A Checklist for Choosing Quality After-School Programs

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With school back in session and summer camps over, as a working parent you might find yourself in need of reliable after-school care.

As you scope out different options, here are some questions you can use to evaluate the quality of the program and ensure your kids will be in good hands.

Basics:

• What is the program’s mission and philosophy?
• Is the program licensed? Is it license-exempt?
• Does the program have an orientation and policy manual for new families?
• How are families involved in the program?
• What is the program fee? Is financial assistance available?
• Does the program serve children with special needs?
• What is the procedure for handling emergencies?

Physical Space:

• Does the facility appear clean, safe and organized?
• Are there adequate spaces and materials for a variety of activities?
• Are there quiet, soft spaces for reading, homework, quiet games and those times when a child might want to be away from the larger group?
• Is the outdoor space safe and large enough to host a range of recreational and physical activities?

Social and Emotional Development:

• Are the children happy, having fun and actively engaged in the program?
• Do the children have a role in planning program activities, content and schedule?
• Are children encouraged to try new activities and build new skills that may be unfamiliar to them and out of their comfort zone?
• How are children encouraged to resolve differences among themselves?

Academic Enrichment:

• Does the program provide a rich, informal learning atmosphere that expands on and reinforces concepts learned in the classroom?
• Is homework assistance provided?
• Is creativity fostered and encouraged through music, art, dance, theatre?
• Is problem-solving and critical thinking fostered and encouraged through hands-on experiments, LEGOs, blocks, KEVA planks, gardens, etc.?
• Is technology available and what meaningful role does it play (beyond the playing of video games)?
• Is physical activity an important component of the program?
• Is the programming sufficiently varied or does it change with some frequency so as not to become boring and repetitive?
• Are the children having fun?

Staff:

• Does the staff greet each child’s arrival in a warm and friendly manner?
• Is staff actively engaged in activities and conversations with the children and youth?
• Is staff respectful to each other, the children and the parents?
• What is the staff to child/youth ratio?
• Does the staff give meaningful and frequent feedback to parents about their child’s growth and development?

Source: Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence (azafterschool.org)

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