The After-School Needs and Resources of a Low-Income Urban Community: Surveying Youth and Parents for Community Change

  • Rebecca Cornelli SandersonEmail author
  • Maryse H. Richards
Original Paper


Using a collaborative research approach, this project describes a partnership between community residents and university researchers to develop a comprehensive survey of the after-school needs of a low-income urban community in a large Midwestern city. Surveying parents and children was considered particularly important because the current literature on after-school does not include much input from them, the key stakeholders in programming. By surveying pre- and young adolescent youth (N = 416) and parents (N = 225) in the community, information was gathered to document the need for after-school programming, tap program preferences, and uncover barriers to participation and enrollment. Survey findings revealed significant differences between youth and parent perspectives. Disagreements between youth and parent survey responses suggest that after-school programs in the community should offer a balance of academic, recreational, and social activities, as well as a tutoring or homework component. Further, in order to increase participation and attendance rates, community after-school programs need to address the following barriers to participation: safety, transportation, family responsibilities (e.g., care for siblings, household chores), and access to information about available programs. These findings guided the planning of future after-school programs. The survey results and comparisons between youth and parent data will be presented.


Collaborative research After-school programs Urban communities Parent survey Youth survey 



We would like to thank the members of the Safe Kids Partnership, particularly Reverend Lewis Flowers, Yvonne Mesa-Magee, Rose Lovelace, and Donna Kanapes for their tireless work and enduring commitment to preventing violence in the community and providing after-school programming for community youth. In addition, we appreciate the insightful commentary provided by the youth advisory board. We are also grateful for the involvement and support of the community schools that participated in the parent and youth surveys, as well as the students who helped us develop the surveys. Finally, we would like to thank the Loyola University Chicago undergraduate and graduate students who assisted us in each stage of our work.


  1. Bartko, W. T. (2005). The ABCs of engagement in out-of-school time programs. New Directions for Youth Development, 105, 109–120.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bouffard, S. M., Wimer, C., Caronongan, P., Little, P. M. D., Dearing, E., & Simpkins, S. D. (2006). Demographic differences in patterns of youth out-of-school time activity participation. Harvard Family Research Project. Journal of Youth Development, 1(1).Google Scholar
  3. Chicago Police Department (2006). Annual report. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from the City of Chicago website:
  4. Dutta-Bergman, M. J. (2005). Access to the internet in the context of community participation and community satisfaction. New Media & Society, 7, 89–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fashola, O. (1998). Review of extended-day and after-school programs and their effectiveness. Report #24. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University, Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk.Google Scholar
  6. Fox, J. A., & Newman, S. A. (1998). After-school crime or after-school programs: Turning into prime time for violent juvenile crime and implications for national policy. Washington, DC: Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.Google Scholar
  7. Frazier, S. L., Cappella, E., & Atkins, M. S. (2007). Linking mental health and after-school systems for children in urban poverty: Preventing problems, promoting possibilities. Administration and Policy in Mental Health & Mental Health Services Research, 34, 389–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Goerge, R. M., & Chaskin, R. J. (2004). What ninth grade students in the Chicago public schools do in their out-of-school time: Preliminary results. Retrieved June 13, 2004, from
  9. Goerge, R. M., Chaskin, R. J., & Guiltanan, S. (2006). What high school students in the Chicago public schools do in their out-of-school time, 20032005. Retrieved July 8, 2007, from
  10. Gottfredson, D. C., Gottfredson, G. D., & Weisman, S. A. (2001). The timing of delinquency and its implications from after-school programs. Crime and Public Policy, 1, 69–86.Google Scholar
  11. Halpern, R. (1999). After-school programs for low-income children: Promises and challenges. The Future of Children, 9, 81–95.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Harvard Family Research Project. (2004). Moving beyond the barriers: Attracting and sustaining youth participation in out-of-school time programs. Issues and Opportunities in Out-of-School Time Evaluation, 6, 1–16. Retrieved September 23, 2004, from
  13. Huppke, R. W., & Heinzmann, D. (2004, February 1). Shoot-first culture stalks streets of murder capital. The Chicago Tribune, p 1.Google Scholar
  14. Illinois State Department of Education. (2003). 2003 State Report Card. Retrieved on June 30, 2005 from
  15. Jarrett, R. L. (1999). Successful parenting in high-risk neighborhoods. Future of Children: When School is Out, 9, 45–50.Google Scholar
  16. Larner, M. B., Zippiroli, L., & Behrman, R. E. (1999). When school is out: Analysis and recommendations. The Future of Children, 9, 4–20.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Mahoney, J. L., Lord, H., & Carryl, E. (2005). An ecological analysis of after-school program participation and the development of academic performance and motivational attributes for disadvantaged children. Child Development, 76, 811–825.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Mahoney, J. L., Parente, M. E., & Lord, H. (2007). After-school program engagement: Links to child competence and program quality and content. The Elementary School Journal, 107, 385–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mahoney, J. L., & Zigler, E. (2006). Translating science to policy under the no child left behind act of 2001: Lessons from the national evaluation of the 21st-century community learning centers. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 282–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McElhaney, S. J., & Effley, K. M. (1999). Community-based approaches to violence prevention. In T. P. Gullotta & S. J. McElhaney (Eds.), Violence in homes and communities: Prevention, intervention, and treatment. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Metzler, M. M., Higgins, D. L., Beeker, C. G., Freudenberg, N., Lantz, P. M., Senturia, K. D., et al. (2003). Addressing urban health in Detroit, New York City, and Seattle through community-based participatory research partnerships. American Journal of Public Health, 93, 803–811.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Outley, C. W., & Floyd, M. F. (2002). The home they live in: Inner city children’s views on the influence of parenting strategies on their leisure behavior. Leisure Sciences, 24, 161–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Posner, J. K., & Vandell, D. L. (1999). After-school activities and the development of low-income urban children: A longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 35, 868–879.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Potvin, L., Cargo, M., McComber, A. M., Delormier, T., & Macaulay, A. C. (2003). Implementing participatory intervention and research in communities: lessons from the Kahnawake Schools Diabetes Prevention Project in Canada. Social Science Medicine, 56, 1295–1305.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Scott-Little, C., Hamman, M., & Jurs, S. G. (2002). Evaluations of after-school programs: A meta-evaluation of methodologies and narrative synthesis of findings. American Journal of Evaluation, 23, 387–419.Google Scholar
  26. Simpkins, S. D., Davis-Kean, P. E., & Eccles, J. S. (2005). Parents’ socializing behavior and children’s participation in math, science, and computer out-of-school activities. Applied Developmental Science, 9, 14–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. US Census Bureau. (2000). Census 2000 Demographic Profile. Retrieved June 16, 2006 from
  28. US Conference of Mayors. (2003). After-school programs in cities across the United States. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  29. US Department of Education. (2003). When school stays open late: The national evaluation of 21st-century community learning centers program. US Department of Education: Mathematic Policy Research, Decision Information Resources.Google Scholar
  30. Weisman, S. A., & Gottfredson, D. C. (2001). Attrition from after-school programs: Characteristics of students who drop out. Prevention Science, 2, 201–205.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Weiss, H. B., Little, P. M. D., & Bouffard, S. M. (2005). More than just being there: Balancing the participation equation. New Directions for Youth Development, 105, 15–31.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Community Research and Action 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Cornelli Sanderson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maryse H. Richards
    • 1
  1. 1.Loyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations