Jim Murphy

Jim Murphy is the senior manager overseeing the national accreditation of child and youth development programs and work with the Department of Defense (DoD) for the Council on Accreditation (COA). He is the past executive director of the New York State School Age Care Coalition, now AfterSchool Works NY—the New York state affiliate to the NAA. Murphy has more than thirty years' experience working with children, youth, and families. These experiences have included providing independent consultative services across the country, and volunteer Endorser, Peer Reviewer, and Team Leader services for the COA. Murphy has also served as a volunteer Endorser for the National Afterschool Association Accreditation program, has been a Quality Advisor for afterschool programs, and Endorser for the NYS School Age Care (SAC) Credential. He has worked in numerous settings, such as residential treatment centers, community-based residential care, psychiatric care, diagnostic and emergency care, non-secure detention care, therapeutic foster care, and in-home family counseling services, as well as a decade of YMCA programming. Murphy is a trained mediator, and has taught Crisis Prevention and Intervention courses, and CPR, First Aid, and HIV/AIDS education.

Murphy has served on several National Advisory Committees for Child Welfare League of America, such as the National Advisory Committee on Residential Services, the National Advisory Committee on the Development of Best Practices in Behavior Support & Intervention Training Guidelines, and the National Advisory Committee on Residential Services Standards of Excellence. He also served on the National Afterschool Association Accreditation Council, administered the NYS School Age Care (SAC) Credential, and served as chair of the NYS distance learning curriculum review panel. 

Murphy completed the Columbia University Graduate School of Business – Institute for Non-Profit Management Executive Leadership program and is also a Master Project Manager. He has served as a volunteer parent and community member of the Fairport-Perinton Chemical Prevention Council (CPAC) for the past fourteen years, and has spent the past ten as co-chair. This committee works to reduce and eliminate high-risk behaviors in children and youth, as well as provide public education and raise awareness of these issues. Murphy also served nine years in the Army Reserves in capacities such as combat medic, instructor, master fitness trainer, and drill instructor.

What are the accomplishments you are most proud of?
On a personal note, I am most proud, as a parent, of the wonderful people my four children have developed into and chosen to become. They inspire me daily to be the best person I can be and to continue my efforts to help children, youth and families. Professionally, I have been blessed to have had opportunities I never dreamed of, because of the incredible professionals who have supervised and mentored me over the years. I take the greatest pride in reflecting on the role I have been fortunate enough to play in the life of each individual child I have encountered through my career. I can only hope I have positively impacted them in a fraction of the way they have impacted me.

Where do you see the field in ten years?
In the next ten years, I see the field becoming more unified and collaborative; helping define itself as a collective set of services that benefit a whole host of needs in a multitude of populations, all working toward the same overarching goal of benefiting children, youth, and their families. Working together, versus in competition with one another, toward this goal as a single unified voice is essential to providing quality services to children and families.

What are the biggest opportunities for the afterschool industry?
The afterschool field has many opportunities before it, most of which align with tackling our biggest challenge and discussed below. Currently, we need to continue to develop ourselves and gain the recognition as a professional career opportunity. The lives of the children and youth in programs each day are far too important to not professionalize the field. We are not simply an extension of the school day: We are far more, and far greater than just that. We support social emotional development, and academic achievement and success; improve self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth and awareness; support education of young people regarding nutrition, health, and wellness, as well as provide opportunities for mentoring, homework help, and tutoring, athletics and fitness; and incorporate a level of fun, excitement, and wonder into what is done during these hours. To limit this world of opportunities in these programs would be unfortunate, and not in the best interest of the children and youth being served. Our greatest opportunity is to recognize the full potential of our work, gain acknowledgement at all levels of the incredibly powerful and long-lasting results and benefits of this work, join collaborative forces with early childhood and young adult services to provide a seamless continuum of support, and truly professionalize the field of afterschool work.

What are the biggest challenges facing afterschool?
I believe the biggest challenge for the afterschool field will be breaking down the silos between different philosophies, funding streams, and types of programs, and coming together as a collective set of services for children and youth during nonschool hours. The field has operated as a fragmented set of services fighting over limited dollars for years, rather than coming together and recognizing the need for all types of services to benefit a wide array of young people needing support, healthy relationships, and a safe place when not in school or at home with proper adult supervision. We have an opportunity and the responsibility to those we are serving to maximize our efforts and message to ensure all children and youth receive access to the services, care, and safety that they need in our communities.

What makes an after school program successful?
Many aspects of a program can impact success. While the easy answer is that a combination of all of the quality elements of a good program make it successful (e.g., mission, vision and values, strong systems, policies and procedures, safety, nutrition, activities, supervision, relationships, quality improvement focus, fiscal responsibility, ethics, confidentiality, et cetera), there is one common thread throughout these and throughout any quality program that stands out: the people you hire to care for our children and youth. In a time when the social value and funding for quality programs has decreased, when the need for quality is more important than it has ever been, and when finding and keeping good staff is increasingly challenging (since they can often work in fast food for more money than a program), it remains incumbent on programs to find and retain staff that truly care about the children and youth, their role in these lives, and a willingness to challenge themselves to not only "do more with less," but do better with less. The people you hire will make or break the program. High turnover costs programs more than just money; it impacts the role of all staff and limits the opportunities of success for the children and youth in the program. The most successful programs I have seen, in the thousands I have interacted with, are the ones with the best, brightest, most caring and dedicated staff. These staff embody the importance of their role in a career impacting the lives and futures of our next generation.

Edited by Amy L Charles, editorial director of AfterSchool Today magazine, the Official Publication of the National AfterSchool Association.