By Rachel Schumacher, Director, Office of Child Care
At the Office of Child Care, we know the need for care doesn’t end when children enter their elementary school years. And as the mother of two school-age children, I know first-hand how important it is to know my children have a safe and enriching place to go at 3 o’clock each day. The need for high quality afterschool care is no secret. It’s why more than 8,000 sites – including schools, parks, rec centers, and sports fields – across the country are holding events today in honor of the 16th annual Lights on Afterschool Visit disclaimer page .
Organized by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights on Afterschool highlights the importance of afterschool care and activities for children. Over 25 years of research show strong linkages between participation in high-quality afterschool programs and positive developmental outcomes for children. These outcomes include:
- Improved social skills with peers
- Improved attitudes and feelings towards school
- Improvements in intrinsic motivation, concentrated effort, and positive states of mind
Research has also linked participation in high-quality afterschool and summer learning programs with narrowing the achievement gap between low-income children and their middle-class peers.
The good news is that the number of children attending afterschool programs is going up. Through a survey conducted by the National Afterschool Alliance in 2014, 10.2 million children are in afterschool programs. That’s a 15 percent increase since 2009. The bad news is that not all children have access to these programs. There aren’t enough high-quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities. As a result, more than 800,000 elementary school children are looking after themselves after school. Low-income parents point to cost and safe passage to and from programs as primary barriers to their children’s ability to participate in afterschool and summer learning programs.
At OCC, we work with our partners in the states, tribes and territories to provide care for children up to 13 years old. In 2013, 1,449,800 children were served through Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) subsidies. Over a third of those children were school-age (between the ages of 6–13). CCDF money also goes to support quality efforts targeted toward school-age children and the programs that serve them.
In order to provide even more support to our grantees, OCC is investing in the new National Center on Afterschool and Summer Enrichment (NCASE). The goal of the new center is to ensure that low-income school-age children have increased access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning experiences. This will contribute to their overall development and academic achievement. NCASE’s training and technical assistance will focus on the state CCDF lead agencies and their designated networks. The goal is to ensure that NCASE’s resources and materials reach afterschool and summer program staff and the families the programs serve.
Today, over a million people will participate in Lights on Afterschool. It reminds us all that afterschool programs are tremendously important to children’s educational and developmental success. At OCC, we hope that next year that number will be even higher, with even more children in high-quality programs outside of school hours.