffing shortages (57% extremely or very concerned).
  • 41% of program providers reported that advice on staff burnout and keeping teams engaged would be most helpful to their program.
  • 57% of programs that reported that they planned to be open in the fall of 2021 said that being able to hire enough staff was of most concern to them.

Survey Conducted by East Bay Asian Youth Center of 13 Lead Agencies Providing Afterschool Programs to 76 Schools 

What Factors Contribute to Average Daily Attendance Requirements Not Being Met? 
  • 85% Staff Shortage
  • 70% Health & Safety Concerns
  • 54% COVID-19
  • 46% School Day Enrollment Decline
  • 31% Seasonal Program Enrollment Withdrawal by Students
  • 23% Other
Factors Contributing to Staff Shortages:
  • 85% Health & Safety Concerns
  • 77% Preference for Full Time Employment
  • 80% Unqualified Candidates
  • 39% Compensation
  • 39% Family Obligations
  • 39% Preference for Employment in Other Industry
  • 23% Other


“There’s great uncertainty about economics. Programs are losing resources and funding and really struggling to survive. We’re really concerned with what is happening in the field. Afterschool programs have been a lifeline for our kids, for our families and our communities during these desperate times.”
 
 – Jodi Grant, Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance


IMPORTANT TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
Afterschool - There are many terms that refer to school-based and community-based youth programs outside of the classroom. They include “afterschool,” “out-of-school time (OST),” “expanded learning programs (EXL),” and “youth programs.” For the purposes of this blog series, we will primarily use the term “afterschool” to refer to all these programs.

Afterschool Workforce - The expanded learning workforce is largely made up of people of color, in part-time employment with limited to no benefits. A 2012 study found that 69% of the afterschool workforce in California are people of color, 65% are female, and 69% are part-time workers.

Worker Shortage - This is when there are an insufficient number of qualified individuals in a particular occupation to meet the demand for workers. This is worsened when afterschool programs have problems retaining staff.

Equity - Equity is just and fair inclusion. An equitable society is one in which all can participate and prosper. The goals of equity must be to create conditions that allow all to reach their full potential. In short, equity creates a path from hope to change.

“The route to achieving equity will not be accomplished through treating everyone equally. It will be achieved by treating everyone justly according to their circumstances.” Paula Dressel, Race Matters Institute 

Actions at the Program Level vs. Policy/ Systems Level - “Programs are short-term interventions that create temporary improvements in the wake of challenges. Policies, on the other hand, are covenants we collectively choose to live by, as articulated in legislation and regulation.” For example, “programs can't eliminate the systemic injustices that any group faces. They can help people manage the effects of these injustices, but they don't overcome or cure them. Policies, conversely, actually shift the way communities and their members react and relate to one another, empowering people to improve their own well-being in a systematic way.

Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be conducting a webinar focusing on the nature of the current worker shortage, the challenges to afterschool programs and how best to respond to this as a field on Thursday, January 27, 2022 from 10:00am - 12:00pm (PST). To learn more and register, click here.




Monday, January 10, 2022

SEL and Teens: Program Design and Culture, Staff Practices, And Organizational Practices


By Sam Piha

Reed Larson and Natalie Rusk
Reed Larson is a pioneer researcher on youth development and has studied youth programs for decades. Dr. Larson and Natalie Rusk recently published a study entitled, Youth Programs are Important Spaces for Emotional Learning. Based on their research findings, they made several suggestions of how to ensure that program design and culture and staff and organizational practices support the learning of emotional skills. These suggestions are listed below. 

Program Design and Culture - The program culture is dependent on values that are represented by the program and constantly reinforced by its leaders. The program design is fully aligned with these values, from a program culture in which SEL skills are both taught and “caught.” 
  • Design programs to provide environments of trust, safety, and mutual caring. 
  • Cultivate a program culture where youth are respected and supported as active agents 
  • of their learning, including their emotional learning. Recognize how they learn through feeling, noticing, describing, managing, and reflecting. 
  • Provide opportunities for youth to talk about emotions and share strategies for managing and using emotions. 
  • Structure programs to engage teens in meaningful projects. These provide authentic experiences of learning to manage and use emotions in work youth care about. 
  • Recognize that people from different cultural backgrounds may have different experiences, values, and strategies for handling emotions. 

Staff Practices - These are done by all adult workers within the program. They are explicitly expected of all staff and are aligned with how staff are evaluated. 
  • Acknowledge youth’s emotions and be ready to talk about them. 
  • Encourage youth to view emotions as signals to pay attention to and interpret, to examine the causes and effects of emotions and learn from peers and support each other’s emotional learning. 
  • Help youth view emotional situations from different perspectives. 
  • When appropriate, offer strategies that youth might try for managing emotions. 
  • Encourage youth to reflect on the usefulness of emotions, for example, for motivating 
  • work, evaluating situations, cultivating relationships, and ethical learning. 
  • Support youth as they develop standards and criteria for feeling satisfaction or pride in their work. 
  • Recognize that staff are valuable emotional models for youth. 

Organizational Practices - These are things that the organization, not individual youth workers, are responsible for. These often come in the form of policies and formal agreements.
  • Provide resources and support for staff to develop their skills for facilitating youth’s emotional learning. 
  • Arrange regular time and support for staff members to process and discuss unfolding emotion-related issues in the program (e.g., issues in youth projects, youth’s reactions to a situation, and staff’s self-care needs.) 
  • Encourage and invest in research on emotional learning in adolescence, especially applied research on staff practices and youth’s emotional learning in programs. 

Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be conducting a webinar featuring a presentation from Reed Larson and Natalie Rusk on their new youth development research on Thursday, January 20, 2022 from 10:00am - 12:00pm (PST). To learn more and register, click here.



Monday, January 3, 2022

Serving The Needs Of Housing Insecure And Foster Care Youth: An Interview With An Afterschool Innovator


Junia Kim prepares for the arrival of youth at Project re:Fresh.
Credit: Amir Aziz.  Source: Oaklandside

By Sam Piha

I first learned about Junia Kim and Project re:Fresh through an article my colleague forwarded to me. After nine years of teaching in the East Bay, Junia created Project re:Fresh, an afterschool program focusing on the needs of housing insecure (foster care, homeless and unsettled immigrants) youth. I wanted to learn more about serving the needs of housing insecure youth in afterschool programs, and to do this, I researched more about the issues and interviewed Junia. Her responses are below.

Q: Can you define what you mean by youth who are housing insecure?
A: We use the McKinney-Vento definition - essentially students who are homeless, multiple households in a home, couch-surfing, unaccompanied immigrant youth, etc. 

Q: Can you describe your program, Project re:Fresh?
A: Project re:Fresh is an in-person project-based learning pilot designed with the intention to meet the specific needs of 6th-12th grade youth impacted by foster care and insecure housing. We believe that centering our design on the needs of youth who are often overlooked results in programming that is thoughtfully designed, trauma-informed, and engaging for all youth.

[To learn more about Project re:Fresh and Junia, read this Oaklandside article or listen to this KCBS radio interview.]

Q: Can you describe what you were doing before you created your afterschool program and what inspired this move?
A: Prior to this learning pilot, I was in San Diego participating in High Tech High’s New School Creation Fellowship. The goal there was to immerse myself in a resourced, public project-based learning environment while also intentionally focusing on how to best meet the needs of foster youth in Alameda County (and explored the idea of a school with a free housing component). Before that I was a public-school teacher in the East Bay.

Q: Is there anything in your personal background that inspired you to address the needs of foster youth?
A: As a teacher I always had a student or two who was involved in the foster system or just had unstable housing situations. I remember in my fourth year of teaching, checking in on a student for a week because she was at home alone and hearing from my principal that she had housed that student’s sibling for a weekend a few years earlier. It made me realize there were many ways to open your home to your students, and I feel grateful that in Oakland, it wasn’t uncommon to see other veteran educators wholeheartedly embracing their role in the community. 

In my 7th year in the classroom, I became more involved with Foster the City where I became aware of the unique needs of foster care in Alameda County and California. I wanted to get more personally involved, but also recognized the importance of supporting students within the context of a larger social ecosystem. I’ve been fortunate to have colleagues who are also thoughtful and intentional, and as I continued to look ahead, I felt that I wanted to try to see if we could figure out some way to more seamlessly marry the social work side and education side to support our youth who need it most.

Q: Can you say something about the needs and challenges of foster care youth?
A: California has a highly concentrated number of foster youth in comparison to other states (1/6th of the US foster youth population is in California) and as a result, unlike other public systems, there aren’t a lot of other states to look to for comparison data or practices. Despite the high concentration, numerically, in Alameda County, the number of middle-and high-school aged youth in foster care for a year or longer actually range between 300-400 youth. This number appears manageable, but the geographic spread and unstable placements make it so that regular tangible support is hard to maintain, which then directly contributes to opportunity gaps in learning and social development. Furthermore, aside from systemic difficulties, youth who have been in the foster care system for an extended period of time understandably have experienced multiple traumas that directly result in higher rates of adult instability. 

The hardest thing for me though is just realizing that despite all the strengths and assets our youth bring to the table-- creativity, persistence, self-control, empathy, etc-- there are so many personal, social, and systemic challenges that they often must navigate without consistent, trusted sources of guidance. 

Q: Can you offer any advice to other afterschool leaders who want to better serve the needs of foster care youth?
A: I know the term “trauma-informed care” is a buzzword right now, but it is so important to not only understand our students and what happened to them and the context that we are in, but also to do the internal work to recognize where we need to learn and unlearn. In terms of practice, things that have worked well for us so far are explicitly recognizing the validity of lived experiences as we work on the design and reiterations of our program, treating feedback as a gift, and explicitly centering kind words between youth and staff. We also actively recruit staff who reflect the racial and experiential makeup of our youth and hold to values that include de-centering ourselves and identities that hold privilege in the Bay Area, acknowledging the value of failure, and seeking to maintain clear, reliable systems.

Q: Do afterschool leaders even know if some of their participants are in foster care? 
A: I think depending on the school, district, and program, after school leaders might know what their students are impacted by, but I think that just depends on the intake choices leaders have in their programs. 

I think this is what makes our program special -- we intentionally recruit in areas that we know have a higher concentration of students impacted by foster care and insecure housing, but we also intentionally describe our program as being for students impacted by adverse systems. We believe our students are not their circumstances and that a program designed for a specific group’s needs would actually support the general population as a whole.

Q: Should afterschool leaders reach out to include more foster care youth in their programs? If yes, how would they go about doing that?
A: In my opinion, from program to program, leaders need to first determine if they are able to support students who have been impacted by various levels of trauma as there are multiple circumstances that adversely affect youth. The short answer honestly would be, I don’t think there is a “should” for anyone -- yet the after-school space for me is a place to help level factors that directly result in inequity in our community.

If working with impacted youth is a goal, it really is important to make sure that the resources and capacity to support the youth are there. It’s not a one-size-fits-all best practice, but for us we’ve really benefited from starting with what we hope to see and working backwards from there. It is also an extremely difficult ask for a student to publicly volunteer the parts of their identity and history that are the result of adverse circumstances, so we make sure that while we protect their demographic information, we intentionally create a community built on shared experiences. At the same time, these shared experiences are not necessarily their adverse experiences and trauma, but their interests, joys, hobbies and dreams. Long story short, everyone has different visions so it really is a case by case basis. I would say to surround yourself with feedback and intentionally seek to work with your community. 


Junia Kim is a California native and has been an educator in the East Bay since 2012. Most recently she was a school leader resident and New School Creation Fellow at High Tech High where she founded Seen52, an organization intent on supporting students impacted by the Alameda County child welfare system 52 weeks out of the year.  In her free time, Junia enjoys phone calls, stories, aerial arts, and backpacking. She holds an M.Ed in Language and Literature from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an M.Ed in Educational Leadership from High Tech High Graduate School of Education.


Afterschool Worker Shortages: An Overview

Source: (Clockwise, Top to Bottom): Jill on Money , WINGS For Kids , The How Kids Learn Foundation and Coaching Corps By Sam Piha Recruitin...