Maryland Out of School Time

Working Parent

Is Maryland's Unmet Demand for After School Programs Crippling the American Dream?

 

By Eddie Velosa

 

Make no bones about it, the lack of affordable after school programs across the state of Maryland is systematically dismantling the working family's pursuit of the American Dream.

 

The fact is that many parents struggle to find affordable after school opportunities for their children during the 3PM Gap — the vulnerable hours between 3 and 6 p.m. when youth spend time outside of the classroom while parents are still at work.

 

Statistics show that when kids are enrolled in after school programs, this precious window transforms from “vulnerable hours” into “valuable hours,” providing opportunities for social engagement and extracurricular participation that are not only crucial to childhood development, but critical for parents to maintain consistent work schedules and sustain effective productivity at their jobs.

 

Last year, The Washington Post reported[1] that the cost of child care was second only to an average family's mortgage or rent, and that the overall cost to parents had doubled over the past 25 years. Certainly, this financial burden embodies a major concern for businesses whose employees worry about the wellbeing of their children after school while they're still at work. And even though executives are placing a greater focus on employee wellness, there is still a lack of support from businesses to bridge the 3PM Gap.

 

Frankly, there just aren't enough after school or summer learning opportunities statewide, and it's no longer just the children who are suffering. When a parent is unable to accommodate his or her own work schedule or financially arrange for proper child supervision after school, they are forced to leave work early or take days off, often sacrificing pay or even promotion. Otherwise, children are left to fend for themselves. And that's just not okay.

 

As a matter of fact, 21% of Maryland's elementary school children went unsupervised between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. according to a 2014 Afterschool Alliance study[2]. On a national scale, it exceeds 15 million children[3]. Yet, 36% would have participated in an after-school program if one were affordable — even available — but only 16% of K-12 students have access to after school programs in their area.

 

“Unfortunately, Maryland hasn't done enough to make sure there are enough programs available and accessible for the children and families that need them most,” explains Ellie Mitchell, director of Maryland Out of School Time Network (MOST), a non-profit statewide youth development organization dedicated to increasing opportunities in the out of school hours for all of Maryland's young students by working with partners across the state to identify and champion the efforts of after school programs.

 

But where exactly does the problem lie? Is it a matter of affordability or accessibility — or is it both? And how can businesses and civic leaders support the 86% of Maryland adults who endorse public funding for after-school programs[4]?

 

Well, for starters, an investment in quality after school programs is an investment in raising graduation rates, lowering juvenile crime and strengthening Maryland's future generations. For every dollar invested in Maryland after school programs, there's a return on investment of $3.36.[5]. The research shows that quality after-school programs can reduce chronic absenteeism in school, which has led to reduced student dropout rates. In fact, after-school programs contribute to increased societal gains from graduates' taxable earnings as well as increased societal savings by avoiding juvenile and adult incarceration.

 

Moreover, the past decade has seen Maryland after school programming become increasingly sophisticated, combining advanced learning with physical activity, reading and writing, and exposure to the arts. Many programs even integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) exploration, which new research demonstrates[6] is directly linked to narrowing the gap in math achievement at age 5. That data also indicates that less participation in after-school activities widens the gap.

 

This is the critical role that quality after school programs play by providing a stimulating environment that drives curiosity and builds excitement around learning outside of the classroom and connecting lessons to everyday life. And with the capacity to strengthen a student's engagement in school, it helps them set higher educational goals while building the new skill sets necessary to feel empowered throughout adolescence, before eventually pursuing college and ultimately entering the workforce.

 

Additionally, community and businesses leaders must also better recognize the significance of the 3PM Gap, where as much as 80% of school-age children's time is spent outside of the classroom[7]. School days generally end prior to the end of the work day, leaving that crucial 2 to 3 hour gap (often more) between the time the child is dismissed from class and the time the working parent can get out of work to pick them up from school or get home to meet them. Reducing anxiety and overwhelming distractions from kids who aren't enrolled in after school programs, allows for parents to focus on their jobs resulting in increased employee engagement.

 

And this bodes well for the businesses who support working parents facing the 3PM Gap dilemma each and every day. As parents aim to establish a healthy and stable work-life balance, employers can support them by promoting a manageable work schedule and better understanding what it means for parents when their kids are off the streets and in the care of teachers and coaches during the time gap.

 

According to Afterschool Alliance's “Maryland After 3PM: Kids on the Move” 2014 survey[8], of the parents who were able to enroll their children, 87% say they are satisfied with their child's after-school program; 64% agree that after-school programs help give them peace of mind; and 69% agree that after-school programs help them keep their jobs.[9]

 

When kids can stay engaged and continue to learn and be cared for once school is out, it not only preps them for the sustainable future, but it ultimately grooms them for successful careers and trades that'll one day see them join Maryland's proud working class just like mom and dad. And that alone is worth the investment.

 

Join the growing community of people committed to ensuring that all children have access to after school and expanded learning opportunities they need to succeed. Maryland based companies can support MOST Network's efforts to advocate for more affordable programs to help kids and working parents by participating as a MY3PM Business Partner Ambassador. All Ambassadors will be invited to join Maryland lawmakers at an annual summit to discuss solutions for increasing after school opportunities throughout the state.

 

 

 

 

Learn More about participating as a MY3PM Business Partner and serving as a MOST Ambassador.

 

Information For News Media and Policy Makers

 

Find an Afterschool Program in your Community

 

Learn More about MY3PM for Parents

 

Sources


[1]The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/local/wp/2014/11/18/parents-child-care-costs-have-doubled-but-teachers-still-earn-poverty-wages/

[2]America After 3PM: http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/AA3PM/detail.html#s/MD/demand/p_of_children_in_programs_2014

[3]Expanding Learning: http://expandinglearning.org/docs/The%20Achievement%20Gap%20is%20Real.pdf

[4]Afterschool Alliance: http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/AA3PM/detail.html#s/MD/demand

[5]MOST: http://mdoutofschooltime.org/penn_station/folders/resources__links/research_data_and_recommendations/MOST_final-web.pdf

[6]The Achievement Gap: http://expandinglearning.org/docs/The%20Achievement%20Gap%20is%20Real.pdf

[7] After School Alliance: http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/policyStateFacts.cfm?state_abbr=MD

[8] Afterschool Alliance: http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/policyStateFacts.cfm?state_abbr=MD

[9] Afterschool Alliance: http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/policyStateFacts.cfm?state_abbr=MD