Survey of NYC After-School System Finds Unmet Demand in Elementary Schools, Need for Summer Programs Among Working Parents

Press Releases

September 28, 2015

For Immediate Release: September 23, 2015

Contact: Morgan Rubin, 646-517-1813

New York, NY – Surveys of program providers and parents involved in New York City’s after-school system reveal a high level of unmet need for programs serving elementary school children, and a demand for summer camps among parents who would be unable to work or attend school without them.

Based on the findings of their surveys, the Campaign for Children – a coalition of more than 150 early childhood education and after-school advocacy and provider organizations – called for investment in increasing capacity and protecting hundreds of summer programs at risk of losing funding. [Read the full report HERE].

“We know that after-school programs keep children learning and parents working, both during the afternoon hours and throughout the summer months. The City’s significant investment in programs for middle school students has been a major success, and should be extended to the families of children at all grade levels, all year long,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations at Citizens’ Committee for Children and a member of the Campaign for Children.

A survey of after-school providers asked about the presence and length of a waitlist during the 2014-2015 school year. It found that most elementary school programs could serve more children: 88% (73 programs) reported a waitlist, with an average waitlist of 37.6% of the program’s total capacity. In addition, the survey found that the expansion of middle school programs has had a positive impact on demand: of the 65 programs serving middle school students, only 17% reported a waitlist.

Based on the providers’ written responses, the survey found that need is likely greater than is indicated by the waitlists, since programs stop adding children after the waitlist reaches a certain number, or parents look elsewhere once they hear there is a wait. “There is far greater need for elementary school slots than our waiting list reflects,” one provider said. “We get calls every day from parents who don’t fill out the application forms for our site because they are looking for immediate solutions,” another noted.

In a separate survey, the Campaign for Children reached nearly 2,500 parents about their need for summer enrichment programs, a critical component of the after-school system that aids working parents and keeps children safe and learning during the months out of school. This past summer, 34,000 middle school students nearly lost access to summer camp due to a loss of funding. The City ultimately decided to fund these slots for summer 2015, but does not plan to maintain them for the summer of 2016 – putting all 34,000 children and their families at risk of losing care again.

Notably, 91% of surveyed parents responded that they rely on summer camp to be able to work or go to school. Responses regarding what they would do if there was no summer camp for their children showed how challenging this predicament would be, given that so many families accessing programs are low-income. 18% of respondents said they would quit their jobs without access to camp; 12% said they would leave the child home alone. The majority said they would look for another camp if theirs closed – but with the overall capacity set to decline, this would likely not be an option.

Summer camps are often summer meals sites in New York City, where any child under age 18 can have a free meal without having to sign up or provide any identification. Nearly two-thirds of parents (64%) responded that they rely on summer camp for meals for their children. Historically, participation in the summer meals program has been very low, and summer camps provide a convenient location for children to access these free, healthy meals.

“As a mother of three children of all different ages, I don’t know what I would do without summer camp to keep them active, fed, healthy and continuing to learn while not in school. I simply couldn’t afford it with three kids. The children looked forward to summer camp to see their friends, play sports and get their summer homework done. Please don’t take this opportunity away!” a parent stated.

“Mayor de Blasio was right to prioritize strengthening and expanding the after-school system as one of the first items of business in his Administration,” said Michelle Yanche, Assistant Executive Director for Government & External Relations at Good Shepherd Services and a member of the Campaign for Children. “The benefits to the children – and their families – who can now attend middle school after-school programs and who had access to summer camp this year are tremendous. Now is the time to build on this success by taking the additional steps necessary to strengthen and expand our city’s after-school system.”

ABOUT CAMPAIGN FOR CHILDREN: The Campaign for Children is a coalition of 150 early childhood education and after-school advocacy and provider organizations, including Citizens’ Committee for Children, The Children’s Aid Society, United Neighborhood Houses NY, Good Shepherd Services, Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Children’s Defense Fund-NY, Day Care Council of New York, UJA-Federation of New York, and YMCA of Greater New York. The Campaign’s successful advocacy saved child care and after-school programs for more than 47,000 children by securing more than $120 million of one-year City Council discretionary funds for two consecutive years, which then were successfully baselined.

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