Every day, my Inbox is filled with news stories about afterschool programs from across the nation that are offering healthy snacks and meals to the hungry kids who walk through their doors; providing a safe environment for kids who have both parents at work; and engaging kids in learning, helping to keep them in school and out of trouble. Nestled among these stories was a report released by the Census Bureau last week that reinforces why we need afterschool programs like these more than ever.
Numbers from the Census Bureau’s Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States show that in 2011, 46.2 million people were in poverty; 16.1 million are children under the age of 18. Looking at families with children under 18, 15.5 million families were living below the poverty line. The report also found that inequality grew between 2010 and 2011 by 1.6 percent. The Gini index, which measures changes in inequality, has not showed an increase since 1993. The silver lining of the report is that for the first time in the last three consecutive years of increased poverty rates, the poverty rate held stable—but at 15 percent, the poverty rate is still high and families are struggling.
And despite all the benefits afterschool programs bring to families and children that are facing hardships, afterschool programs are not immune from the effects of the economy. In our report last month, Uncertain Times 2012-Afterschool Programs Still Struggling in Today’s Economy, we found that close to 4 in 10 programs report that their budget is in worse shape today than it was at the height of the recession in 2008 and more than 3 in 5 programs say their budget is down a little or a lot from three years ago. More than half of programs report that their budget is inadequate to meet their community’s needs. What’s even more troubling is that the programs that are serving disadvantaged communities are the ones that are hurting the most.
These findings highlight why events like the annual Lights On Afterschool are so important. Lights On Afterschool brings together thousands of communities nationwide to shine a light on the benefits of afterschool programs and sends the message that additional funding is needed to ensure all kids have access to quality afterschool programs. I hope you’ll show your support for afterschool and register for Lights On Afterschool on October 18!