ERIC Identifier: ED335158
Publication Date: 1991-00-00
Author: Seligson, Michelle - Coltin, Lillian
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood
Education Urbana IL.
Approaches to School-Age Child Care. ERIC Digest.
School-age child care includes almost any program that regularly enrolls
children from kindergarten through early adolescence during the times when
schools are traditionally closed. This includes programs operated by schools,
family day care providers, recreation centers, youth-serving organizations,
and child care centers. Also known as extended day programs, before-and-after
school programs provide enrichment, academic instruction, recreation and
supervised care. An array of drop-in and part-time programs also serve
an ad hoc child care function.
OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO FAMILIES OF SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN
Changes in family structure and values have altered the way in which
many children are cared for. More mothers are in the labor force; more
families are headed by a single parent; and fewer relatives are available
to care for children. Increasing numbers of families are looking for ways
to care for their children in before-and-after school programs or through
the use of a patchwork quilt of care arrangements.
There are many options for school-age care. Each offers advantages and
disadvantages, and none is right for all children under all circumstances.
Some children may benefit from the slower pace and smaller environment
of a family day care home, while others may need the larger physical and
social setting of an after-school program. Children with special talents
may enjoy a narrowly focused program that allows them to improve their
skills, while other children may require highly varied programs that help
them maintain their interests.
DEVELOPMENTAL NEEDS OF SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN
Self-care arrangements do not meet the developmental needs of some school-age
children. As these children navigate the passage from early childhood to
adolescence, they need opportunities to make friends, play, develop skills
and initiative, see products through to completion, and receive attention
and appreciation from caring adults.
Many professionals are concerned about children who are on their own
after school and children for whom relationships with other children, adults,
and family members are no longer a given. Seligson and Fink (1989) raised
a number of questions about what this situation means for children, parents,
and community. For example, what will happen to those children who lack
the out-of-school experiences which were once considered part of a healthy
childhood? How much self-care is appropriate, and at what age is it appropriate?
Are children on their own at greater risk for premature sexual experimentation
or drug or alcohol use?
CHARACTERISTICS OF QUALITY SCHOOL-AGE PROGRAMS
Baden and others (1982) summarized three years of research on programs
in the U.S. In the course of this research, it was discovered that the
best school-age child care programs have certain common elements. These
o offer a safe environment that fosters optimal development;
o employ a sufficient number of qualified, well-trained staff;
o are administered efficiently;
o encourage staff-parent interaction;
o balance activities to include structured and unstructured time, teacher-directed
and child-initiated experiences, and a range of activities;
o capitalize on the interests of the children and opportunities for
informal, social learning;
o use community resources as much as possible;
o communicate clear, consistent expectations and limits to children;
o provide indoor and outdoor space for active play, and places for socialization
and private time.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
has established the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs, which
offers accreditation to centers serving children through age eight. Its
validation criteria confirm the elements of quality programming mentioned
The School-Age Child Care Project of Wellesley College Center for Research
on Women has created self-guided assessment instruments for school-age
child care programs. Assessing School-Age Child Care Quality (ASQ) examines
a program to determine which areas are strong and which could be improved.
ASQ is designed to create a dialogue among program participants as they
explore strategies for program change.
SUPPORTIVE SERVICES: SOME BACK-UP SOLUTIONS
In addition to adult-supervised child care programs, some communities
offer supportive services for self-care. These include educational materials
and curricula that provide information for latchkey children and their
parents; telephone reassurance lines staffed by phone counselors trained
to provide a friendly voice and occasional advice; and block parent programs
using trained volunteers who make their homes available during after-school
hours in case of emergency. These programs are designed not to address
the day-to-day needs of children after school, but rather to reduce the
possibility of serious trouble confronting a child.
Few studies have measured the impact of self-care on children over time.
One study of former latchkey children found that negative reactions to
unresolved stress did persist into adulthood. A handful of studies indicated
that children in after-school programs did better in terms of academic
performance and social adjustment than peers who were not in care. Although
none of these studies included rigorous comparison groups (Miller &
Marx, 1990), they did offer an indication of the benefits of high quality
IMPROVING SCHOOL-AGE CHILD CARE
If the policy agenda for after-school child care follows the pattern
of preschool child care, the key challenge in forthcoming years will be
to determine the indicators of program quality (Powell, 1987). The school-age
child care field is developing so rapidly that it is imperative to conduct
systematic research on programs that are supportive of positive child and
family outcomes. The field is just beginning to develop program standards
through self-assessment techniques, accreditation, and state licensing
procedures. Yet relatively little is known empirically regarding which
levels of child/adult ratios, group size, caregiver characteristics, and
parent involvement are most supportive of social adjustment and cognitive
development. A recently approved large-scale provider survey sponsored
by the U.S. Department of Education should provide important information
regarding the range and prevalence of program and client characteristics.
In 1992, as a result of this study and other efforts, more hard information
about school-age child care and a much better understanding of what constitutes
high quality child care programs will be available. The next step will
be to determine the impact of these programs on the children and families
that use them.
The newly enacted federal Child Care and Development Block Grant, the
Dependent Care Block Grant, special school-age child care legislation in
at least 14 states, municipal sponsorship, and increased corporate interest
are examples of progress in policy and program development. Public schools
have begun to form partnerships with provider agencies and also offer programs.
Ultimately, good school-age child care must be understood as both a
mediating influence that may prevent damage to children, and as an investment
in the well-being of children and their families.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Baden, R., Genser, A., Levine, J., and M. Seligson. School-Age Child
Care: An Action Manual. Boston, MA: Auburn, 1982.
Fink, D.B. School-Age Child Care in America: Findings of a 1988 Study
(Action Research Paper #3). Wellesley, MA: School-Age Child Care Project,
Gannett, E. City Initiatives in School-Age Child Care (Action Research
Paper #1). Wellesley, MA: School-Age Child Care Project, 1990.
Marx, F. School-Age Child Care in America: Final Report of a National
Provider Survey (Working Paper No. 204). Wellesley, MA: Center for Research
on Women, 1990.
Miller, B.M., and F. Marx. Afterschool Arrangements in Middle Childhood:
A Review of the Literature (Action Research Paper #2). Wellesley, MA: School-Age
Child Care Project, 1990.
Powell, D. "After-School Child Care." Young Children 42 (March, 1987):
Seligson, M. "School-Age Child Care and the Public Schools: A Response
to Families' Needs." Family Resource Coalition 8 (2) (1989): 11-27.
Seligson, M., Fersh, E., Marshall, N.L., Marx, F., and R.K. Baden. "School-Age
Child Care: The Challenge Facing Families." The Journal of Contemporary
Human Services 71 (6) (1990): 324-331.
Seligson, M., and D.B. Fink. No Time To Waste. Wellesley, MA: School-Age
Child Care Project, 1989.
Todd, C.M., Albrecht, K.M., and M. Coleman. "School-Age Child Care:
A Continuum of Options." Journal of Home Economics (Spring, 1990): 46-52.