New America After 3PM special report explores afterschool in rural communities

by Nikki Yamashiro

How many children in rural communities participate in an afterschool program? Are there any rural children who aren’t in a program, but would like to be? What do parents in rural communities think about afterschool in their area? These are just a sampling of the many questions answered in our new America After 3PM special report, The Growing Importance of Afterschool in Rural Communities. If you are curious, or have been curious, about the state of afterschool in rural communities, in this report you have the ability to find out about participation in afterschool programs and the unmet demand for programs, challenges parents face when it comes to enrolling their child in an afterschool program, rural parents’ perceptions of afterschool programs, and the afterschool program activities and supports offered in rural communities.  

This special report, made possible by the generous support of John Deere, was released at Foundations’ Beyond School Hours XIX national conference in Dallas, Texas. It is the first time we have comprehensively examined rural findings from America After 3PM to help give a complete look at afterschool in rural communities. The report also serves to examine the ways programs are increasing opportunity in these often-underserved and overlooked communities, and what more can be done to make certain that all children, regardless of geographic location, are given the array of supports they need to achieve their full potential.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The number of rural children who are taking part in afterschool programs continues to grow. In 2014, 13 percent of children in rural communities—approximately 1.2 million children—participated in an afterschool program, an increase from 11 percent in 2009.
  • However, a large number of rural children are still unable to participate in afterschool and summer learning programs. In 2014, 3.1 million rural children not currently in an afterschool program would be enrolled in a program if one were available to them.
  • In rural communities, the overall demand for afterschool programs among minority and low-income families is particularly strong. 51 percent of rural Hispanic children and 45 percent of rural African-American children who are not in a program, would be enrolled if a program were available to them, compared to 37 percent of rural White children. Among rural children in low-income families, 44 percent who are not in a program would be enrolled in one if a program were available to them, compared to 34 percent of rural children in higher-income families. 
  • Parents in rural communities value the role that afterschool plays for both children and families. A strong majority of parents living in rural communities agree that afterschool programs can help children with their homework assignments (73 percent), help reduce the likelihood that youth will engage in risky behaviors (72 percent) and offer healthy foods (61 percent). Additionally, more than 7 in 10 rural parents agree that afterschool programs help give working parents peace of mind about their children when they are at work and help working parents keep their jobs. 
  • Afterschool programs are helping rural children reach their full potential. An overwhelming majority of rural parents are satisfied with their child’s afterschool program overall (85 percent), as well as with opportunities for their child to interact with peers (90 percent), homework help (82 percent), physical activity offered (81 percent), healthfulness of the program’s beverages, snacks and/or meals (79 percent) and STEM learning opportunities (68 percent).
    • Afterschool programs serving rural communities excel in a few key areas. Overall, rural afterschool program provider activities and offerings are similar to those reported by parents living outside of rural communities, but family activities and healthy snacks appear to be areas of particular strength for rural afterschool programs.
    • Areas of growth exist for afterschool programs serving rural communities. The overall afterschool program experience reported by rural parents is very positive, however STEM, in particular technology and engineering offerings, is an area where rural programs can make gains. 

  • Progress has been made toward expanding access to afterschool programs in rural communities, but challenges remain. Affordability, availability, accessibility and lack of knowledge of afterschool programs remain challenges rural parents face when making the decision to enroll their child in a program. 

Based on findings from the America After 3PM survey and the online survey of rural afterschool program providers, the report also presents a few recommendations to help ensure that all children in rural communities have the ability to take part in quality afterschool programs, including: 

  • Ensure information about afterschool programs is more readily available to parents in rural communities. 
  • Raise national attention around the important role rural afterschool programs play in their communities. 
  • Provide opportunities to support and enhance the sharing of promising practices and resources. 
  • Increase STEM programming in rural afterschool programs. 
  • Increase investment in afterschool programs serving rural communities.

If you’re interested in digging into these findings, you can read the full report or the executive summary for more information. America After 3PM’s interactive dashboard has also been updated with the latest data on afterschool in rural communities and we have also released brand new infographics highlighting a few key takeaways from the report that are easily sharable through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs that will take you through both the dashboard and infographics!

© 2013 Afterschool Alliance