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Journal Issue: When School Is Out Volume 9 Number 2 Fall 1999

Statement of Purpose
Richard E. Behrman

Statement of Purpose

The primary purpose of The Future of Children is to disseminate timely information about major issues related to children's well-being, with special emphasis on providing objective analysis and evaluation, translating existing knowledge into effective programs and policies, and promoting constructive institutional change. In attempting to achieve these objectives, we are targeting a multidisciplinary audience of national leaders, including policymakers, practitioners, legislators, executives, and professionals in the public and private sectors. This publication is intended to complement, not duplicate, the kind of technical analysis found in academic journals and the general coverage of children's issues by the popular press and special interest groups.

This issue of the journal focuses on after-school programs and the growing awareness of the risks and potential that lie hidden in the time children spend outside school (school classes fill only half the daytime hours on half the days of the year). Some children spend their nonschool hours in front of the TV or hang out on the street corner or at the mall; others attend after-school programs or go to a string of activities. Little attention has been focused on how these experiences affect youngsters, and public investment in children's out-of-school time has been limited.

Recent years have brought a surge of attention and funding—as in the $200 million given to the U.S. Department of Education to establish “21st Century Community Learning Centers.” We now have a precious opportunity to design a system of after-school options that is well supported, high quality, coherent, and tailored to the needs of a given community's children and families.

To make the most of that opportunity, the articles in this journal issue emphasize the importance of continued efforts to build public will and to increase funding, and of new initiatives to strengthen the diverse network of after-school programs. We concur, but believe it is even more important—especially in the short term—to conduct policy research that will (1) document the supply of, and demand for, after-school programs, and (2) carefully evaluate the impact that after-school programs have on children and their families. The knowledge such studies will yield is crucial to guide planning, target funding, and set realistic expectations of programs, to ensure that the maximum benefit results for children.

We welcome your comments and suggestions regarding this issue of The Future of Children. Our intention is to encourage informed debate about the time when school is out. To this end we invite correspondence to the Editor. We would also appreciate your comments about the approach we have taken in presenting the focus topic and welcome your suggestions for future topics.