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Lights Turn Back On In Government, Stay On In Afterschool Programs

Photo of a young girl sitting at a desk.This week, more than 8,000 Lights On Afterschool events will take place in communities across the country and at U.S. military bases worldwide.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the Afterschool Alliance, and thousands of public and private partners will join together to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of afterschool programs helping kids reach their potential — and helping their moms and dads go to work. As federal employees return to work today across the country, we have an opportunity to think about the impact afterschool programs have on working parents and school-age children.

Each day, 8 million students attend afterschool programs around the country — in schools, child care centers and community-based organizations. For more than half a million of those children, the Child Care and Development Fund, administered by the Office of Child Care, is paying part of the cost.

As the mother of second and fifth grade boys, I can attest that I wouldn’t be at work today without our afterschool program. I’ve watched new interests blossom, cross-age friendships form and collaborative projects come to fruition — like massive Lego building projects and talent shows. Most impressive, my oldest son worked with friends to build a boat out of nothing but cardboard and duct tape and then raced it in a local lake. That boat held multiple children and even won a race! And they get outside to play — A LOT — more important than ever since I know first-hand the struggle to reduce screen time. 

Research shows that children who attend high quality afterschool and summer programs have improved academic performance, work habits, and study skills. And often, these programs provide innovative opportunities that build on what’s happening during the regular school day — like technology and engineering projects, arts enrichment, and physical activity to promote health. CCDF also provides money for teacher training, curriculum development and other key investments to make our afterschool and summer programs a vibrant part of kids’ educational experience.

Kids are discovering new things about the world and about themselves in afterschool programs every day. They are building confidence to explore and do things they may not have thought possible — maybe even traversing a lake in a cardboard boat!

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