Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What? Me Worry?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is looking to after-school programs to decrease "worry time." These are the hours children may be alone in between the end of the school day and the arrival home by parents after their workday ends.

It is the time of day when many children are unsupervised and are most likely to be involved in a variety of risky and unhealthy behaviors. Self-care and boredom can increase the likelihood that a young person will experiment with drugs and alcohol by as much as 50 percent.

In Washington state, 86,100 children have no adult supervision in the afternoons, and they're the ones at greatest risk. The parents of these "latchkey kids" would no doubt like a solution to fix that problem, but the reality is that many don't have good options. Many families simply can't arrange for one parent to be home in the afternoons, can't afford day care, and aren't lucky enough to have extended family or willing neighbors to step in...

In addition to providing academic support to children, after-school programs are serving a critical role in tackling and reversing the childhood obesity epidemic plaguing communities across the United States. Data collected by the National Centers for Disease Control show that 61.5 percent of children ages 9-13 do not participate in any organized or impromptu physical activity outside school hours. After-school programs give structured recreational activities that not only provide opportunities for exercise but promote social and emotional learning that leads to success in school and life.

If you can, please volunteer in your community to a program which supports children and families during these "worry" hours.

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