According to the Council On International Educational Exchange, a typical school day in the U.S. starts around 7:30 a.m. and ends at 3:00 p.m. A typical workday doesn’t end until 5 or 6 p.m.
After-school programs give working parents the peace of mind that their children are safe and engaged while they’re still at work.
However, the nonprofit Afterschool Alliance reports that more than 25 million children lack access to crucial after-school programs — and they disproportionately come from low-income or minority families.
Fortunately, there are free and low-cost after-school programs available across the country. Several of these programs offer financial help for qualifying families.
If you’re in need of free or low-cost after-school care, keep reading to see our list of 10 after-school programs:
1. Local school districts offer after-school programs
Often the best place to start for free or low-cost after-school care is your own school district. Most public school districts have an established after-school program that also includes before-school care.
For example, New York City boasts more than 900 after-school programs for K-12 students. Through the city’s after-school system, COMPASS NYC, eligible students benefit from free programs in a variety of locations, from schools and community centers to churches and public housing facilities.
Talk to your child’s principal, teacher, or guidance counselor to learn what after-school care options are available in your area.
2. Local governments
Your state, city, county, municipality, or township might also offer free or affordable age-based after-school programs for children.
In Orlando, Fla., for example, elementary and middle school students can enroll in an after-school program, get homework help, and participate in activities such as music or dance classes. The Orlando program costs $40 per month, per child, for city residents and $120 per month for non-city residents. Qualifying students can also attend for free.
The Pennsylvania-based Cranberry Township Kids Club offers two hours of care before or after school for K-6 students. It costs $50 to register, then $15 daily for before- or after-school care (if you want both, it is $30 per day, per child). Non-residents pay $17.25 per day or $34.50 for both programs. Payment plans are available and there are discounts for multiple days of care.
When school is out, many of these programs also offer summer camp or day camp options. Reach out to your local parks and recreation department, city office, or county seat to find resources in your community, or search for their after-school programs here:
3. Local nonprofit organizations
Depending on where you live, you might be able to find a nonprofit that offers free or low-cost before- and after-school care.
Kids After Hours, for example, has 26 locations that offer care throughout Montgomery County and Carroll County, Md., for children in kindergarten through 5th grade. Care is available from 7:00 am to 6:30 p.m. during weekdays when school is in session. KAH also hosts summer camps. Tuition cost is based on location and how many days your children require care. KAH offers a tuition calculator for budgeting.
If you’re looking for a program like this in your area, try:
- Your child’s school (since some nonprofits partner with school districts)
- Your local library or community resource center
- Afterschool Alliance resource map
- Local religious or community organizations
- Fraternal and civic organizations
You can also search Google for “nonprofit after-school programs near me” to get a quick list of local resources.
Founded in Clark County, Ohio, in 1902, 4-H is a nonprofit organization available in every state — in rural, urban, and suburban areas. The organization offers in-school and after-school programs for students ages 5-18 at minimal cost to parents. There are no national registration fees, and some program materials are as low as $5. Individual clubs may choose to charge membership fees.
You can choose a 4-H project that fits your family’s budget and suits your child’s interests. For example, you can choose projects for art, science, or healthy living. Children can learn at 4-H clubs or at partner schools when the school day is over.
Each 4-H program has its own transportation policy and registration process. Find your local 4-H to get connected.
5. Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America offers a safe place for kids to explore their interests after school. Membership fees vary by club, but usually include a one-time registration fee and a weekly cost for your child’s participation. Some clubs, like the one in Sarasota County, Fla., provide bus transportation between school and local Boys & Girls Club locations. That specific program has fees that start at $50/month.
Some clubs offer scholarship programs for a free membership if your child is eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at school.
With over 4,700 clubs nationwide, Boys & Girls Clubs are a valuable community resource for after-school care and summer programs. Most locations serve kids and teens between the ages of 6 and 18.
Boys & Girls Clubs offer the following activities and programs:
- Sports and recreation
- Health and wellness,
- Career readiness
- Character and leadership
Find a Boys & Girls club near you to inquire about after-school and summer programming, costs, and transportation.
6. Daycare centers
For a fee, many daycare centers provide before and after-school care for elementary school-aged children, as well as transportation to and from school and nutritious meals.
To find local centers, you can do a Google search for: “daycare centers near me.” States often provide subsidized child care assistance to families who meet certain income requirements. Search “child care assistance” followed by your state to learn how to apply.
Need more help? Try Care.com. When you create a free account, you can search Care.com’s database of reputable daycares and find screened caregivers if you prefer to have in-home after-school care.
A free membership allows you to:
- Search for daycares in your zip code
- View caregiver profiles, certifications, and training
- Post and receive applications for an after-school care job
- Use Care.com tools like hourly rate calculators
A paid, premium membership allows you to communicate directly with caregivers, schedule interviews, and request enhanced background checks for an additional fee. Plans start at $38.95 for month-to-month access, $24.95 per month for quarterly access, or $12.95 per month for an annual plan.
7. Junior Achievement
Junior Achievement (JA) is a nonprofit providing multiple programs taught by trained volunteers in classrooms, virtually, and in after-school locations. The in-school programs are available to K-12 students at no cost. Program sessions vary, ranging from a one-day events to multiple one-hour sessions.
JA offers after-school programs that teach children financial literacy, how to start a business, and prepare for a career in their chosen field. Sessions are age-appropriate to meet the needs of elementary, middle, and high school students.
There are over 100 JA locations across the country, some of which offer scholarships for Junior Achievement students. Find your local JA office to learn more.
8. Online after-school programs
If your children are home with you or a caregiver during after-school time, you can sign them up for an online after-school program like Outschool, which has classes that start around $5 per session.
Outschool offers more than 140,000 interactive classes for children ages 3-18. Your child can engage in a variety of activities from learning how to draw to connecting with fellow gamers.
Vetted, experienced educators on Outschool teach small, online group sessions. Classes are available at various start times and days throughout the week.
Recognized by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) as an after-school program partner, the YMCA has long been a place for quality before- and after-school care. The organization takes 500,000 children at roughly 10,000 sites each year.
After-school programs are available on site at YMCA locations and at outside organizations. YMCA membership costs and services vary by location, but typically include a one-time registration fee and monthly fee.
Some locations provide bus transportation to or from the YMCA to school for before- and after-school programs. If your program is in your child’s school, YMCA counselors often escort students from their classrooms to the after-school space.
You must be at least 13 years old to have your own membership, but younger children can get access through a family plan.
Another great resource for before or after-school care? Your local YWCA. There are over 200 YWCA locations in 45 states and the District of Columbia that partner with schools for after-school care.
YWCA before and after-school programs require registration and payment. Each location determines its own costs. Contact your local YWCA for specific pricing.
The YWCA primarily places its staff in schools to help parents who need transportation after school. But after-school services vary depending on the location. Find your local YWCA to inquire about before and after-school programs.
Check out more helpful and free resources for low-income families: