old enough to fend for themselves for afew hours at a time.
Except, too often, they’re not.
“Some things we know about ourCalgary environment, specifically, isthat more than 25 percent of youth-offending occurs between 3 and 6 p.m.,”says Cathie Christenson, a co-ordinatorfor Children and Youth Services withthe City of Calgary and a former youthprobation officer.
“Not only are they at risk to commit
crime, but they’re more at risk to be a
victim in that time period, because if
you look at the kind of offences that are
happening, they very often involve kids
as the victims of other kids.”
In addition to risk of crime, Christen-
son says the critical hours are when kids
are also at increased risk for accident-
injury, alcohol and substance abuse
and bad eating habits. “National stats
... show kids consume 30 percent of
their daily calories in those after-school
hours,” she says. There’s also a correla-
tion between teen pregnancy and after-
school engagement, though Christenson
notes this shouldn’t be read to mean that
girls are actually conceiving in those
after-school hours. Rather, there’s a
direct link between activity levels and
pregnancy — girls who participate in
sports, for example, are less likely to
become pregnant than their physically
The City of Calgary acknowledged
the critical hours issue by allocating $3.3
million in November 2009 to create theCalgary AfterSchool initiative, whichhas a three-pronged, umbrella approachto: offer programming through the City’sexisting facilities, such as municipal recreation centres; fund existing youth organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs;and partner with community organizations to create new programming tailoredto the needs of the immediate area.
It’s one of the most-progressive models in Canada, even though it’s quitecommon in American cities. (Calgary’sprogram borrows heavily from one inProvidence, Rhode Island). Another ofthe model’s strengths is that programming need is considered above incomedemographics. In fact, Christensonnotes, low-income neighbourhoods areoften already saturated with programming options. New suburbs, despitetheir high average income, are often rifewith commuting parents and latchkeykids, and are less likely to have accessible community centres and recreationfacilities. It’s these types of areas that arein need of Calgary AfterSchool programming initiatives, says Christenson,which can, in many cases, be organizedwith local schools.
It’s not just city kids who need after-school options. The hours between 3and 6 p.m. are just as critical for youthin rural areas and smaller communities— they also benefit from productive andengaging activities with positive adultmentors. Boys and Girls Club in Ponoka
“We’re giving kids a lotmore than a place to play.”— Miri Peterson, executive director, Crystal Kids