Ohio's report card for after school programs

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

A new survey finds an increase in participation in afterschool programs by Ohio youth over the last five years, along with high satisfaction rates among their parents. The percentage of Ohio children in afterschool programs increased to 12 percent, up from just 7 percent in 2004.

But a significant percentage of the state's children are still unsupervised each afternoon after the school day ends. The data come from the landmark America After 3 p.m. study, conducted for the Afterschool Alliance and sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund.

"Ohio is making some progress and can be proud of that," said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. "But there's still a long way to go. The great majority of Ohio parents who want their kids in afterschool programs aren't able to find them, usually because programs aren't available, they can't afford the fees, or transportation issues make it impossible. These are all barriers we can and should overcome. Quality afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. Every Ohio family that needs an afterschool program should have access to one."

The new study finds that 30 percent of the state's schoolchildren are on their own in the afternoons, and another 16 percent are in the care of their brothers or sisters. In addition, the parents of 30 percent of children not already in afterschool say they would enroll their kids in a program if one were available.

Ninety-eight percent of Ohio parents say they are satisfied with the afterschool program their child attends. "We're proud of the progress we've made in providing afterschool for Ohio's kids and families," said Liz Nusken, director of the Ohio Afterschool Network. "But we've clearly got our work cut out for us. Too many children who need afterschool programs don't have them, and families are carrying a heavier burden as a result. That's particularly difficult during these hard economic times. For afterschool programs to meet the huge unmet demand from families, they're going to need more support from all sectors from the business and philanthropic communities, as well as from the government at all levels."

In key respects, the Ohio results from the America After 3 p.m. study reflect national findings:

  • The number and percentage of children participating in afterschool programs in the nation has increased significantly in the last five years, with 8.4 million children (15 percent) now participating. That compares with 6.5 million children in 2004 (11 percent).
  • But the number of children left alone after the school day ends also has risen, to 15.1 million children (26 percent of school-age children) in 2009. That is an increase of 800,000 children since 2004. Thirty percent of middle schoolers (3.7 million kids) are on their own, as are four percent of elementary school children (1.1 million children).
  • The parents of 18.5 million children (38 percent) not currently participating in an afterschool program would enroll their children in a program if one were available to them, a significant increase from the 15.3 million (30 percent) seen in 2004.
  • The vast majority of parents of children in afterschool programs are satisfied with the programs their children attend, and overall public support for afterschool programs is similarly strong. Nine in 10 parents (89 percent) are satisfied with the afterschool programs their children attend. Eight in 10 parents support public funding for afterschool programs.

The America After 3 p.m. report and accompanying data are available online at www.AfterschoolAlliance.org.

Findings from The America After 3 p.m. are based on 29,754 parent/guardian responses to survey questions about after school child care arrangements during the 2008-2009 school year. RTi, a market research firm, conducted the survey and analyzed the data for the Afterschool Alliance. The entire survey was sponsored by the JCPenney Afterschool Fund. RTi also conducted the 2004 The America After 3 p.m. household survey.

Grant cautioned that, despite the good news, the state and the nation have a long way to go to reach afterschool for all. For more information visit www.AfterchoolAlliance.org, or contact the Afterschool Alliance media office at (202) 371-1999.

The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children have access to quality afterschool programs. More information is available at www.AfterschoolAlliance.org .