16 Sep Battling the ‘witching hour’
After-school programs have shown powerful results in keeping at-risk youth out of trouble in the afternoon.
It’s known as the “witching hour,” the school-is-out-but-parents-aren’t-home-yet time between 3 p.m. and about 6 p.m. every weekday, when children as young as elementary-school age, may be unsupervised.
A lot of families live with the witching hour. In 2009, the Afterschool Alliance estimated that as many as 15.1 million children nationwide — about 26 percent of the school-age population — go to a home without adult supervision after school.
And this supervision gap is crucial. An overwhelming body of evidence suggests that during this time children are more likely to experiment with dangerous behaviors, including drugs, alcohol and sex. Nearly one-third of all violent crime committed by juvenile offenders occurs during after-school hours, and juvenile crime escalates from 3 to 7 p.m. on school days, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) have long been a safeguard for at-risk youth and witching hour plagued-families, offering supervision programs to serve children in need. And the clubs in Orange County continue to raise the bar by not only giving children a place to go, but also helping them find direction, support and the comfort of caring adults in the hours they need it most.
“These critical hours after school are important because unsupervised kids will always lead to trouble,” says Robert Santana, chief executive of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Ana.
“This is at a point when kids need us the most. They are vulnerable. They are looking for direction. And if we don’t provide them with a very strategic and intentional environment designed to help them learn and grow into productive members of society, their entire futures are at risk.”
“We serve 6,000 children and teens daily at 55 schools and club sites,” says Pat Halberstadt, chief professional officer for Boys and Girls Clubs of Garden Grove. “By providing a high quality after-school program, the children we serve have better peer relations, emotional adjustments, conflict-resolution skills and conduct in school. This sets them up for success.”
Though the urgency for more after-school support is higher in low-income areas, every neighborhood needs after-school support.
“Kids are kids, no matter where they live,” says Halberstadt. “Their brains do not ‘turn off’ at 3 p.m. Every kids benefit from learning beyond the school day.
“I have seen small miracles happen every day in our programs, and I would like to see all kids be able to share in these experiences.”
How can you help?
To learn more about how you can help, visit the profiles for Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana and Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove on Nonprofit Central, Orange County’s first-ever searchable database of local nonprofits.
Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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