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Prepared by Carrie Plant who has since moved to Alaska…
Many elementary schools have their own after-school program, which is often a good place to start when looking for after-school care. Most often these are run by outside organizations in partnership with the school. Ask in the school office for contact information. Other schools do not have their own programs—ask at the school if the school has a partner with an organization that provides care off-campus, or if there is a program that many children from the school attend. Ask other parents if they can recommend a program.
Factors to consider…When considering an after-school program, I recommend asking to visit the site, to at least meet the coordinator of the program. Factors to consider when choosing a program include: what activities are offered that your child(ren) would enjoy and benefit from, if the level of homework support/academic components are consistent with your child’s academic needs, how flexible (or not) the program is about attendance, schedules, payments, etc. If possible, ask to visit the program when children are there, but keep in mind that if you visit over the summer, the program you see is likely to be very different from the school-year program. Some programs will allow your child to come for a free trial day to see if they like the program—by all means, take them up on the offer. Other questions that may matter to you: diversity of the children, diversity of the staff, educational/work experience backgrounds of the staff, staffing ratio, security policies, educational philosophy, methods of dealing with children’s conflicts, transportation. Of course, ask what time the program ends each day, and find out what the fees are. Find out if membership to a parent organization is required, and if necessary, if they accept Welfare, Child Care Partnerships, or other social service funding. If the program costs more than you can afford, ask if they have scholarships, a sliding scale fee, and/or if they can refer you to an outside agency that might be able to assist.
A word on special needs: If your child has a significant disability, it is best to be up front with the program, to make sure that they can accommodate your child. While your goal might be that your child be viewed as “just any child,” you do want the program to know what it takes to work with your child. If you are tempted to “hide” your child’s (dis)ability during the registration process, or you encounter resistance from the program, this should be a big warning system. As terrible as it is that not all programs are going to embrace and enroll your child, you don’t want your child in a program where they are not 100% wanted anyways. If the program welcomes children no matter their abilities, they will be happy to tell you, happy to work with you, and happy to work with an array of social service staff to help make the program work for your child.
If your child has a diagnosed disability, such as autism or mental retardation, they are likely eligible to receive free services of a TSS, or a staff person who works one-on-one to integrate them into the environment. Keep in mind, also, that because of your child’s diagnosis, they probably qualify for better transportation than some other kids might, and this widens your options for programs. (For example, at my program in Squirrel Hill, we have kids with special needs who go to school as far away as Brookline and Swissvale who are bussed FREE by the school district).
The website www.pghafterschool.org has a searchable database of After-School programs. These range from programs that are comprehensive, after-care to community organizations that happen to hold classes during the after-school hours, and are for all ages of school-aged folk.
And, as the punk-rock rooted coordinator of the Clubhouse After-School Program at the Jewish Community Center, I am very biased to my program, so I’m going to list it here: call (412) 521-8011 ext 217 for more information One reason it’s fair to list my program, I think, is that we are a full inclusion program: any child can come no matter their abilities. We have financial aid available, a diverse staff with at least one bilingual in Spanish and Hebrew at all times, and kids from 25 different schools around the city.
Comment by Carrie Plant:
Like it says I moved to Alaska so I can’t vouch for the coolness factor of my previous after-school program, but last time I visited Pgh, it was still in one piece!
For teens, one program I recommend is www.youthworksinc.org which is a system of partnering teens with community organizations and paying them for their work. 2934 Smallman Street, 2nd Floor Pittsburgh, PA 15201 412-281-6629 email@example.com This year, teens can even work at Free Ride!- the volunteer bike program, through Youthworks… (hint hint, if you’re an organization that would like to work with teens more…check them out to, to learn how you can apply to be one of their sites).