The tough economy is bringing an end to the era of the stay-at-home parent, causing, sometimes, both parents to join the workforce and creating empty houses when children come home from school.
"I've had many front-porch conversations the past few months across the district, and after-school programs are a real concern for many families," Bob Heaton, Cory, Republican candidate for House Dist. 46 State Representative, told The Brazil Times during a tour of the Clay County YMCA, 225 East Kruzan St. "Many parents, who have to work, are struggling with what to do with their children once the school day ends."
Citing information from the "America After 3 PM" survey, Heaton said that approximately 7 percent of children in rural Indiana working families attend after-school programs.
"There is a great need for after-school programming in our community," he said. "As a board member of the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club, I know first-hand the importance of providing kids with opportunities for enrichment outside of school."
Concerned about children who "get lost in the cracks of the system," Heaton worries most about "self-care" situations.
"Many children go home alone, where the 12- or 13-year-old is responsible for caring for their younger siblings," Heaton said. "We need to reach out to these families and provide enrichment programs that allow these children safe environments and educational advancement opportunities."
YMCA Program Director Deb Plummer escorted Heaton around the facility Monday morning. They discussed the many activities available at the YMCA for area families, especially after-school activities for children.
Plummer said the YMCA provides after-school programs throughout the year at Forest Park, East Side, Meridian, Staunton and Jackson Township elementary schools.
"We're very excited about the new "Afternoon Rocks" program at Clay City," she said, and then added that 30-40 percent of the children involved in various YMCA after-school programs are doing so because of privately funded scholarships.
"In 2007, (the YMCA) was able to provide $20,000-30,000 in scholarships to area children so they could participate," Plummer said.
Impressed by the facility and the programs available, Heaton said it was wonderful the way the local community comes to together to support the YMCA.
"We have to come together as a community to find solutions for families," Heaton said.
To do that, Heaton wants to get various local community groups involved in ways to build public/private relationships that will foster and support after-school programming.
If elected, Heaton wants to use his term in office to focus state education in efficient ways that will fund classroom and after-school programming for all children.
Heaton is running against State Representative Vern Tincher (D-46).
"As taxpayers, we also have to come together to find solutions at the governmental level," he said. "Taxpayers, who provide the money that makes up the budget for the government, want to know where their money is going and that it is being put to work efficiently. Efficiency is the key."
Heaton wants to increase the enrollment of children living in southern Clay and Vigo Counties, Owen County and Bean Blossom Township in Monroe County that make up House District 46.
"After-school programming is a vital opportunity for children," Heaton said. "As the next State Representative of House District 46, I would make it a priority to foster the private and public cooperation necessary to support programs like the YMCA of Clay County."
In 2005, Afterschool Alliance's "America After 3 PM" initiative, funded by the J.C. Penney Co. Inc., produced a groundbreaking household survey focusing on the after school activities of the children from Indiana families in which both parents or the single parent holds a job.
A detailed analysis of the data concluded that more than a quarter of Indiana children were "latchkey children" who were unsupervised in "self-care" situations after leaving school.