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Bright ideas: Evaluating after-school programs

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By GreatSchools Staff

What to watch out for:

A Virginia mother of a 5-year-old is concerned about the lack of structure at her daughter's program.

"My daughter is in kindergarten and has been in daycare since she was 6 months old, so I'm used to having her under another's care. In the after-school program she's in this year, I am concerned about a lack of 'productive activities' since it seems to me it does not have an orientation. They just play or do whatever they want."

A mother in North Carolina stresses how vital her program is to keeping her job.

"I have a very strict job. If I show up late for work I get a point and then I cannot work for that day. In my job you can only get up to nine points and then you are let go. Last year when my daughter was in pre-k, I loved my after-school program, simply because it was always available when school was not in operation, such as teacher work days, or even winter, spring and summer breaks. There were no worries when it came to school closings. This year, my daughter is in kindergarten and the program is a lot different. There is no more winter break program, or any spring and summer program. I know that a lot of parents can stay home with their children, but what about the ones that can't do that?"

A New York mom likes the social component of her after-school program, but questions the quality of the snacks.

"It's better for my kids to be socially interacting with their classmates and friends, than to be at home with a nanny watching television. My major concern is the lack of healthy snacks available to them. I would love to see more yogurt, cheese sticks, fruit, etc."

Comments from readers

"I am going to go back to work full time and I was interested in hearing from working mothers about child care. I have stayed out of work for 3 years because I am afraid to leave my children with the baby sitter. I have had nightmare situations and I am the best to care for my kids. I appreciate the feedback I have no choice I do not want to lose my job, so I will go back to work, reluctantly. Andrea sahm of 4 NYC"
"Mother in North Carolina: Yes, you do have a VERY strict job. What line of business is this that is so unaccommodating of working moms and/or parents. Isn't there anywhere else you can work that isn't so stressful? I can't imagine having to face that each day. On a daily basis, any number of things can put me to work 10-15 mins late regardless of how early I leave or how hard I try to round everyone up. It makes me sad that anyone would have to work in the environment that you do. I know good jobs are hard to find, but is it really worth the stress on you and your family?"
"Another thing I'd recommend adding to 'watch out for' is staff that yells a lot and is rude/frightening to the children. We eventually had to switch schools due to this (no other way for us to get different after-school care for her). She dreaded going to the program, and is now MUCH happier where the staff is in control, but respectful and kind too."