known only to the teens and families who participate in them—for example, programs that teach swimming and lifesaving run by a neighborhood community center, a series of studio art classes offered by a local museum for talented young artists, and math and computer enrichment programs for middle school youth sponsored by a local business.
Increased funding from diverse federal agencies, foundations, state and local governments, and the private sector has expanded the availability of such programs. For example, in 2000 Congress appropriated $453 million (an amount that increased to $846 million in 2001) to enable schools and school districts to provide after-school programs designated as 21st Century Learning Centers. Private philanthropic foundations have also rapidly expanded their support of community programs for youth. At the same time, a variety of youth-serving organizations, research institutions, technical assistance organizations, and funders have been working, both together and independently, to create frameworks for thinking about positive youth development (e.g., Public/Private Ventures, Chapin Hall Center for Children, the Academy for Educational Development, the National Collaboration for Youth, the National Youth Development Information Center, and the International Youth Foundation). Others have developed studies and frameworks for understanding how much of adolescents’ time is unstructured and potentially available for programmatic activities (Pittman et al., 2000c). However, exactly what should fill that time is still being debated. Some would like to see it used primarily for educational remediation and skill acquisition; others would like to see it used primarily for prevention-focused activities; others argue that it should be used to promote positive development in the fullest sense; and still others express concern that children and adolescents need this time to relax and do the things they want to do with minimal adult-structured activities. Many programs have been designed and implemented across the country—only some of which are being evaluated. Efforts have been made to develop a more integrated, systematic perspective on how best to provide learning and growth-promoting activities for children and youth.
At the same time, there is evidence of increasing public conviction that organized programs during after-school hours can prevent problem behavior in children and adolescents as well as promote their health, development, and well-being. Polls of parents, educators, other adults in