Staffing and student well-being remain top concerns for afterschool program providers in new survey

Written by SOPHIE KIDD


“Community awareness of the need for out-of-school time (OST) care and support has increased dramatically. However, without more directed funding efforts, hiring and retaining staff at a livable salary remains difficult, and is veering toward impossible,” one provider shared in a new survey by the Afterschool Alliance. Another said, “Finding experienced and quality staff is a challenge while staying within our budget.” And providers across the country are seeing that “children have been showing signs of stress and emotional distress this year more than ever.”


These are a few of many findings from nearly 1,000 providers who responded to the Afterschool Alliance’s online survey between March 21 and April 12, 2022. Providers face staffing challenges, nearly 7 in 10 (69 percent) saying they are concerned about finding staff to hire and staffing shortages, while also dealing with high student demand, with more than half (51 percent) sharing that their programs have waitlists. While students in programs continue to struggle with their well-being as the pandemic continues across the country, and more than 7 in 10 (72 percent) of respondents shared that they are concerned about their students’ mental and emotional health.


Providers expressed worries about retaining and recruiting staff this summer and the following school year. Half of all respondents reported that advice on staff burnout and keeping teams engaged would be helpful to their programs, and 66 percent of providers shared that their top concern for summer is being able to hire enough staff.


Students are showing signs of emotional distress. Seventy-two percent shared that they are concerned about their students’ mental and emotional health and 56 percent reported concerns about students having adverse childhood experiences like abuse, neglect, and other household dysfunctions.


However, providers have built upon efforts they started in 2021 to attract and keep staff at their programs. For example, this survey saw an increase in hourly wages and/or salaries for staff (59 percent vs 53 percent) and provided additional paid time off (14 percent vs 10 percent) and more professional development (35 percent vs 32 percent).


And programs are working to prioritize student wellness, with nearly 75 percent reporting that they offer opportunities for students to talk with peers or staff members about their feelings and emotions, and 32 percent have access to specialized mental health or counseling support.