|Volume 16, Issue 8||
Washington County Kids Promotes Success!
Sally’s* mother reports that she and Sally love the variety of activities at the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District (THPRD) Cedar Hills after school program. "We have a sense of safety, good communication, and fun.” The THPRD program features sign-ups for a variety of activities, including dodgeball, movies, and kitchen time. Science activities are particularly popular. During summer, lunch is available.
Sally is thriving at the THPRD program because her parents can afford the fees to send her there. There are many other kids who need programs like this one, but can’t participate because of cost, scheduling, and transportation. Monthly fees range from $170-$300 per month for pre-school and after-school programs at Cedar Hills Rec Center. After school transportation is only available from Barnes, Ridgewood, West Tualatin View, and William Walker elementary schools.
This is where Washington County Kids comes in. Washington County Kids (WCK) is a coalition that works to increase awareness of the need for sustainable funding for out-of-school time (OST) programs, like the one that Sally enjoys. OST programs include early childhood, after school, and summer programs. WCK also promotes the use of best practices in OST programs.
Benefits of Out of School Time (OST) Programs
Out of school time programs have been shown to promote academic success, higher graduation rates, positive behavior, safety, and good citizenship. Quality childcare and after school OST programs have long-term effects on promoting graduation and eventual career success. Kids who participate in early childhood, after school, and summer OST programs are more likely to succeed in school and future careers (Parks, 2000 and Durlak, Weissberg, et al, 2011). In addition, most programs include some federally-subsidized nutrition which increases overall health and the ability to function in school.
Summer is a particularly critical time. Children from low-income families who do not participate in summer programs average two years behind their middle-income peers by the time they reach fifth grade.
These programs also impact the workforce. Parents who utilize quality OST program care have fewer absences and earn more. Families benefit when they can count on reduced costs for childcare, after school, and summer care. This frees up a significant part of the family’s hard-earned income to pay for housing, food, and medical care.
The Current State of OST Programs in Washington County
Only a small percentage (approximately 19%) of eligible kids in Washington County participate in early childhood OST programs such as Head Start. Funds are inadequate for these programs. Families that do not meet the poverty guidelines but have incomes that are not high enough to pay for higher priced programs are often faced with having a parent stay home or having to depend on home-based care that is often unlicensed.
Currently, approximately 660 kids per year in Washington County are dropping out of school and not graduating. Those who don’t attend early-learning programs are often not prepared when they come to Kindergarten.
Children in grades K-12 spend approximately 15 or more hours per week out of school before their parents come home from work. Being home alone, or out roaming the streets, is a lost opportunity for these kids. This is especially true during summer months, when many kids are home alone all day because their families lack money and transportation to enroll them in summer OST programs. If they were enrolled in quality OST programs, they would be exposed to new ideas and have positive interactions with caring adults.
Neither the state of Oregon nor most Oregon counties (including Washington Country) allocate any funds for after school or summer OST programs. A limited amount of pass-through federal money is available. Some cities provide limited funding.
Non-profit programs exist, but they are not available in all geographic areas. THPRD covers the Beaverton School District and offers an after-school program for elementary aged kids at their Cedar Hills, Conestoga, and Garden Home sites. Good programs such as THPRD, however, are not available for all kids in the county or even other areas in Beaverton. Access is difficult for many children due to wait lists, fees, and/or lack of transportation. Other recreation programs require additional fees and may be difficult to access due to their location, hours of operation, and/or lack of transportation. Not all children are interested in purely recreational programs, and some are not able to participate due to physical limitations.
The Way Forward
Other cities and counties throughout the US have sponsored levies that support OST programs. San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, Miami/Dade County (Florida), and Portland use levies to provide sustainable funding for their OST programs.
WCK’s coalition partners believe that we, in Washington County, can do better. WCK’s volunteers work to increase county residents’ awareness of the need for OST programs by giving presentations for community groups. Thanks to a grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust, WCK is holding Community Conversations to obtain feedback from parents and kids about their experiences with OST programs and additional needs that are not being met. As part of the Community Conversations project, WCK is planning to gather more input through an online survey for community members that cannot attend a Community Conversation event.
Approximately 20 organizations that offer OST programs, plus another 130 individuals, are formal members of the Washington County Kids Coalition. A complete list of partners and affiliated groups is available on WCK’s website: http://washingtoncountykids.com.
The WCK Steering Committee meets monthly on the fourth Monday of each month from 6:30-8 pm at the Shute Park Library in Hillsboro. Meetings are open. To find out more about WCK and/or to participate in its activities, contact washcokidsOregon@gmail.com.
*Not her real name.
Cedar Mill News
Published monthly by Cedar Mill News LLC