|Source: NHP Foundation|
By Guest Blogger, Nikki Yamashiro (Previously published by The Afterschool Alliance)
Back-to-school season is in full swing and intermixed with the uplifting news stories on students’ return to the classroom are stories of the challenges taking place after the school day ends, from families waitlisted for afterschool programs to program providers struggling to find staff to fill open positions. A new brief, based on responses from nearly 1,500 parents or guardians of school-age children, conducted May 12-June 28, 2022, provides insights into both the issues families face when looking for afterschool programming, as well as the motivations behind wanting to enroll their child in a program. Four key takeaways from “Access to Afterschool Programs Remains a Challenge for Many Families,” include:
- Unmet demand for afterschool programs remains high during the pandemic. There are 24.7 million children who are not in an afterschool program, but would be enrolled if a program were available to them. Now, for every child in an afterschool program, there are four more who are waiting for an available program.
- Cost is the top barrier to afterschool program participation. More than half of parents without a child in an afterschool program (57 percent) report that programs being too expensive was an important factor in their decision not to enroll their child. Other barriers include lack of a safe way for their child to get to and from programs (52 percent), inconvenient program locations (51 percent), and programs’ hours of operation not meeting parent needs (49 percent).
- For kids who are able to access afterschool programs during the pandemic, programs are keeping kids safe, connected, and engaged in learning. Fully 95 percent of parents are satisfied with their child’s afterschool program and 90 percent rate the quality of their afterschool program as excellent or very good. Most parents report that their program is helping their child with everything from building social skills (91 percent) to providing homework help (79 percent) and from providing time for physical activity (87 percent) to connecting their child with caring adults (79 percent).
- Parents agree that afterschool programs are providing critical supports to children and families during the pandemic. Strong majorities of parents agree on the positive role of afterschool programs, including keeping kids safe and out of trouble (82 percent), helping young people build positive relationships with caring adults and mentors (78 percent), providing working parents peace of mind that their children are safe and supervised (85 percent), and helping working parents keep their jobs (83 percent). Eighty-three percent of parents agree that all young people deserve access to quality afterschool and summer programs.
As a recent EdWeek Research Center report finds that nearly half (49 percent) of program providers surveyed in May and June 2022 said that they currently had a waitlist of students, similar to Afterschool Alliance’s Afterschool in the Time of COVID-19 spring 2022 survey, it’s clear that additional public and private investments at the local, state, and federal levels are needed to ensure that all young people have access to quality, affordable afterschool programming. Thanks to COVID relief funding, there are programs who have benefited from the additional support and have been able to meet the needs of their children and families, with one spring 2022 program provider respondent writing, “We would not have been able to stay in business or provide the same quality of care and programming without financial assistance. Or, we would have had to greatly increase the cost of our programming at a time our families were least able to afford it.” However, with only 1 in 5 program providers reporting receiving COVID relief funds, there is still more to be done. Read the full brief to learn more about the current afterschool program landscape.