In Independence, Missouri, approximately 65 percent of the mothers of school-age children and 55 percent of mothers of preschoolers work outside the home. According to a national survey of teachers, a major contributor to children's lack of success in school is the lack of supervised, quality child care. In an effort to meet child-care needs and thus foster improved school performance, the School District of the city of Independence initiated the Schools of the 21st Century initiative, to provide positive, safe environments for children when they are not in school.
Two of the components of the Schools of the 21st Century Program are the Preschool/All-Day Child Care and the Before-and-After-School Child Care. Before/after school child care in all elementary buildings provides children, ages 6-12, with developmentally appropriate opportunities to engage in a variety of activities on a year-round basis. This is not a mere extension of the school day, but an opportunity for children to interact in ways not normally found in a school setting. All-day child care in selected district elementary buildings is available year-round for children ages 2-5, whose parents live or work in the district. This program lays the groundwork for the child's later success in school.
Three additional program components provide the direct and support services deemed necessary for the community and its children to thrive. These efforts include a Parents As Teachers program to help parents stimulate the development of their children, an Information and Referral Service to assist parents in finding and evaluating those child care services not provided by the school, and a Support Network For Family Child Care Providers which increases the quality of all child care in the community.
Forty-one hundred families and providers have or are currently receiving services from at least one component of the 21st Century program. This number has increased from the 2,400 families and providers that received services during the first year. As sites have reached capacity, the district has expanded the child care components. The Before-and-After-School Child Care sites have increased from 10 to the current 13; the preschool/all day child care component has increased from two to five sites.