Imagine, coming home from grade school to an empty house where mom and dad are still at work and don’t get off for at least a few more hours. What’s running through your mind? Party time! There are endless possibilities as to what you can do: friends can come over causing problems even though mom said no guests while she’s not home, binge watching your favorite after school cartoon specials losing all senses of the real world, or something even more not so pleasant such as heating up a tiny bag of popcorn for too long starting a fire that you have no idea how to put out. How do we avoid these issues of being left home alone? By joining an after school program, of course. Unfortunately your school doesn’t offer them anymore, for whatever reason. Instead of safely being in vicinity where there are other children to play with and adults to supervise until your parents come and pick you up, you’re left home alone in an unsafe situation day after day. It may seem okay to the child, but to the parent it is not okay at all.
The fact that there are schools that don’t have an after school program for their students is a huge problem that many parents have to worry about. With no after school program, their children are sent home to wait for them until they arrive home from work not knowing what exactly is going on in their absence. Of course, there’s always a chance that everything is going perfectly where no one else is there, the doors are locked and the child is doing their homework and after school chores but things don’t always go as planned. Too many things can go wrong and even the simplest thoughts of those things can leave a parent with an uneasy feeling until they can see for themselves that everything is okay whenever they do get home from their occupations. Leaving a child at home has much more potential risks of danger than having them enrolled in an after school program. Sadly, most parents don’t have a choice because their child’s schools don’t offer such programs so they have no choice but to let little Timmy or Susie wait at home. Who is there to protect them from these potential risks? No one.

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Too many times we’ve seen the news or read articles about children that have been left home alone and disaster struck. There are children that have gotten into their parents’ safety boxes and gotten a hold of guns to shoot themselves or others, unsupervised children that have started household or even neighborhood fires from using appliances without an adult present, and sadly even children that have even killed other children such as the Florida case where a 12 year old boy killed a 6 year old girl showing off a wrestling move while the two were unsupervised. If those two children had been involved in some type of after school program, 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick could be celebrating her 23rd birthday this year. The problem with not having after school programs for children is that there is no one guiding, providing for, or mentoring these children to keep them out of this potential trouble or harm that they can cause themselves or others.

If there were more after school programs for our youth, there would be less children heading home after the last bell rings and more staying at the school learning, being productive and most importantly, under proper supervision. After school programs are meant to help students with any issues they’re having academically and to provide them with proper care and nutrition while their parents complete their workdays. The peak time for crime throughout the week is from 3pm to 7pm, the same time that children get home from school. The safety of our youth is important; the well being of the child is important and keeping them from the potential risks of hurting themselves or others, whether physically or mentally, is important. There’s no reason why there aren’t after school programs provided at every school. Children in after school programs have access to adults, mentors, and teachers that can help them with their homework, social skills, any personal problems they may have at home and school, and most importantly somewhere they can go to feel safe instead of going home to an empty house. A child’s safety is every parent’s top and highest priority, and if it isn’t then it should be. As a parent, I would almost feel guilty that I can’t give my child the proper protection that I know I would be able to if their school offered after school care. Instead of hoping and praying that I come home to a child studying with the house intact and not burnt down, I would know for a fact that my child isn’t left alone which would give me a much better feeling.

A solution that would solve the problem of children being left alone after school would be to ensure that every school has an after school care program. Funding for these programs would be included into the school’s budget so there’s no fuss or fight about how it will all get paid for. If there are state or federal limits to funding, there just needs to be more funding. There is should be no price on a child’s safety. A second solution would be to make the school day longer. With a longer school day, there would be no need for after school care because the student would be at school at the same time their parents are at work. Instead of having a school day with the hours of 8am to 3pm, it could be til 5pm, the average time most people get off work. That way, there is no child being left without supervision and then there wouldn’t be a need for after school care period. A third solution would be to make sure that the child is enrolled in an activity such as a baseball team or chess club. This would be a state requirement and if not met, the parent would be penalized for it. With this solution, the child is involved in an activity rather than being at home after school. It’ll probably cost a lot more than after school programs but again; there shouldn’t be a price on a child’s well-being and safety. This would, of course, be a last resort.

The most plausible solution to the problem of there not being enough after school care would be to just add more after school programs. Teachers could volunteer their time; adults and mentors outside of school could also work these programs without being paid if funding is that big of an issue. Knowing that a child’s life is better because they aren’t at home alone should be payment enough. They could potentially be saving that child’s life all because they volunteered a few more hours of their day. Local markets and grocery stores can provide the snacks for the children at a discounted price or even for free. It’s not being asked that they provide five star meals, just a snack and a drink.

After school programs aren’t as hard as people make it seem. There’s no need for fancy laptops to play on or high tech systems to teach children. Even if the children are bored, they’re bored and safe with an adult watching after them until their parents are finished with their days and they can come pick them up. Imagine yourself as the child that didn’t get the after school care that others did. You’re growing up differently, depending more on yourself in ways that you shouldn’t have to. Today’s society is different from the way things were when we were young. There’s much more to worry about. All that’s really needed is just someone that cares enough to not have a child in a predicament where they’re left home alone. That shouldn’t be too much to ask, from one human being to another.