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The Arkansas-Mississippi Delta After 3PM: Parents give programs high marks, unmet demand soars

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The Arkansas-Mississippi Delta After 3PM: Parents give programs high marks, unmet demand soars

The Delta region of Arkansas and Mississippi is an area rich in history, natural beauty, and promise, but one that also faces great challenges, with high poverty and limited economic growth. When we look at afterschool in the Delta, we see a similar story, with great potential for afterschool growth, but barriers that prevent more children and families from taking part.   

Many more Arkansas-Mississippi Delta region parents want afterschool programs for their children than are able to access them. By overwhelming margins, parents express strong, broad-based support for afterschool programs and see great benefits from participating. But unmet demand – the percentage of children in the region not currently in an afterschool program whose parents say they would be enrolled if an afterschool program were available to them – is high, with families citing cost as a barrier to enrolling their children. As a result, for every child in an afterschool program in the Delta region today, three more are waiting to get in. 

These are the findings from a look at the Delta region responses to America After 3PM 2020, our  survey of more than 30,000 American households. While data were collected pre-pandemic, a survey this fall showed that support and demand for programs remain strong. Further, America After 3PM reveals that parents see afterschool as providing the kinds of supports children need during this challenging time and beyond, as we look toward recovery. 

The Delta region results are in line with America After 3PM national data, which showed that parents see many benefits from afterschool programs for their children, and report that programs give working parents peace of mind, but that too many families are not able to participate in afterschool programs. The data point to a lack of affordable afterschool programs, especially for lower income families. 

Top takeaways from the Delta region data: 

  • Unmet demand is high, as 35,056 students are without the afterschool programs their parents say they need today. For every child in an afterschool program in the Delta region today, three more are waiting to get in. 

  • Delta region parents give high marks to afterschool programs, with 89 percent satisfied with their child’s program. Additionally, 85 percent of parents agree programs give working parents peace of mind. Parents agree that programs help children stay active, gain interest and skills in STEM, provide opportunities to interact with peers, and build life and social skills. 

  • Cost, transportation, and access are barriers to participation, with 61 percent of Delta region parents said that cost prevented them from participating in programs.  

  • 15 percent of youth in the Delta participate in afterschool programs, which is slightly higher  compared to participation in Arkansas (12 percent) and Mississippi (14 percent), or nationwide (14 percent). 

  • Support for afterschool programs is strong in the Delta. More than 9 in 10 parents - 93 percent -  favor public funding for programs that provide afterschool opportunities to students in communities that have few opportunities for children and youth. Support crosses demographic and political groups, with 96 percent of parents who identify as Democratic, 100 percent of those who identify as Independent, and 88 percent of parents who identify as Republican in favor of public funding.

Robust support and demand for afterschool programs in the Delta comes to life when we take a look at two local programs in the area. During the pandemic, afterschool programs in the region, and nationwide, have pivoted to provide expanded support for children and families, from remote learning support to meals to engaging virtual programming and wellness supports. 

“What I like at Spring is that they care about us and they love us.”  In the Mississippi Delta, the Spring Initiative afterschool program “empowers young people in the Mississippi Delta to beat the odds, access the opportunities they deserve, and build successful, happy and hopeful lives for themselves.” In normal times, students around the county were picked up by Spring staff for a full afternoon: starting with physical activity, healthy snacks, and group conversations, and moving into academic support and hands-on learning that ranges from journaling and rotating through learning centers to discussing current events, conducting science experiments, exploring photography, or taking trips to meet local business or civic leaders. During COVID, Spring has adapted to meet the needs of students and families. Staff ran a Trick-Or-Treating caravan by each of the Spring students’ homes, and have offered learning support in-person and virtual programming.

“The Boys & Girls Club helped me grow to be a better person.” In Arkansas, the Boys & Girls Club of McGehee pivoted to provide in-person and virtual programming as well as food support and expanded care for families. Students can take part in programs such as Lyricism 101, writing their own songs, or write and publish their own books. This winter, the program distributed holiday food bags and bikes for kids. Continuing to innovate, the Boys & Girls Club recently introduced new programs such as STEM Buddies, aimed at engaging children in STEM while nurturing social development, and Teen Shark Tank, which encourages youth entrepreneurship as students learn how to bring a business concept to life. 

Caring relationships and helping youth reach their full potential are core to both programs, and will continue as they help youth recover from the challenges of the pandemic. 

America After 3PM 2020 is made possible with support from the New York Life Foundation, Overdeck Family Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Altria Group, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

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