Implications for Public Policy
AIP’s approach to afterschool and out-of-school time has implications for public policy in the out-of-school time field. We have demonstrated the success and impact that follows from operating afterschool programs as public/private partnerships inside public schools, including programs where children with serious emotional and behavioral diagnoses are integrated with their healthier peers.
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1. Within a full-service school, the afterschool program can be an anchor for embedding extensive and effective services into the school. Because our programs have full-time directors who are in the school building all day, our staff becomes a part of the culture of the school. We can easily work with teachers to address the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. AIP’s afterschool programs are directed by licensed mental health professionals, bringing these valuable resources into the school to consult with teachers, administration, parents, and students themselves.
2. Afterschool is a beneficial setting for addressing children’s mental health issues.
Afterschool and other out-of-school-time programs are emerging as promising arenas for delivering mental health services to children.
Our programs support troubled children while also serving a full range of other children at the same time. Therapeutic afterschool in a regular public school gives children with significant mental health challenges experience interacting with healthier peers, creating an environment that is less restrictive and is inclusionary. Children receive support and learn new coping strategies in an environment that is rich with experience, challenges, stimuli, and opportunities.
Children enrolled in AIP’s afterschool programs receive 10-12 hours of service each week. By staffing our program with a mixture of mental health clinicians and behavioral specialists, we create a therapeutic milieu in which we provide children with psychoeducational and therapeutic services, crisis intervention, conflict resolution, and behavioral interventions all week long.
3. Afterschool programs can and should develop the resources and training to incorporate support for troubled children into their programs. Currently, most afterschool programs face real challenges in trying to serve children with serious mental health issues. They are not set up to care for children who need the afterschool supports the most. As a result, these children have limited opportunities for informal education activities or for interacting in an inclusionary environment. This points to the need for greater integration between mental health providers and afterschool programs. Due to the high cost of formal clinical environments in afterschool settings, slots are limited and many children with mental health challenges have no out-of-school time opportunities. Troubled children are either not served at all or are segregated from their typical peers, a miised opportunity for incusion and positive, healthy friendships to develop.
AIP’s experience demonstrates ways to integrate mental health support and treatment into afterschool programs. With full-time clinical staff in the school building for our day program, it is cost-effective to have these staff work in the afterschool hours as well. We successfully serve a broad range of children. After over a decade of such services, AIP has had the opportunity to spread our model to help other schools and communities explore how they might develop a similar approach.
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Triumph Collaborative Network – Locally, AIP is an active participant in this coordinating group that drives the afterschool programming efforts of the Boston Public Schools. The network includes over 40 different out-of-school time programs, the vast majority of them public/private partnerships based at Boston Public Schools. The purpose of the Triumph Collaborative is to increase the capacity and quality of out-of-school time programs serving Boston Public Schools students. Through comprehensive out-of-school time services that are aligned to local learning standards, the Triumph Collaborative seeks to foster academic success and healthy development in children and youth.
National Institute on Out-of-School Time - For nearly 30 years, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time at Wellesley College has moved the afterschool field forward through its research, education and training, consultation, and field-building. Much of NIOST’s work has encompassed projects of national scope and influence, several representing “firsts” for the field and many focusing on building out-of-school time systems. AIP participates in NIOST forums, is a presenter at NIOST trainings and events, and has been involved in a number of Boston-based NIOST model initiatives.
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