After-school programs miss thousands of city kids


A new report from the Greater Rochester After-School Alliance found that only 5,932 or 31 percent of city children have access to quality after-school programs. Roughly 14,479 children ages 6 to 17 do not use these programs, for a variety of reasons.

Research shows that children who participate in quality after-school programs do better academically; and that academic disparities between low-income students and middle-income students appear to decrease.

There’s also research showing that children are safer and receive better nutrition when they receive this kind of service.

But there are barriers to getting more children involved.  

For example, of the 60 providers examined, only 13 offer their program for free, says Brigit Hurley, policy analyst with the Children’s Agenda. About 20 percent of the slots in day care centers are not filled, she says, most likely due to the cost involved, which runs about $166 per week. That’s a big tab for any household, much less a low-income family. And relief probably isn’t on the horizon, since the cost and availability of day care in Monroe County has been a controversial issue for some time.

We also know that low-income families often have problems with transportation, making it difficult for parents to pick up children from a program that ends at 6 p.m. and isn’t within walking distance to the family’s home.

The alliance's report focuses on programs in schools, homes, and day care centers, acknowledging that some of the "missing" children may be involved in sports programs after school or go to one of the city's recreation centers.

The report also notes that many program providers are able to serve children in grades K to 5, but fewer are geared to serving older kids, which may also be a reason why some children are not using the programs.

The report makes several recommendations: a coordinated push for a funding increase for after-school academic and enrichment programs; improved information-sharing about academic and social needs of students; better data collection and reporting about the effectiveness of various activities and programs; and increased compensation and professional development for people who work with children.

The relationship children develop with the adults at these program providers is crucial to their success, Hurley says. Programs generally include physical as well as instructional activities such as help with homework. And giving kids a choice in the types of activities is important, too, Hurley says.