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The Brighter Futures Indiana Data Center offers data related to population, economy, supply and demand.

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July 1, 2024

How to Choose An After-School Care Program

Parents who work full-time or have afternoon responsibilities know how difficult it can be to find child care for those after-school hours. That’s why more than 15 million school-age children are left on their own after school, and one million of those are in grades K-5.

Are you looking for a high-quality after-school program for your child? Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of after-school care and how you can choose the right program for your family’s needs.

Benefits of After-School Care

After-school care programs have many benefits. Attending high-quality after-school programs can improve children's social and emotional competencies. It can also help expand a child’s social circle, as they meet kids they wouldn’t normally interact with during school hours.

After-school programs have also been linked with a reduction in school absences and improvements in overall academic performance. When children enjoy their after-school program, they tend to show improvement in the classroom.

These programs provide safety and supervision for kids so their parents can continue working or focusing on their other responsibilities. This is important because lost earnings due to limited or non-existent child care total 57 billion dollars per year.

Choosing the Right Program

1. Evaluate your child’s wants and needs.

    When choosing an after-school care program, consider what environment would make your child happiest and best set them up for success.

    Consider what kind of structure your child needs and look for after-school care programs that align with that. If your child has special interests like playing an instrument, sports or science, look for a program that offers these activities.

    2. Visit the center yourself.

      Before choosing an after-school care program for your child, it’s important to visit the center yourself. While you’re there, look around, listen and ask questions.

      Observe the building, classroom space, indoor play areas and outdoor equipment. Make sure these spaces look well organized, easily accessible and safe for children to learn and play. Notice the staff-to-child ratio. More staff members and fewer children means your child will get more personalized attention and supervision.

      Listen to how the staff interacts with the children there. Notice if they’re speaking with patience and respect. How they’re interacting with the children when you visit can be an indication of how they’ll treat your child as well.

      Finally, make a list of questions you want to ask before you visit so you don’t forget. Good questions to ask are: Does your program offer transportation service from my child’s school to the center? Does your program provide meals or snacks? What is your program’s sick policy? Is your program accredited or licensed?

      Print out our healthy and safe care checklist to take with you when visiting a new program.

      3. Review for Paths to QUALITY™.

        Paths to QUALITY™ is Indiana’s quality rating for child care programs. Paths to QUALITY™ is a simple system that ranks programs on a level from one to four, with the quality of the program rising with the number.

        This rating system can help you pick the best after-school care environment for your child.

        Level one programs: Have elected to be in the Paths to QUALITY program and meet all health and safety standards.

        Level two programs: Have a consistent daily schedule, planned activities for kids and regularly share program information with parents and families.

        Level three programs: Have a curriculum that supports children’s learning, and place an emphasis on professional development for their staff.

        Level four programs: Have achieved national accreditation.

        Learn more about the Paths to QUALITY rating system here.

        Get Help Finding After-School Care in Indiana

        Brighter Futures is dedicated to helping Indiana families find the right child care programs for them. We can help you choose the best program for your child’s needs. Get started here.