An after school care program can be a blessing for working parents with school-age children. If you are thinking of starting one, or participating in the start up of such a program, there are some steps you might consider. These include, but are not necessarily limited to: assessing the need for the program, setting up a team to run it and developing sound financial support for the first three to five years of operation.
Survey parents, students and teachers in your school district to establish that there is a need for an after school program. Set up focus groups to discuss what an after school program might look like in your area. Some programs are run by local organizations, such as a local Family Y or Boys and Girls Club, while others might be set up in the local school itself and staffed by teachers or counselors. A clear idea of your local needs facilitates the next step.
Set up a team to develop the program; don't try to do it all yourself. Your team might consist of local service organizations, churches, school district personnel or even childcare centers. Brainstorm ways to divide up the needed tasks such as locating funds, developing one or more locations for the after school program activities, creating a mission statement and a plan of operations. On-site operations might include enrichment classes and activities, tutoring or even counseling for special needs children. In some cases, you might even need special aids who are trained for particular types of disabilities.
Get financial backing. This might be through a grant program, through your local school system's tax dollars, from community support in the form of donations, support from local churches or from local service organizations. You might need a bank loan for some of the start-up costs. Start-up costs are one-time expenses that are needed to begin a program, such as renting or building facilities, purchasing furnishings and your first batch of consumable supplies. You will also need to set up a drawing fund from which to pay your professional staff.
Hire professional staff, and provide orientation training for them. This might include visiting established after school programs and holding meetings where your trained professionals can work together on handbooks for parents and students and curriculum guides for the staff. Your staff should be able to meet both the legal and actual requirements needed to manage your facility and students. The requirements for your particular area might vary from those of other states or other population centers. Center directors need to be licensed either to teach or to act as daycare directors. Teachers and assistants need to be appropriately certified to work with children. All staff will need to pass background checks.
Learn about the many particulars of running a daycare facility by checking both federal and state requirements. A good place to start is the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Childcare and Early Education: State Licensing and Regulation Information website. Requirements for childcare facilities are listed state by state. Another good place to get help is the Afterschool Alliance website, which lists webinars, a variety of resources for your program and gives a way for you and your staff to connect with other afterschool programs as well as experts that you might need when setting up your program.
Focus on hiring excellent staff for best success.