Childcare watching hours: where is your child after 3 p.m.?
In 60% of American families with school-age children, both parents work outside of the home, leaving many scrambling for child care between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m.
The Latest Data on After-School Programs
A recent study, America After 3 PM, commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance and the JCPenney Afterschool Fund, is the most comprehensive study to date on trends in after-school programs. This study used data collected during the summer of 2003 and found that:
- 25% of school-age children take care of themselves after school. In 2003, that translated into approximately 14.3 million children.
- Only 11% of the nation's K-12 youth participate in after-school programs.
- 30% would like to participate in an after-school program if one were available to them.
- 66% of those in after-school programs are in grades K-5, 15% are in 6-8, and 8% are in high school. (The remaining 11% were not identified by grade level.)
By Marian Wilde , GreatSchools Staff
One quarter of all school-age kids care for themselves after school, a big change since the days of Ozzie and Harriet when the majority of moms worked in the home.
In fact, the disconnect between parental job constraints and school hours has given rise to its own special brand of anxiety: Parental After-School Stress.
Parental After-School Stress
In 2004, Drs. Rosalind Barnett and Karen Gareis of Brandeis University found that working parents frequently worry about their children between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m., especially if they have precarious after-school arrangements, such as having older children caring for their younger siblings. This phenomenon, which they dubbed Parental After-School Stress, is further aggravated by long commutes and inflexible work hours.
One sure way to alleviate Parental After-School Stress is to offer parents quality after-school programs. Good programs keep younger kids safe and older kids out of trouble. They also motivate and engage children who might otherwise be tempted to watch too much television, or who might remain inactive and isolated during the after-school hours.
Ten Qualities of Great After-School Programs
How do you know if an after-school program is adequate, good or great? Many organizations, such as Baltimore's Safe and Sound Campaign, the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs, the National Afterschool Association and the YMCA, have guidelines for assessing after-school programs. GreatSchools has compiled this list of assessments from guidelines provided by these and other groups.
1. A staff trained in child development.
The staff should be of an appropriate age and be trained in child development, early childhood education or recreation.
2. Lots of healthy snacks and drinks.
Look for fresh fruit and vegetables, a low ratio of chips and cookies, and an interesting variety of food options.
3. A variety of activities.
There should be a wide array of activities, such as sports, cooking, crafts, field trips and homework help.
4. A planned and balanced schedule.
The daily schedule should be balanced, planned in advance and available to parents. Each day should include some indoor time and some outdoor time, with a balance of quiet and active time. Furthermore, there should be a balance between child-initiated (free-time) and staff-initiated activities.
5. A polite and friendly staff.
Watch the staff interactions with the children. The staff should be polite and friendly to both children and parents, and should interact frequently with the kids.