By Dr. Sheronda Fleming

In 2020, the Afterschool Alliance released the 4th edition of the America After 3pm Report. In the report, North Carolina ranked #6 overall nationally for providing opportunities for children to participate in quality, affordable programs during out-of-school time hours before school, afterschool and in the summer. Out-of-school time programs statewide help children learn, grow, and realize their full potential.  During the pandemic, programs rose to the moment to meet the needs of children and families by:

  •     caring for the children of working parents, first responders, and essential staff;
  •     helping students and families with remote learning;
  •     staying connected with children and teens to provide social and emotional support; and
  •     distributing meals and groceries to families.

Additionally, the latest America After 3 PM report finds that afterschool programs benefit North Carolina parents and communities in multiple ways:

  • 84% of parents with a child in an afterschool program agree that the program helps them keep their job or work more hours.
  • 82% of parents agree that afterschool programs provide working parents peace of mind when youth have a safe space to spend their time outside of school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
  • 96% of parents are satisfied with their child’s experience in out-of-school time programs.

This satisfaction rating resulted in North Carolina being ranked #1 nationally for parent satisfaction. Today’s show guests, who were all parents or grandparents of children that attend out-of-school time programs all noted that the pandemic has taken a toll on students, causing learning loss, social isolation, stress and trauma. Looking ahead to the recovery process, our panelists attested to the critical role of programs at ensuring that children recover academically and make gains in math and reading and develop and strengthen social and emotional skills.

However, as our panelists mentioned and the America After 3pm report confirms, although out-of-school time programs are invaluable for the state of North Carolina, barriers to program access and enrollment persist for youth statewide.

In fact, according to the report:

  • 42% of parents report that there is no afterschool program available in their community,
  • 60% of parents report that the programs are too expensive, and
  • 48% have no safe way for their child to get to and from programs.

In addition to these barriers to program access, unmet demand has skyrocketed across the state and the nation. For every student enrolled in an afterschool program in North Carolina, 3 more are waiting to get in – that’s nearly 667,000 children who would be enrolled if an afterschool program was available to them. To ensure that all children in North Carolina who want to participate in a program before school, afterschool or during the summer are able to, greater investment is needed.

Fortunately, with the American Rescue Plan which was develop to remedy student learning loss and to provide additional supports that young people need, we have the opportunity to forge a new future where every child statewide is cared for, included, educated, and inspired. In this moment, we have the opportunity to forge new and to strengthen existing partnerships between working parents and families, out-of-school time programs, schools, businesses and the community at-large to ensure that all youth statewide thrive, both in and out of school.

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