By Afterschool Alliance

Satisfaction with afterschool programs has reached a new high among African American parents, but unmanageable costs and limited access are preventing many Black students from participating. The result is tremendous unmet demand for afterschool in the Black community. In fact, for every Black child in an afterschool program today, three more are waiting to get in.

That is a key finding from America After 3PM, a new household survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance and conducted by Edge Research. It finds that the families of 24.6 million children in the United States — more than ever before — are unable to access an afterschool program and many report that cost is a barrier. America After 3PM exposes significant inequities, with the parents of 58% of Black, 55% of Latinx, and 46% of white children not currently in an afterschool program saying they would enroll their child if they could.

The new study finds that, due to barriers including cost, access and transportation, the number of Black children in afterschool programs has declined from 2.4 million in 2014 to just 1.5 million today. The decline means more Black students lack essential supports that can help them succeed. It also signals that, while publicly funded afterschool programs have helped millions of students, public dollars are not nearly sufficient to keep up with demand today.

The study is based on responses from more than 30,000 U.S. families, including 3,774 African American families. Building on household surveys conducted in 2004, 2009 and 2014, it offers a pre-pandemic snapshot of how children and youth spend their afternoons and has significant implications for our post-pandemic world. It also includes a separate survey of parents conducted this fall; in it, nearly half of Black parents (47%) report stress due to providing learning support while their child’s school is operating virtually, and concerns about their ability to juggle work with monitoring their child’s distance learning (46%).

“Black parents say afterschool programs are doing stellar work in helping meet many of their children’s academic, social/emotional and other needs. But investments in afterschool have not kept up with demand, and that puts millions of children and youth at risk. The pandemic, which is taking an especially high toll on communities of color, is exacerbating the harm,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “Quality afterschool programs are essential to student success in school and life. If we want to emerge from this pandemic strong, we need to provide all our children and youth access to the enrichment opportunities and resources afterschool programs provide. We’re not doing that now, and Black families are among those who are struggling even more as a result.”

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