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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
munity programs seems to be one of unmet need. The number of youth left without some kind of after-school programming now exceeds 11 million (Newman et al., 2000). While not all young people want or need such programs, this number is probably some indication of unmet need. And, adolescents from low- to moderate-income working families are the least likely to have access to programs because of financial and transportation constraints (Newman et al., 2000). Among grantees of the federally funded 21st Century Learning Centers, 40 percent report that they have long waiting lists for youth to get into programs (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). The U.S. General Accounting Office estimated that in the year 2002, the current number of school-age child care programs will meet as little as 25 percent of the demand in some urban areas (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997). Over half of the teens polled by the YMCA (2001) said they wished there were more after-school programs in their community. More than half (54 percent) said they would not watch so much television or play video games if they had other things to do after school.
Nevertheless, it is clear that community programs for young people cannot bear the full weight and responsibility for producing healthy, robust future generations. They may help, but no program can fully compensate for a dysfunctional family, poor schools, chaotic neighborhoods, poor medical care, environmental toxins, and stress-filled early lives, particularly given that many, perhaps most community programs for youth are small and fragile, with unstable funding and questionable futures. Expectations should not therefore be excessive or naive, even for the best and strongest model programs.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
One hurdle faced by the committee was developing a common understanding of what constitutes a community program for youth. The characterization of these programs is complicated, and the landscape is vast. They may be called after-school programs, youth programs, youth activities, youth development programs, community programs, extracurricular activities, or programs during out-of-school time or nonschool hours. In addition, we debated whether school programs should be included, since schools in the United States are, for the most part, locally controlled. We also debated what constitutes a community.