Benefits for Youth, Families, and Communities
December 3, 2021
School-age children and youth spend 80 percent of their waking hours outside of school, while 1 in 5 young people in the U.S. are alone after the school day ends. High-quality afterschool programs promote positive youth development and offer a safe space where youth can explore their potential.
Effective afterschool programs provide learning settings that bring a wide range of benefits to youth, families, and communities.
Afterschool programs can support social, emotional, cognitive, and academic development, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health, and provide a safe and supportive environment for children and youth.
Afterschool programs also provide a significant return-on-investment, with every $1 invested saving at least $3 through increasing youth’s earning potential, improving their performance at school, and reducing crime and juvenile delinquency.
Other Benefits Include:
• Social and Emotional Learning
Attending high-quality afterschool programs and regular participation can lead to improved social and emotional competencies, including prosocial behavior, intrinsic motivation, better concentration efforts, and higher sense of self-worth. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel, and show empathy for others, establish, and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. SEL is an integral part of education and human development that advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities. Poverty reduction, economic mobility, and reduced reliance on public assistance have also been found to be benefits of social and emotional learning. These “soft skills” are essential for work force development and lead to more youth being hired and successful in their jobs. Development of personal and social skills in afterschool settings that implement SAFE (sequences, active, focused, and explicit) features also lead to higher academic achievement, positive feelings, and attitude toward school, etc.
• Academic Support
Attending afterschool programs can improve students’ academic performance. A national evaluation found that more than 40 percent of students attending 21st Century Community Learning Center programs improved their reading and math grades, and that those who attended more regularly were more likely to make gains.
• School Participation
Attending afterschool programs leads to improvement in class participation, better adjustment as young people move to the next phase of schooling, increased school day attendance and participation, and reduced school dropout rates.
Participating in afterschool programs leads to increased adult supervision which makes youth feel safer and reduces instances of being left unsupervised with peers out of school. It also means that younger children are supervised by older siblings less often. Adult supervision that is based on developmental relationships promotes positive youth development as it not only promotes personal safety and decreases risky behaviors such as smoking or drug abuse, but also creates an environment where young people learn better and are able to thrive.
• Supporting Working Families
Working families and businesses also benefit from afterschool programs that ensure that youth have a safe place to go while parents or guardians are at work. Parents and guardians who do not have access to childcare miss an average of eight days of work per year, and this decreased worker productivity costs businesses up to $300 billion annually.
• Nutrition and Physical Activity
Afterschool programs can also improve young people’s dietary snack consumption, particularly at sites with on-site foodservice using Out of School Time Nutrition and Physical Activity intervention.
• Work-Based Learning
Afterschool programs can also provide opportunities to develop early exposure to the labor market.
Work-based learning programs with a focus on apprenticeships, internships, and mentorship with older youth between 16-19 leads to higher quality employment at age 29
It is important to note that access to high-quality programs is not always equitable. There can be significant disparities based on income and education, transportation, cultural and developmental appropriateness of programming, and neighborhood safety, among other factors. While nationwide 9 in 10 adults reported that afterschool programs are important to their community, more than 19 million children are unable to enroll in an afterschool program.