Other Youth Topics


  1. Youth Topics
  2. Afterschool Programs
  3. Benefits For Youth, Families, and Communities

Benefits for Youth, Families, and Communities

School-age children and youth spend 80 percent of their waking hours outside of school, while 1 in 5 young people in the U.S. are alone after the school day ends.1 High-quality afterschool programs promote positive youth development and offer a safe space where youth can explore their potential.

Effective afterschool programs provide learning settings that bring a wide range of benefits to youth, families, and communities. Afterschool programs can support social, emotional, cognitive, and academic development, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health, and provide a safe and supportive environment for children and youth.

Afterschool programs also provide a significant return-on-investment, with every $1 invested saving at least $3 through increasing youth’s earning potential, improving their performance at school, and reducing crime and juvenile delinquency.2 Other benefits include:

  • Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Attending high-quality afterschool programs and regular participation can lead to improved social and emotional competencies, including prosocial behavior, intrinsic motivation, better concentration efforts, and higher sense of self-worth. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. SEL is an integral part of education and human development that advances educational equity and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation. SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities. 3 Poverty reduction, economic mobility, and reduced reliance on public assistance have also been found to be benefits of social and emotional learning.4, 5 These “soft skills” are essential for work force development and lead to more youth being hired and successful in their jobs.6 Development of personal and social skills in afterschool settings that implement SAFE (sequences, active, focused, and explicit) features also lead to higher academic achievement, positive feelings and attitude toward school, etc.7
  • Academic Support. Attending afterschool programs can improve students’ academic performance. A national evaluation found that more than 40 percent of students attending 21st Century Community Learning Center programs improved their reading and math grades, and that those who attended more regularly were more likely to make gains.8
  • School Participation. Attending afterschool programs leads to improvement in class participation, better adjustment as young people move to the next phase of schooling, increased school day attendance and participation, and reduced school dropout rates.9
  • Safety. Participating in afterschool programs leads to increased adult supervision which makes youth feel safer and reduces instances of being left unsupervised with peers out of school. It also means that younger children are supervised by older siblings less often.10 Adult supervision that is based on developmental relationships11 promotes positive youth development as it not only promotes personal safety and decreases risky behaviors such as smoking or drug abuse, but also creates an environment where young people learn better and are able to thrive.
  • Supporting Working Families. Working families and businesses also benefit from afterschool programs that ensure that youth have a safe place to go while parents or guardians are at work. Parents and guardians who do not have access to childcare miss an average of eight days of work per year, and this decreased worker productivity costs businesses up to $300 billion annually.12, 13
  • Nutrition and Physical Activity. Afterschool programs can also improve young people’s dietary snack consumption, particularly at sites with on-site foodservice using Out of School Time Nutrition and Physical Activity (OSNAP) intervention14. Even though the OSNAP Initiative did not allot significantly more time for physical activity, it successfully made existing time more vigorously active for children receiving the intervention.15
  • Work-Based Learning. Afterschool programs can also provide opportunities to develop early exposure to the labor market. Work-based learning programs with a focus on apprenticeships, internships, and mentorship with older youth between 16-19 leads to higher quality employment at age 29.16

It is important to note that access to high-quality programs is not always equitable. There can be significant disparities based on income and education,17 transportation, cultural and developmental appropriateness of programming, and neighborhood safety, among other factors. While nationwide 9 in 10 adults reported that afterschool programs are important to their community, more than 19 million children are unable to enroll in an afterschool program.18


Benefits of SEL
This webpage from CASEL shares findings from more than two decades of research from multiple fields and sources — including student achievement, neuroscience, health, employment, psychology, classroom management, learning theory, economics, and the prevention of youth problem behaviors — demonstrating that education promoting social and emotional learning (SEL) gets results.

Resources: SEL Background and Research
This library from CASEL offers resources with a strong basis for better understanding SEL. The repository of readings, websites, videos, and more are categorized below to help users gain the knowledge necessary to understanding fundamental areas of SEL.

Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream (PDF, 88 pages)
This report by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the Brookings Institution makes twelve recommendations on how to strengthen families in ways that will prepare children for success in education and work, to improve the quantity and quality of work in ways that will better prepare young people — men as well as women — to assume the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood, and to improve education in ways that will better help poor children avail themselves of opportunities for self-advancement.

Supporting Social and Emotional Development Through Quality Afterschool Programs (PDF, 12 pages)
This brief from the American Institutes for Research focuses on how afterschool programs contribute to the development of social and emotional competencies in youth.


1 Afterschool Alliance, 2020
2 Afterschool Alliance, 2020
3 American Institutes for Research, 2015
4 American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research & the Brookings Institution, 2015
5 Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015
6 Lippman, Ryberg, Carney, & Moore, 2015
7 Durlak & Weissberg, 2007
8 Naftzger et al., 2007
9 Afterschool Alliance, 2015
10 Gottfredson et al., 2010
11 Roehlkepartain et al., 2017
12 Barnett & Gareis, 2004
13 Gareis & Barnett, 2006
14 Lee et al., 2018
15 Cradock et al., 2015
16 Lippman et al., 2015
17 Bouffard et. al, 2006
18 Afterschool Alliance, 2020

Other Resources on this Topic


Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).