801 23rd Avenue So. Seattle, WA 98144

Issue: Working parents and those who are students find it difficult to secure safe, effective programs for their middle school-age children. While there are quality programs available, the cost is beyond the reach of low-income families. These programs, run by parks and recreation, private youth organizations and other agencies, offer scholarships, but not enough to meet the need. They report that they have to turn away families who want their children in a safe, supervised activity.

Need: At age 13 and 14, young people are going through remarkable social, physical and emotional development. This is the age when adolescents crave excitement and activities with their peers. Seventy-one percent of teens surveyed nationwide expressed an interest in participating in tutoring or mentoring programs, and 80 percent wished to participate in crime prevention programs with an after-school component. Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, a coalition of law enforcement officials, states, “If youth cannot fulfill [their needs] in programs organized by responsible adults, they become far more likely to find it in gangs…In fact, juvenile crime offending first begins to surge upward as children turn 14.” Unhealthy behaviors, such as experimentation with cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs also surge upward during adolescence, marking “the beginning of a set of habits and problems that are likely to continue,” according to The State of Washington’s Children.

Out-of-school time programs designed specifically to meet the needs of middle school-age youth can provide important opportunities and positive outcomes. Programs can help build leadership skills and developmental assets to help youth resist experimenting with alcohol, drugs or sexual activity. In fact, middle school students who spend one to four hours per week in extracurricular activities are 49 percent less likely to use drugs and 37 percent less likely to become teen parents than students who do not participate in these activities. Classroom teachers also report that those students involved in after-school programs are getting better grades, handling conflicts better and are more cooperative than those who aren’t in programs. In the same study, over one-third of principals note that vandalism in the school decreased as a result of the after-school program. In addition, 16 percent of the children attending programs avoided being retained in grade due to program participation, resulting in a savings of over $1 million. Perhaps most important, quality programs provide adult role models who can guide youth through the often confusing times of adolescence.

History: Federal funding for child care subsidies has been limited to children, ages 0 to 12. Federal dollars that support adolescent programs, such as job training, often only benefit youth ages 15 and older. Organizations that serve middle school children must rely on local levies, private fund raising, or program fees.

Action: Washington state could fund middle-school programs through a pilot project. An existing program’s basic annual expenses (rent, staff salaries, food and supplies) total an estimated $1,238.50 per youth. Families cannot afford to pay over $100 a month to send their middle-schooler to a program. This pilot project would offset 90 percent of a middle school program’s basic costs so that families would only pay a nominal fee. Programs would raise other funds to cover additional expenses.

Annual Cost per Middle School Program

Actual Cost

State Contribution

Basic Operational Costs for 20 youth after-school care for 10 months ($170/month)



Basic Operational Costs for 20 youth for full-day summer care for 10 weeks ($105/week)



40 hours of Technical Assistance per program ($40/hour)


Evaluation (10%)




Additional Costs for Basic Start-Up of New Program or Counseling Services, Field Trips and Guest Teachers



Total Cost per Program serving 20 youth


With $1.4 million, Washington state could fund 20 programs and ensure that 400 middle school youth are supervised in safe and engaging activities when they are not in school. Programs selected to receive funding would be in areas where there is greatest need and priority would be given to programs serving youth from low-income families. Because parents often rely on their middle-school age children to look after their younger siblings, efforts will be made to have funded programs located near programs serving younger children.

Outcome: Securing supervised activities for middle school-age youth will allow parents to continue working or going to school without worrying about their children’s safety. A 1990 study showed that nearly one in six mothers reported missing some work time as a result of unreliable care arrangements for their children. These numbers were even higher for low-income mothers. If parents are not able to afford a variety of program options that meet their children’s needs, they will reluctantly leave them home alone to watch television or simply let them “hang out” somewhere, making them vulnerable to a wide range of negative influences. Without the supervision of a caring adult during the times they are not in school, these youth would not have the guidance and support needed to face the difficult challenges of growing up. Some may succumb to these challenges and end up in juvenile rehabilitation institutions, costing taxpayers $36,000 a year for each youth.

For more information call: 206-323-2396
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