Because more parents work outside of the home, a lot more children today spend time in before- and after-school programs.
For that reason, Rebecca Kelley, national director of Achievement Gap Initiatives for the YMCA, encourages parents to consider six questions to ensure that kids are in quality before- and after-school programs. Millions of children spend from an hour to 2.5 hours in after-school programs, and more than 19.4 million young people are left unsupervised in the afternoon.
Parents and guardians should consider enrolling these children in after-school programs with the assurance that they provide quality care with gains in academic, social, emotional and physical development.
Adults should ask:
▪ Are there opportunities for continued learning? After school programs should be good settings for learning outside of the classroom, offering homework assistance and tutoring. Such programs also should expose children to science, technology, engineering and math activities as well as the arts and humanities.
▪ Does the program encourage a healthy and balanced lifestyle? Parents and guardians should seek before- and after-school care that provides nutritious snacks and healthy physical activity.
▪ Does the program promote healthy social skills? This is how children develop a sense of self and the ability to manage their emotions. Good programs help teach children how to work with others in an inclusive, welcoming and respectful way that generates more opportunities for enhanced social skills.
▪ Does the program promote active learning? Parents and guardians should be able to see kids working with staff members on enriching projects.
▪ Are children safe in the program? Parents and guardians should ask about any past lapses in safety and how they were handled. In addition, they should find out what policies and procedures were put in place to prevent any recurrences such as who has access to children and who can pick them up.
▪ What are the staff qualifications? It is important to learn whether the staff meets or exceeds state regulations and certifications for before- and after-school programs, including passing background checks. Parents and guardians also should spend some time to observe the staff with the children.
The YMCA has more than 5,400 after-school programs nationwide, including the Kansas City area. It partners with schools to help children academically.
Before- and after-school programs should welcome questions from parents and guardians and provide opportunities for adults to observe children in them. Those that don’t should be a red flag for parents and guardians.