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What to Look For in an After-School Program

This article provides tips parents can use to find a high quality program for their children.

Use this checklist to help you decide whether to enroll your children in an after-school program. It is best to visit programs when they are in operation so you can see firsthand what the staff is doing and whether the children seem happy.

  • Does the staff consist of responsible and caring adults who really like children and who can provide support and guidance? Is supervision adequate?
  • Is the program in a safe and clean environment? Is there enough space for activities and quiet time? Are the rest rooms adequate? Is the space decorated in an inviting way?
  • Are nutritional snacks or meals provided?
  • Are there good resources, such as a library and sports equipment?
  • Do the activities look exciting and challenging? Are they age-appropriate? Are the participants having fun as well as learning?
  • Are the activities offered the ones that your children like to do or want to learn?
  • Does the program coordinate group and individual learning with the school to be sure that participants benefit as much as possible from it?
  • Can children come before school and on holidays as well as in the afternoon? Is there an extra fee for that? Is there a late fee if you must pick up your children after the program is over?
  • Can children attend only a few times a week instead of every day – to accommodate parents' schedules, to save on costs, or to allow for partial sibling care?
  • What are the costs? Are there extra fees for trips, personal tutoring, and lessons?

Parent involvement in after-school programs is just as important as in other aspects of children's lives. Good programs will ask parents what they want and need, and what their children want to learn and like to do, even before the children enroll.

It is important to keep in touch with the program staff after your children begin participating, to stay informed about how they are doing, and to find out if you can help your children learn more or get greater enjoyment from the program.

Since the children in most programs represent many cultures, it is useful for parents to talk to program staff about their children's needs, their own child-rearing methods, and their expectations, to prevent conflicts and to help staff better appreciate diversity. By providing information about their culture and family history, parents can help staff offer the children a multicultural education.

Good programs also help parents participate in their children's development and education, by arranging family activities at convenient times, and organizing group sessions with program staff that cover a variety of parenting issues.

Children who see their parents become involved in activities sponsored by the after-school program will believe that the program is worth the effort they put into participating in it.

References

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Endnotes

Endnotes

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Adapted from: Schwartz, W. Guide to Choosing an After-School Program. Parent Guide. ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, eric-web.tc.columbia.edu. Information taken from Schwartz, W. (October, 1996). After-School Programs for Urban Youth. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education.

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