Beyond formal schooling, young people need constructive opportunities for growth and development in structured, well-supervised settings. Such an environment allows youth to hone both general life competencies and employment skills. Virtually every child can profit from out-of-school programs that offer opportunities for positive development and an avenue for avoiding problem behaviors. For those young people who are most challenged, the availability of such programs can mean the difference between a life with a positive, upward trajectory and one that is on a perilous, sometimes tragic, course.
With parents working well beyond the time of school dismissal, children and youth need supervision and the opportunity to engage in safe, constructive activities in the hours after school. National and local studies have clearly documented that children and youth are at increased risk when there is a lack of parental supervision in the after-school hours. Fortunately, in the last few years, there has been an increasing societal focus on “out of school” time. Both state and local leaders have called publicly for the expansion of after-school and out-of-school programs for all children in need, setting time-specific goals for making services available.
A critical step toward promoting positive youth development is the establishment of safe settings and high quality programs through which young people can acquire life and employment skills, and focus on a career development plan that provides the foundation for life-long economic opportunity. Contact with caring adults, mentoring programs, tutoring opportunities, and sports programs all provide settings in which youth can acquire skills and develop relationships with positive role models. While schools are providing more and more auxiliary services with very limited resources, they are not capable of shouldering the burden alone; the community at large must provide resources for the adequate provision of comprehensive youth development services.