Talk about a gap! in early 2020, there were 7.8 million young people in afterschool programs—and 24.6 million more who would be if a spot was available. (1)
But this is pre-pandemic data; the demand for quality afterschool programming has only grown since March 2020. Although 83 percent of afterschool programs were open this summer, there are still more eager young people who want to attend than actual available programs to welcome them:
- 52 percent of (physically open) afterschool programs have a waitlist of students who want to join their program.2
- 55 percent of afterschool program providers say the are “extremely or very concerned” that young people in their community aren’t able to access needed summer programming. (2)
Why is it so important that young people have access to afterschool programs?
Not only do out-of-school-time programs help working parents stay employed, but 96 percent of parents with children in afterschool programs say their kids are building important life skills.2 High-quality afterschool programs have been shown to boost academic performance, decrease drop-out rates, improve decision-making skills and decrease risky behaviors. (3)
It’s not just these life-long benefits to the students themselves that make afterschool programs a vital part of community life.
Afterschool programs also act as a safety net for families—especially those affected by the ongoing pandemic.
53 percent of afterschool programs also provide meals (onsite or delivered) and other resources for participating families. (67 percent of programs report that more than half of their participants qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch program.) 52 percent help families connect with other community resources, and 45 percent are giving the children of essential workers safe, enriching places to go during out-of-school time. (2)
Afterschool programs offer big benefits to both kids and their families. But there aren’t enough programs to serve the children who need them. What can you do to help close the afterschool gap?
- Raise your voice. Like 87% of parents across the political spectrum2, you, too, can support public funding for afterschool programs. Make sure your representatives know wider access to afterschool programs is important to you.
- Spread the word. October 28 is the 22nd annual Lights On Afterschool day to celebrate and support afterschool programs. Find an event or plan your own.
- Get involved. Connect with your local Camp Fire council to learn what afterschool programs in your area might need. Or make a donation to Camp Fire to support its out-of-school-time programs that serve thousands of children across the country.
- “America After 3pm,” Afterschool Alliance, December 2020.
- “Afterschool Alliance COVID-19 Program Provider Survey – Wave 5 Results,” Afterschool Alliance, June 2021.
- “What does the research say about afterschool?” Afterschool Alliance, November 2017.