Roughly 15 million school-age children are left unattended after school—up from 14 million in 2004, says a report released last week by the Washington-based Afterschool Alliance.
Thirty percent of those students left alone are middle schoolers, 4 percent are in elementary school, and the remaining 66 percent are students of high school age, according to the nationally representative survey, which includes responses from about 30,000 U.S. households during the 2008-09 school year.
Most participants were surveyed through the mail, with some follow-up phone surveys, and the margin of error for the results is just under six-tenths of a percent.
The survey, sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund, based in Plano, Texas, also found that 88 percent of respondents agreed that after-school programs are “an absolute necessity” for their communities.
“One of the inroads that we have made in the past five years is a recognition that after-school programs really are valuable,” said Jodi Grant, the executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates affordable, high-quality after-school options for children.
The number of children in after-school programs has increased from 6.5 million to 8.4 million in the past five years, and 38 percent of parents whose children do not participate in such programs said they would enroll their children if one were available, up from 30 percent in 2004.
African-American and Hispanic children are more likely than children overall to be enrolled in after-school programs, but the need for more programs is also greater in those minority communities, the survey found. Sixty-one percent of African-American parents and 47 percent of Hispanic parents said they would enroll their children in after-school programs if they were available, compared with 38 percent of parents overall.
The average cost of enrollment in after-school care has risen from about $44 per child per week in 2004 to $67 in 2009. More than half the parents whose children were not enrolled in after-school programs cited cost as a barrier.
State-specific information about after-school programs was scheduled to be released by the Afterschool Alliance on Oct. 15.
A version of this article appeared in the October 14, 2009 edition of Education Week as More Children Alone After School