Learners and Leaders: Finding Quality Afterschool Programs in Central Indiana

Learners and Leaders: Finding Quality Afterschool Programs in Central Indiana

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This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.

Written by Jacie Farris

Have you ever thought that there is nothing for children to do in central Indiana during afterschool hours, or that you’ve run out of ideas that will keep your kids active and safe when they aren’t in the classroom?

Rest assured that Indianapolis and the surrounding counties feature hundreds of quality afterschool programs for kids of all ages and interests. In fact, according to the Indiana Afterschool Program Database, there are more than 300 of these programs in Marion County alone.

The Indiana Afterschool Program Database, developed by the Indiana Afterschool Network, is “the state’s only online, searchable database for out-of-school time programs,” said Sara Beanblossom, director of communications and special events for IAN.

The database, which is updated yearly, was created by merging data systems with Indiana’s childcare referral system.

“All afterschool and summer programs in the state are invited to add and update their program information via www.indianaafterschool.org,” Beanblossom said. “This database helps parents find programs for their youth and communities produce local reports to identify assets and gaps.”

According to the database, most out-of-school programming occurs within school buildings before and after regular school hours (58 percent and 65 percent, respectively). However, a significant portion are located in community centers and offer year-round programming. Additionally, data shows that most of the programs accept fewer than 100 children, and kids in kindergarten through sixth grade have the most options.

The activities in afterschool programs are also diverse. More than half of the programs in the database reported sports, arts, wellness, academics, literacy and STEM components. To see more statistics, visit http://rac.iaccrr.org/ian_partners/ian_pager.php.

Cover Art mccoyIn addition to IAN’s database, parents and caregivers can also turn to the Marion County Commission on Youth’s (MCCOY) Youth Activity Directory app, a handy resource for identifying kid-friendly activities in central Indiana. This free app lists hundreds of programs and events for youth of all ages, from local movie nights to summer programs to volunteer opportunities. Free hard copies are also available. To learn more about the Youth Activity Directory app and the booklet, click here.

Parents looking for worthwhile afterschool programs should ask a series of questions to find the best fit for each of their children. To get a comprehensive look at different programs, Beanblossom recommended that parents answer the following questions when considering their options:

  • How are staff and volunteers trained?
  • What type of professional development opportunities are there for staff?
  • How are program outcomes measured and evaluated?
  • Is it a safe and accessible environment?
  • Does the program promote fitness, good nutrition and healthy choices?
  • Are there activities that promote understanding and respect for various cultures?
  • Do the activities contain varied learning strategies and combine academic, recreational and cultural elements?
  • Are the activities age-appropriate, and do they strive to develop skills and promote learning?
  • Does the program provide strong partnerships with families, schools and the local community?

Overall, parents should look for “afterschool programs that focus on continuous improvement towards quality and the ability to track youth outcomes,” said Beanblossom, adding that these kinds of programs “make a difference in the lives of youth and families.”

When parents and guardians find quality afterschool programs in their neighborhood, it’s important to share those opportunities with others who are looking for similar options.

“The most important thing that the public can do is to promote those programs in their community that are doing great work and are focusing on quality,” Beanblossom said. “Tell…anyone that afterschool is not just about babysitting and safety; afterschool is about developing youth for today’s world by partnering with schools, local community leaders and the workforce. By working together, youth are better learners and leaders.”

About The Author

Katy Mann

My name is Katy Mann, and I'm the creator of Indy with Kids. With over 10 years of experience working with children, and my excitement towards the great city of Indianapolis; I offer readers guidance about great events and activities to do around Indianapolis with their kids and grandchildren. Join us on our family travels and adventures across the country!