By Meredith Kelly, MSW Intern
In Georgia, more than 280,000 children participate in afterschool, but nearly 600,000 children would participate in afterschool if a program was available. With demand so high and resources often limited, we must find innovative ways of providing more youth quality care after school.
Many cities and counties have implemented afterschool systems in order to provide more youth with access to quality afterschool. The Wallace Foundation explains that an afterschool system is a network of afterschool programs, schools, local governments, and communities that coordinate resources and efforts to ensure youth have access to opportunities that they may not be exposed to otherwise.
After helping many cities implement or strengthen afterschool systems, The Wallace Foundation saw the emergence of four key components to a successful afterschool system:
- Strong leadership from major players. Research has shown that buy-in from strong leaders, such as a mayor or county executive, is vital to the success of system-building.
- Coordination that fits local context. Afterschool systems are all about bringing together disparate programs, but the coordination required will be different in each city or system. Ensuring successful coordination requires you to know the context you are working within. What systems already exist in your community? Where do politicians and community leaders stand on afterschool? What is the economic climate within your community?
- Effective use of data. Afterschool systems have a lot of moving parts and the Wallace Foundation compares data to the oil that keeps moving parts running smoothly. You can use data to help you assess and educate on the demand for afterschool, measure quality and performance, and advocate for afterschool and summer funding.
- A comprehensive approach to quality.An example of an afterschool system here in Georgia is Savannah’s Citywide After School Initiative. This afterschool initiative, part of a larger movement to improve schools and engage students, seeks to engage educators, families, and community leaders to ensure middle school youth have access to high quality afterschool. Savannah’s mayor, Edna Jackson, explained, “We want to focus on our middle school kids. I must say they are at a critical stage in their lives. They are prone to diverse influences as they advance to high school.”
By coordinating resources, data, and funding at the local and state level, Georgia can better serve its youth after the school day ends.