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Strategy: Before- and After-School Programs

Strategy School buildings are used before and after school hours to provide superior educational and recreational programs for youths. . . .


School buildings are used before and after school hours to provide superior educational and recreational programs for youths.

Drug Problem Addressed

Latchkey children are particularly vulnerable to alcohol or other drug use because they are unsupervised by their parents or other responsible adults before and after school.

Key Components

Some schools permit children to arrive early, when parents must leave for work, and stay late in the afternoon to take advantage of tutoring, athletics, supervised programs, or playtime. Before-and after-school programs can be run by neighborhood volunteers, school staff, or organizations willing to conduct programs at schools. They can also be based at community centers or church buildings. It is important that the program not be viewed as a baby-sitting service or an extension of school time, but rather a time during which children's developmental needs are served. Successful programs provide opportunities for play, creativity, companionship, and relaxation.

Key Partnerships

School-based programs for latchkey youths can involve schools, churches or other religious organizations, neighborhood groups, volunteers, teens who are trained (and sometimes hired) to supervise young children, or parents who share in the responsibility of supervising youths. The municipal department of parks and recreation can also sponsor an after-school program.

Potential Obstacles

Child-care providers must comply with local and state regulations, including TB screenings and possible background checks. In addition, caring for children requires commitment and responsibility; supervisors must embody the substance-free message.

Signs of Success

Anecdotal evidence suggests that providing latchkey children with before-and after-school safe havens decreases their exposure to neighborhood drug or other criminal activity.

Applying the Strategy

A Hartford, Connecticut, school stays open before and after class hours because parents and others in the community identified the need for a safe, supervised place for children.

In Trenton, New Jersey, four schools have become Safe Havens from 3 to 9 p.m., providing positive recreational and other opportunities for youths who want to stay drug-and gang-free. The program, which also provides activities for adults, is funded through the city's Weed and Seed grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Gaining Realization of Worth, a YMCA program in Phoenix, Arizona, is an activity-based after-school program that helps youth resist alcohol and other drugs by increasing their decision-making and survival skills, giving them healthy values, enhancing their self-esteem, and offering them positive group membership.

From 350 Tested Strategies to Prevent Crime: A Resource for Municipal Agencies and Community Groups

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