The Office of Children’s Affairs and the Denver Afterschool Alliance recently released The Unseen Essential Industry: The Out-of-School Time Field’s Role in Serving Denver’s Youth & Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond. This report reflects on the collective impact created by providers over the past year and highlights the need to increase funding and resources to help the industry address post-pandemic challenges, including learning loss, social disconnection and the widening opportunity gap facing our youth.
Out-of-School Time (OST) providers quickly mobilized its staff and resources to safely offer virtual and in-person programs to nearly 10,000 Denver youth in March of 2020, when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. The OST industry filled necessary gaps to serve the needs of working families with children. Its providers played a vital role in supporting parents in jobs critical to our infrastructure - health care personnel, first responders, grocery store employees and those who could not transition to remote work – creating opportunities where their kids could continue learning, while they continued working. In addition, many OST organizations pivoted their program models to offer emergency wrap-around services, helping nearly 600 families with food, utility and rental assistance, and distributing more than 50,000 food and care packages to families across the city.
“Denver’s afterschool professionals have been a solid resource for our kids and families during a year full of challenges stemming from the pandemic,” Mayor Hancock said. “And though we’re not out of the woods, this report looks ahead and outlines how funders, advocates and partners can support the academic and social-emotional success of our city’s youth. It will be imperative that the OST industry receive more funding and more resources, as we transition through and out of this pandemic.”
“Although OST organizations are uniquely positioned to support youth with learning loss and social disconnection, the industry faces major challenges of its own, including the need for additional funding that’s reliable and consistent,” said Maxine Quintana, out-of-school time initiatives director. “This is an industry that needs increased visibility and resources to continue meeting the evolving needs of Denver’s youth and families.”
Youth have experienced academic and social disruption for over a year, and Denver’s schools and educators will need to work in partnership with out-of-school time professionals to help students overcome the serious toll the pandemic has taken on them. Together, with increased federal and private funding sources, the Denver Afterschool Alliance and out-of-school providers can provide more afterschool and summer programs that meet the needs of Denver’s families and youth.
View the report, The Unseen Essential Industry: The Out-of-School Time Field’s Role in Serving Denver’s Youth & Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond. To learn more about Denver’s afterschool initiative, visit denvergov.org/afterschoolalliance.