You’ve reached a turning point. Your kids are too old for daycare or a babysitter, but you’re not completely comfortable with leaving them on their own after school until you get home from work. What can you do to make sure they’re staying safe while spending several hours a day alone?
One option is to look for after-school programs in your area. A good after-school program can make a tremendous difference in a young person’s life. According to research from the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, children who don’t attend after-school programs are 49% more likely to have used drugs and 37% percent more likely to become teen parents. In addition, children are at a higher risk of becoming victims of violence when they don’t have any supervised place to spend time after school.
What to look for in an after-school program
These programs not only provide a safe, supervised environment for your kids, they also offer the opportunity to learn new skills, hone academic skills, and meet new friends. When looking for a program for your children, there are a number of issues to consider, including:
- Is this a safe, supervised environment? Visit each program you’re considering to make sure the place is clean, safe, and has an adequate number of adults to supervise the number of kids in the program. Ideally, the adults should be trained to work with kids of this age group and should have undergone a comprehensive background check.
- What is your child interested in? There are all kinds of different after-school programs, so it’s important to look for one that synchs up with your child’s interests. One of the best ways to find a good fit is to talk with your child, offer several types of activities, and see which ones he or she is most interested in. It can also be helpful to take your child to visit the programs before making a decision.
- Where can you find after-school program options? Many schools offer after-school programs, so talk with your child’s teacher or principal to find out what options are available at your school or in your district. Other parents can be another good resource. Consider checking out programs offered by non-profit organizations such as the YMCA, YWCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, 4-H, local community and recreation centers, your place of worship, and Police Athletic Leagues. Also look for programs at local libraries and museums.
- How much does the program cost? Before signing up for a program, find out the total cost, which may include uniforms, equipment, supplies, field trips and other costs above the general program fee.
With a little legwork, you can find an after-school program that will not only make your kids’ afternoons safer, it will also be a place they enjoy spending time.