Recently, I was contacted by a gentleman, on behalf of the YMCA, asking if I thought the following information that he composed would be helpful to share with my readers. It comprises a list of questions to consider when visiting and researching “after-school programs,” but the questions are useful when considering any type of child-care program.
As parents, we of course need to feel comfortable and secure that the persons to whom we entrust the care and well-being of our children will in fact perform their duties and responsibilities to our complete satisfaction, consistently ensuring and demonstrating that the best interests of their most precious charges remain the top priority and focus.
So, here are some excellent thoughts to consider when evaluating and selecting care programs for your child.
As students have filled up their backpacks to begin another school year, there is a central conversation among parents and guardians regarding the quality of education their children receive at school. Part of those conversations should also focus on after-school care, which is a prime opportunity for student enrichment.
Each afternoon during the school year, millions of students spend anywhere from an hour to 2.5 hours in an after-school program. However, there are still more than 15 million youth left unsupervised in the afternoon, and parents should look to enroll their students in quality after-school programs. The most effective programs nurture the whole child, and can offer impressive gains in cognitive, social-emotional and physical development – essential for creating the best opportunity for children to thrive.
This school year, the Y is asking parents and guardians to take a closer look at what their after-school care offers to ensure year-long success for their children. The Y suggests that parents and guardians ask the following six questions when determining the best after-school program.
Here are some questions to help you determine the best program for your child:
1. Are there opportunities for continued learning? After-school programs can be a great way to enhance your child’s learning opportunities outside of the classroom. In addition to assistance with homework completion and tutoring, today’s progressive after-school programs provide opportunities for children to participate in enriching activities focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and arts and humanities.
2. Does the program encourage a healthy and balanced lifestyle? Your child’s health is important to maintaining focus and engagement in school. Look for an after-school program that offers nutritious snacks and encourages the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
3. Does the program promote healthy social skills? Social skills help children build a sense of self, and further develop and manage their emotions. After-school activities should continue to teach children how to work together in an inclusive, welcoming and respectful environment that provides additional opportunities to develop their social skills.
4. Does the program endorse active learning? Step into an after-school program that encourages engaged learning and you’ll see inquisitive kids working side by side with staff members on a variety of enriching projects.
5. Will your child be safe in the program? Make sure to ask about past incidents and find out how they were handled. Also, find out what policies and procedures are in place to prevent incidents, such as protocol for who has access to the students and who can pick up students.
6. What are the staff’s qualifications? Make sure the staff meets or exceeds state regulations and certifications, and that they have passed background checks. The Y works with all its certified teachers to make sure its after-school programs enhance and align with strong academic content. Take time to observe staff in action. How does the staff interact with children? Do they engage in learning activities?
The best after-school programs should welcome your questions and provide opportunities for you to observe and check in on your child’s progress.
As a leading nonprofit committed to youth development, the Y nurtures kids and teens’ social-emotional, cognitive and physical development from birth to career. With well over 5,400 after-school programs nationwide, Ys in partnership with schools work to help youth achieve and succeed in school all year round. For more information about after-school programs available in your area, visit ymca.net/child-care.