We know that opportunities for civic engagement and community service offer powerful experiences for character building, and positive learning and development. Afterschool programs are well positioned to engage older youth in the 2020 Census and the 2020 Fall Election. In fact, the Afterschool Alliance and others have developed toolkits and resources to assist afterschool leaders.
We are interested in how afterschool programs are offering opportunities that engage youth in supporting the 2020 Census and Election. Please write us regarding any activities that you are conducting in your program.
Below is a guest blog by Jodi Grant, ED of the Afterschool Alliance.
As both stakeholders and members of the community, afterschool providers are in an excellent position to help ensure a complete count for the 2020 Census. Afterschool providers play an integral role in their communities, and as such, they are an important resource to consider tapping into when trying to reach areas that have been hard to count in previous iterations of the census. Programs have the capacity to increase awareness around the census, educate their communities, and reassure families that it is safe to answer the census.
Why Does the Census Matter for Afterschool Programs?
Federal funding for afterschool comes from a variety of sources, including the Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers), Health and Human Services (Child Care Development Block Grants), and the Department of Agriculture. Census data is used to determine the allocation of all of these funding streams. The ability of a community to provide afterschool programming is directly tied to and dependent upon getting an accurate count.
Every school day, millions of children and families rely on afterschool programs and when they have access to quality programs, everyone benefits. These programs provide safe, supportive, and fun environments where students can learn anything from robotics to debate. Afterschool also helps children find mentors and develop social and emotional competencies that prepare them for all aspects of life. For many working families, afterschool programs keep kids safe between the hours of 3-6pm when parents are at work and juvenile crime spikes.
Unfortunately, many children and families that attend afterschool programs are too often missed on the census. Young children between the ages of 0-4 are the most frequently undercounted group and in the next ten years many of them will need access to quality afterschool programs. It is critically important to both their futures--and ours--that we count them now. These undercounts are more than inaccurate numbers—they can produce deficiencies in funding for programs that will endure for the next decade.
To activate the afterschool field, the Afterschool Alliance has created a toolkit that makes it easy for afterschool providers to learn about and get involved with the 2020 Census. It is a helpful resource that offers information and answers to frequently asked questions, sample materials, and suggestions for ways that afterschool programs can take action. For example, part-time afterschool staff and older students should be considered in Census-taker recruitment efforts because they are already trusted members of their communities. Additionally, many programs may be able to serve as a hub for filling out the census by providing computers and internet access to families, and the toolkit offers guidance in how to host a census night at a school or community center.
Hosting a Census Night
Recognizing that there are many barriers that exist for families who wish to complete the census survey, we encourage afterschool providers to invite families into their program spaces to complete their survey using the program’s facilities and computers. As many afterschool programs already run family engagement events throughout the year, this can be a great opportunity to turn the next one into a “Census Night.”
In addition to hosting one-night events, afterschool programs can partner with their local Complete Count Committees and become official centers, where families can fill out the census during pick-up or drop-off hours.
Getting the Word Out
Even if afterschool programs do not have the capacity to host a Census Night, program providers can still play an important role by getting information about the census out to families as trusted community voices, especially if they are familiar with the different languages spoken in the community. Teens and tweens who participate in programs can also be a resource to spread information and assist people in filling out the census, which not only helps get an accurate count, but also empowers young people to be civically active. In order to debunk misinformation and instill trust in the census process, it is vital for families to hear from members already embedded in their communities that the census is fair and safe to complete, as well as why it is important for them to complete it.
Afterschool programs are an incredible resource for our communities, and we should tap into their expertise and ask for their help to ensure an accurate count in the 2020 Census.
Since 2005, Jodi Grant has been Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs. The Afterschool Alliance serves as a national voice for afterschool and provides resources and materials to more than 25,000 afterschool programs.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.