Amidst a Staffing Crisis: Understanding how to Recruit, Retain, and Support Afterschool Professionals

““All of our direct service level folks are burned out from all they’ve had to step up to do throughout the pandemic to support young people and families, particularly while schools were closed,” shared Nathan Beck from Madison Out-of-School Time (MOST). “But as the pandemic has continued, we’re concerned about site and program director positions starting to churn too because they’ve really been doing three or four different positions these past 18 months just to keep things running.”

This concern reflects a national challenge OST providers are facing, with the devastating effect of stemming program growth, expanded access, and putting that federal investment to use. Lisa Caruthers, Director of the Center for Afterschool, Summer, and Enrichment (CASE) for Kids in Houston, TX, noted that her agency was expanding and she’s been forced to pivot on their expansion and instead pass on funding opportunities because she can’t guarantee she’ll have the staff to implement new work.

…it is imperative that we pay people more for the work they are already doing right now without putting any additional requirements on it.

Gina Warner, President and CEO of the National Afterschool Association (NAA), noted that wages for practitioners in our field have often been driven by templates used for 21st Century Community Learning Centers proposals that need revisiting. She notes that there are a number of innovative solutions happening in cities all over the country, and that ultimately it is imperative that we pay people more for the work they are already doing right now without putting any additional requirements on it.

The Wallace Foundation’s Out-of-School Time Cost Calculator

Warner says NAA’s Leadership Equity Research backs this up. “While front-line staff tend to reflect
the communities they work in, somewhere along the line, our field is unable to retain and grow staff of color into leadership positions. We can do better. A person can be the most committed to developing professionally, but it is tough for them to advance professionally without the necessary systematic and organizational supports.”

AWAKE to WOKE to WORK: Building a Race Equity Culture

We launched our Workforce Development Work Group because our network leaders know that the outcomes we hope to help young people achieve are reliant on the workforce who makes high quality programs possible right now.

Our recently released Return to School Guide includes a section on Practitioner Support that spotlights articles, tools, and strategies from our network, like this comprehensive 2021 Afterschool Staff Recruitment Toolkit from Afterschool Alliance, and an article from Denver Afterschool Alliance entitled, The Unseen Essential Industry, which accurately characterizes the crisis:



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Every Hour Counts

Every Hour Counts


National Network of Cities Dedicated to Expanded Learning, Equity, & Making Learning Fun