In a new survey, parents said that afterschool programs provide the support they want for their children’s well-being. More than 8 in 10 parents from varying backgrounds—rural, urban, Democratic, Republican, independent—agree on the benefits of afterschool programs, according to the nonpartisan advocacy group Afterschool Alliance, which conducted the survey.
The report “America After 3PM: Demand Grows, Opportunity Shrinks” describes the survey of randomly selected U.S. adults who have a school-aged child at home. The Afterschool Alliance has periodically released the “America After 3PM” report since 2004, providing the most comprehensive national and state-specific account of how children and youth spend their afterschool hours.
Another of the group’s recent reports, “Promoting Healthy Futures: Afterschool Provides the Supports Parents Want for Children’s Well-Being,” comes from the larger “America After 3PM” study and focuses on the ways afterschool and summer programs can play a role in healthy youth development.
The survey and reports highlight four key points:
Parents increasingly view afterschool programs as important to the healthy development of children. Throughout the survey data, parents clearly believe that afterschool programs help their kids learn life skills, build confidence and form positive relationships with caring adults. Most of the parents surveyed also agree that the programs reduce the possibility that young people will engage in risky behaviors. Afterschool programs give parents the ability to work and know their children are safe. The new survey, even more than in 2014, shows that parents are more likely to agree that afterschool programs provide children with a wide range of supports.
Afterschool programs support healthy development. According to the survey, the three most important aspects parents take into consideration when choosing programs are a safe environment, a knowledgeable and caring staff, and the opportunity to build life skills. Parents also consider physical activity and nutritious foods in their selection.
Parents of color and families with low incomes especially value afterschool’s role in supporting healthy development. They say the programs provide kids a safe environment following the school day, allowing them to learn and build life skills and surrounding them with knowledgeable and caring staff. Parents believe that youth participating in programs have more opportunities to build life skills, including working with others and improving social skills. Survey responses also show parents believe programs provide healthy snacks and meals to aid further healthy development.
Areas of opportunity. “America After 3PM” also looked at what more afterschool programs could do. Respondents asked for more engagement between parents and families and program staff, and suggested that programs should include service learning and community service to build stronger community connections. Finally, parents asked that organizers help increase awareness about available programming.
Overall, one of the biggest takeaways from “America After 3PM” is the continued parent demand for afterschool programs. While policymakers continue to think about the effects of the pandemic and how to better support youth health and development, they might consider the role that afterschool and summer learning could play in promoting healthy futures if they were more widely accessible.
NCSL has previously covered Afterschool Alliance reports on rural afterschool and STEM programming.
Autumn Rivera is a policy associate with NCSL’s Education Program.
Afterschool Alliance Resources