Successfully navigating early adolescence depends, in large part, on the availability of safe and engaging activities and supportive relationships with adults, yet many preteens have limited access to positive supports and opportunities -- such as high-quality after-school programs -- that could put them on a path to success. Funders, policymakers and practitioners share the common goal of supporting strategies that will have the most long-lasting positive effects on young people.
Recognizing this, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health commissioned P/PV to identify the characteristics of quality after-school programs that are linked to positive outcomes for preteens. Based on the latest research and experience in the field, P/PV developed the publication, Putting It All Together: Guiding Principles for Quality After-School Programs Serving Preteens, along with a companion Resource Guide (http://www.lpfch.org/afterschool/resourceguide.html) that includes links to research and tools to strengthen programs.
Putting It All Together focuses on six after-school program components associated with positive outcomes for preteens:
- Focused and Intentional Strategy: Programs have a clear set of goals, target specific skills, and deliberately plan all aspects of the program with a youth development framework in mind.
- Exposure: Programs are designed to: a) provide preteens with a sufficient number of hours per week over an extended period of time, that matches program outcome goals; and b) allow preteens to attend a variety of activities.
- Supportive Relationships: Programs emphasize positive adult-youth relationships regardless of the curriculum.
- Family Engagement: Programs strive to include families through various strategies, such as clear communication and a welcoming environment.
- Cultural Competence: Programs have diverse staff whose backgrounds are reflective of participants and who create practices and policies that: a) make services available to and inclusive of a variety of populations; and b) help participants understand and value a broad range of cultures.
- Continuous Program Improvement: Programs strengthen quality through an ongoing and integrated process of targeted staff training, coaching and monitoring, and data collection and analysis.
While a host of factors, including organizational capacity, the needs of the youth served and the resources available, all play a role in determining a program's ability to achieve its goals, research suggests that these guiding principles are essential for program quality. That quality, in turn, is the foundation for positive results for youth.
NOTE: This version of Putting It All Together contains a full list of endnotes and references, which we chose to omit from hard copies of the report, in the interest of brevity.