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Home Alone

It is 3:00 p.m. on a school day. Do you know where your children are?

Because of work or other obligations, some parents simply canít supervise their school-aged children during non-school hours. As a result, at least 5 million children, and as many as 15 million, are left home alone each week.

The Importance of Supervision

Leaving children alone can be costly. Youth Gathering Studies by the FBI and youth advocacy groups show that from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on school days, when supervision is scarcest, children are most likely to commit or be victimized by crimes. Unsupervised children are more likely to use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, get poor grades, and drop out of school than children who participate in supervised, constructive after-school activities.

How is the Federal Government Helping?

The Federal government canít provide individual after-school supervision for every child, but the government is helping to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble by supporting after-school programs across the country. In 1998, Congress expanded the National School Lunch Program to cover the costs of snacksSitting at Desk provided by after-school programs located in poor areas. In 1999, the Federal government awarded $93 million in new grants to help 176 communities establish and improve 21st Century Community Learning Centers: school buildings kept open and staffed after regular school hours for activities like literacy education, recreation, tutoring, and technology education. In addition, government-supported facilities such as national parks, gardens, historic sites, and research and computer laboratories now offer interesting and exciting opportunities to school-aged children.

"For working parents worried about what their children are doing after school, and for children who too often get in trouble in the after-school hours, these activities are critical. And, itís not just for the peace of mind of a worried and overworked parent. Itís also for the learning opportunities available to our children. This initiative will help communities expand high-quality after-school programs so that young people can expand their horizons of creativity, receive one-on-one mentoring and tutoring, use computers, and learn skills they will need to compete and win in the 21st Century. This initiative will get existing resources to communities and kids that need them."

Vice President Al Gore
September 13, 1999

At Harperís Ferry in West Virginia, teenagers in the Youth Conservation Corps dress in Civil War-era costumes and lead guided tours. In Washington, DC, pre-Toursteens in the National Park Serviceís Junior Ranger Program introduce visitors to the Vietnam Memorial. "I have seen these programs really change young people, particularly those from the inner city," observes Ramie Lynch, the National Park Serviceís Youth Programs Coordinator for the National Capital Region. "And, the children who participate in these after- school programs also appreciate them." Take the St. Louis, Missouri middle-school student who attended a government-sponsored summer program and said, "This project made me feel really good about myself."

Spreading the Word

Itís likely that more children would take advantage of, and benefit from, Federal after-school resources if their community leaders, teachers, school administrators, and parents knew about them. "Many parents, and people who run after school programs, have no idea about the availability of Federal resources for after-school programs, which range from providing mentors to after-school snacks. The information was hard to find and hard to use, " according to former teacher, Felicia Wong.

But times have changed. Today, Vice President Goreís National Partnership for Reinventing Government (NPR), the Federal Executive Boards, and 17 Federal departments and agencies are partners in the Federal Support for Communities Initiative. And, theyíre spreading the word about after-school resources and programs.

Under this initiative, 15 cities and one state are holding After-School Resource Fairs where parents, care providers, teachers, and interested community members will meet representatives from many Federal agencies and non-profit organizations to learn more about programs and offerings that can assist children and youth. In addition, the NPR is consolidating information about available resources, including more than 100 grant programs for after-school programs and one-stop access to helpful Federal publications. All of this information, and more, can be found at the new AfterSchool Internet Site, supported by the General Services Administration, with assistance from The Finance Project, a nonprofit organization. Here, kids and teens also will find links to many safe, fun, and enriching government Internet sites that let them do everything from building their own Galileo spacecraft to learning about Jake, a Labrador Retriever that works for the FBI.

For more information about government-sponsored after-school programs and resources, visit the AfterSchool Internet Site, or contact Pamela Johnson at (202) 694-0011.


10/6/99

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