Many of today's working professionals grew up in single-income households where only one of their parents went to work each day. But that once-common dynamic is now largely a thing of the past, as economic necessity has driven both moms and dads to continue their careers even after they have had children.
That reality has led many working parents to lean heavily on afterschool programs to serve as safe havens that provide structure for their kids while mom and dad are still at work. Choosing an after-school program is a decision many parents find difficult, but there are some questions parents can ask during their searches for programs that should make those decisions easier.
Can I tour and observe the facility?
When considering a particular afterschool program for their children, parents should ask to tour the facility, paying specific attention to the areas of the facility where their youngsters will spend the bulk of their time. Do the classrooms look clean? Are the materials up-to-date? Is the playground equipment safe and well-maintained? Well-maintained facilities with new supplies and equipment can make the program more enjoyable and safer for kids.
Parents also should ask to spend some time observing the facility when it is abuzz with activity. Such observation can give parents an idea of what their kids' afternoons will be like should they enroll in the program. Stay out of the way, but watch to see how engaged kids and staff members are and how conducive to doing homework the environment is.
What is the program schedule?
Schedule is a significant issue for working parents, many of whom want a program that is open on holidays when schools are closed. Flexibility also is a concern for working parents, some of whom may need a facility that is open before school starts. Parents also may want a facility that allows youngsters to attend just a few days a week, which might make certain programs that require parents to commit to full weeks less enticing. When discussing the facility schedule with staff members, be sure to get as specific a schedule as possible, inquiring about any additional costs associated with extending the typical schedule as well.
What are the activities available to the kids?
Many afterschool programs provide more than just a place for kids to sit and do their homework until their folks come to pick them up. Ask staff members at the facility how big a role activities play in their programs. Many programs try to offer an array of activities that range from academic programs to athletic events and more. A wide range of programs can increase the chances that youngsters will find activities that pique their interests and make the afterschool program more enjoyable.
How are staff members vetted?
Parents also may want to ask about the program's hiring practices. Ask about the background checks performed on staff members and if the facility requires any specific certifications for staff who will be dealing directly with children.
When asking about hiring practices, parents also may want to inquire about the ratio of staff members to children. The smaller the ratio, the more attention youngsters will receive. Facilities with an especially high ratio of staff to children may not be able to provide the type of environment parents want for their children.
Finding an afterschool program requires parents to exercise their due diligence. Parents who can be patient and learn as much about facilities as possible are more likely to find the right fit for their children.