Every day, one in five American children spends time alone and unsupervised because they lack access to a quality after-school program.
“Parents and caregivers want to know that their kids are somewhere safe after school—somewhere they can learn, grow and socialize,” says United Way Chief Impact Officer Tonya Adair. “But for many families in our community, after-school programs are simply unaffordable.”
High-quality programs keep children safe, engaged and growing after school. However, many of these programs are far out of reach for Metro Detroit families due to cost, transportation and other barriers.
In our region, 44 percent of families struggle to afford basic necessities like food, housing and health care. For these families, after-school and summer programs for their children are one more expense they struggle to fit into an already-tight budget.
United Way is working with our community partners to close the gap.
At United Way for Southeastern Michigan, we work to ensure that all children are prepared to succeed in school. And we also know that educational success occurs when we focus on learning inside and outside of the classroom.
For every Michigan child in an after-school program, three more do not have access. In Wayne County, for example, this means that thousands of children spend their after-school hours unsupervised.
School districts, cities and counties often lack the funding to provide free or low-cost programming to all families in need. In 2019-20, Wayne County will invest $38.15 million in after-school programs. However, it would take an additional $55 million in funding each year to expand access to all kids in the county.
How children spend their time after school, as well as during mid-year and summer breaks, has an enormous impact on their success in school, their overall wellbeing and their readiness for the future.
Several studies have shown a positive association between participating in after-school programs and academic performance. This includes improvements in test scores and literacy, plus improved classroom behavior and attendance. As a result, it’s also less likely that students who participate in these programs will drop out of school.
It’s good for the community to engage children in programming outside of school hours, too. Research shows that every $1 invested in after-school programs saves $3. Investing in after-school programs increases children’s earning potential, improves school performance and reduces crime and social safety net costs.
“When families have a safe space for their children outside of school hours, we all benefit,” Tonya says.
Children spend 83 percent of their waking hours outside of school. This time presents a large window to positively impact kids.
At United Way, we believe that every child should have access to resources to ensure that they’re prepared to succeed. We also believe that no family should be forced to choose between working and providing a safe, educational space for their children. To achieve this, we need to focus on reaching and teaching kids year-round.
That’s why we’re working to increase access to after-school and summer programming.
We invest in partners who provide quality programs in high-need areas. We also advocate for policies and initiatives that help families access affordable, quality programs. In addition, we help our partners add physical activity, federally funded meals and other enrichment opportunities to their programs.
Together, we are working to change children’s lives — inside and outside of the classroom.