The Role of Funders and Policymakers in Child Well-Being
Guest blog post by Becki Lynch of GSK & Hannah Allee of United Way of Greater St. Louis
In 2013, leaders in Greater East St. Louis embarked on a collaborative mission to build a stronger community for youth. This movement, named East Side Aligned, engaged more than 400 stakeholders, half of which were youth, to develop a plan – The Roadmap. The Roadmap details the existing work and aspirations of youth, residents, service providers, government leaders, and funders.
After The Roadmap’s completion, we heard from individuals across the community that the top priority moving forward must be to ensure all youth feel and are safe. A consistent charge from parents and youth alike was to create more safe and engaging places where young people can spend their time when they aren’t in school.
So, as a funder or policymaker, why focus on out-of-school time (OST)?
The short answer is that investing in OST has a great return on investment. Additionally, research shows that youth with access to quality OST opportunities have better attitudes toward school, stronger social-emotional skills, and improved academic performance. When kids have healthy and productive places to go when they aren’t in school, communities are stronger and safer for everyone.
Organizations that provide OST in any given community have similar needs: support to measure outcomes, training to equip staff to work with youth, and quality academic and enrichment opportunities to offer participants. Throughout the United States, citywide OST systems address these needs and work to ensure equitable access to quality programs through collaborative efforts of youth, service providers, government leaders, and funders.
In 2015, a coalition of OST providers, the Greater East St. Louis Youth Coordinating Council, received a $500,000 GSK IMPACT Grant that propelled their efforts to build and sustain an integrated OST system. Together, among other accomplishments, they have:
- Served more than 1,500 youth, an increase of more than 400
- Opened three new program sites
- Expanded the hours of existing sites
- Trained more than 100 youth development professionals in quality improvement practices
- Created platforms for youth voice and leadership
Ensuring quality OST opportunities in any community requires investment from all of us – private, corporate, and public dollars at local and federal levels – to support direct service programs, system supports, and advocacy for youth.