School Climate & Safety

Survey Finds More Children Unattended After School

By Katie Ash — October 07, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Roughly 15 million school-age children are left unattended after school—up from 14 million in 2004, says a report released Tuesday 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 included 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 study is plus or minus sixth-tenths of a percent.

The survey, sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund, based in Plano, Texas, also found that 88 percent of those surveyed 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.

Although the number of children in after-school programs has increased from 6.5 million to 8.4 million in the past five years, 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.

“I think the biggest take-away is that we’re doing better,” Ms. Grant said. “There are more kids in after-school programs today than there were five years ago. But I also think you can’t separate that from the enormous growth in the number of parents who say they’d like their child to be in an after-school program.”

Greater Demand

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.

The top three criteria that parents consider when choosing an after-school program, in order of importance, are their children’s enjoyment of the program, the location, and the cost, the survey found.

The economy was also cited as a factor in the report, Ms. Grant said. “Seventy-six percent of the funding for after-school programs comes from parents,” she said. “So for a lot of parents, if their budgets are being cut and they’re losing their jobs, it’s hard to afford to keep their kids in after-school programs.”

In addition, Ms. Grant said, many after-school programs themselves are losing funding. “They’re really struggling to keep up with demand,” she said. “We’re seeing one in 10 programs having to close their doors.”

Outlining the Impact

After-school programs have the potential to keep children out of trouble, said Joseph A. Durlak, a professor of clinical psychology at Loyola University Chicago who has conducted research on the topic.

“If you have adults in the program that can monitor these kids’ activities, you would expect the kids to be safer” than if they were left unsupervised, he said.

With the increase in the number of single parents and households in which both parents work, “there is definitely a need for some place where kids can be supervised after school,” Mr. Durlak said. “Just because of the change in demographics, it’s an important issue.”

Lastly, research has suggested that high-quality after-school programs can promote children’s social and emotional development and can sometimes contribute to higher academic achievement, said Mr. Durlak, who co-wrote a 2007 report about the impact of after-school programs on personal and social skills.

That report found that children who took part in after-school programs had higher self-esteem, more positive attitudes toward school, more positive social behaviors, and increased levels of academic achievement than children who did not participate in after-school programs. The 2007 report also found that after-school programs that used evidence-based training approaches were more effective than programs that did not.

State-specific information about after-school programs will be released by the Afterschool Alliance on Oct. 15.

A version of this article appeared in the October 14, 2009 edition of Education Week


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Student Pronoun Policies Put Teachers in a Tough Spot
Teachers have to navigate policies that require them to inform parents when students request the use of different pronouns.
5 min read
Parents, students, and staff of Chino Valley Unified School District hold up flags and signs in favor of protecting LGBTQ+ policies at the school board meeting held at Don Antonio Lugo High School on June 15, 2023, in Chino, Calif.
Parents, students, and staff of Chino Valley Unified School District hold up flags and signs in favor of protecting LGBTQ+ policies at a school board meeting on June 15, 2023, in Chino, Calif. The district is now suing Gov. Gavin Newsom over a new law banning districts from requiring educators to notify parents if their child requests to use a different name or pronouns in school.
Anjali Sharif-Paul/The Orange County Register via AP
School Climate & Safety Rising Reports of School Violence Are Pushing Teachers to Want to Quit
Educators are being met with violence and aggression from various sources, and it's causing them to consider leaving the profession.
10 min read
Edyte Parsons, a teacher in Kent, Wash., pictured at her home on July 19, 2024.
Edyte Parsons, a teacher in Kent, Wash., pictured at her home on July 19, 2024. Parsons, who has experienced several instances of physical and verbal aggression while at work, has thought about leaving teaching.
Meron Menghistab for Education Week
School Climate & Safety Opinion ‘We Cannot Stop a Bullet’: A Principal Demands Better Gun Laws
When guns are easily accessible, not even the Secret Service can prevent every threat. Why would we expect teachers to do better?
Tracey Runeare
5 min read
A tangled jumbled line leads from a moment of impact to a clear conclusion: a ban symbol.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School Climate & Safety Roads Around Schools Are Unsafe, Principals Say. Here's What to Do About It
Traffic conditions aren't fully within school leaders' control. But there are still steps schools can take to help students arrive safely.
4 min read
Focus is on a flashing school bus stop sign in the foreground as a group of schoolchildren cross a parking lot with the help of a crossing guard in the distance.