Essay, Research Paper
The Need for School Age Care in America
Since the fall of 1997 America has experienced a rapid increase in the number of school shootings. These crimes have been completely non-discriminate towards either social status or ethnicity. What these incidents do have in common is the fact that students between the ages of 10 to 16 committed them. When later interviewed, most of the students who instigated these crimes reported feeling like ?loners? or ?outcasts? within their student body and communities. It has been the direct effect of these violent acts that people across America are looking towards permanent solutions for these problems and the need for quality after-school programs has come into the national focus.
Violent juvenile crime triples during the hours of 3pm and 8pm. (Fox and Newman 1997, cited by the National Institute on Out of School Time, Wellesley College- NOIST) Today experts estimate that there are over 5 million American students between the ages of 10 to 16 who return from school to an empty home. Economic necessity is the number one factor for this staggering figure followed by the lack of quality after-school programs available. Statistics show that these unsupervised students are at a greater risk to participate in drug experimentation, sex and truancy, while exhibiting lowered school performances.
Children, families and communities can all benefit greatly from quality after-school programs. The majority of the time spent by unsupervised children and youth is either watching television or with peers in unsupervised activities. Quality after-school programs provide a safe, supervised environment for these young people and children. After-school programs also provide structured supervised activities, which improves the overall learning process. The students involved in quality after-school programs create more positive relationships with their peers and also with caring responsible adults with whom these students can foster lasting bonds. This in turn helps to harvest students with a higher level of self-esteem. Students that perform better in academics as well as develop stronger social skills.
In his speech on the issue of childcare President Clinton said the following: ?Improving after-school care is integral to improving child care across our country? Through after-school programs we can bring parents the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are safe. We can teach our children to say no to drugs and yes to reading, sports and computers.? (The White House at Work 1/26/99) The president also mentioned his plan to provide these services to parents who could not otherwise afford them as well as make these programs widely available to students of all ages. To follow up his ideas the President has committed a total of one billion dollars, to be allocated over the next 5 years to the enhancement of after-school programs. Although this is definitely a step in the right direction the next step is to get more people involved in the process of establishing the criteria for quality in after-school programs and then implementing these programs within their own communities.
Advocates for gun control are crying out for stricter laws and the reform of the Second Amendment. This cause may hold true for a short-term solution regarding the immediate ?physical? danger to the students but it does not remotely begin to solve the greater problem of the emotional or social well being of these same children and youth. With more and more destructive behavior being exhibited by students today the ever-pressing need for after-school care is a matter that involves not only educators but also the nation as a whole. Establishing a safe place for children and youth to go after school will not only help to alleviate juvenile crime and deter youth violence, it will also give a greater majority of these ?high-risk? kids a chance for a brighter tomorrow.