T HE MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD
SCOPE AND NATURE OF NEW YORK’S SUBSIDIZED AFTER-SCHOOL SYSTEM
the critical creative, cognitive and physical development activities that have been slashed from the normal school day in so many public schools.
The need for full-time childcare is clearly greatest in the years before a working mother’s children enter public school. But the need for care does not end at that point. The young grade-school children of working mothers cannot fend for themselves once the school day is out at 2:20 p.m. – or during all the vacation days worked into the school calendar.
At the same time, they stressed that the available services actually reach only a small number of the city’s young lowest-income children. The agency’s main focus is middle school; there are relatively few programs operating within the City’s grade schools. Beacon programs do not serve 4- to 5-year-olds. And, thus far, DYCD has refused to even consider extending service provision to the whole new cohort of four-year-olds whom the City has proactively recruited out of ACSfunded childcare services and into the public schools.
“What is a working mother to do,” asks one advocate, “when the last school bell sounds? And over Christmas vacation? And during the summer? What is a mother to do with the five-year-old daughter whose needs, energies, curiosity and mischief don’t let up just because school isn’t in session?” The City agency in charge of subsidized after-school and summertime programs is the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). Through its Comprehensive After-School System of NYC (COMPASS NYC) program, the Department brings hundreds of nonprofit youth development agencies and schools together to create an array of free programs that collectively serve some 97,000 young people from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., every day during the school year.36 Through its 80 Beacon programs, it offers thousands of 6- to 18-year-olds and their families an impressive range of afternoon and evening activities. And, for many years, it opened up summer camp options to many low-income families – particularly the low-income families of middle-schoolers. The advocates give DYCD high marks for the quality of the arts, sports, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs that it offers. They praised the agency for providing meaningful coverage at a time when many parents cannot be there for their children – and for filling in for many of 36 37
“After-school care is absolutely vital for both young children and their families,” asserts Nancy Wackstein, former Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) and currently Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. “Parents work. Kids need arts and sports and science enrichment. And yet many schools offer nothing after 2:20 p.m. All those subway ads talking about UPK’s ‘full-day’ programming? Most working parents would disagree with DOE’s definition of ‘full-day.’ Schools are reduced to cobbling together after-school services with parent volunteers and bake sales. And I’m, like, ‘Really? BAKE SALES?’ When will we get to the point where we don’t have to hold a bake sale for a societal necessity?” Absent adequate options for after-school and vacation services, low-wage working mothers of our city’s youngest children are often forced to adopt strategies that are far from ideal— leave their daughters with untrained neighbors, unsupervised childcare workers, or older sisters. As noted in The New York Women’s Foundation Voices from the Field report on “Girls and Young Women,” thousands of very young low-income
DYCD website. See: Leicher, Susan; Blueprint for Investing in Girls and Young Women; NYWF; http://www.nywf.org/voices-from-the-field/2015
A Voices from the Field Report
Published on Feb 16, 2017
Experts in the area of early childhood development explain that for little girls, the period between birth and age eight comprises a coheren...