I kind of feel the same about a new presidential administration. Sure, some new administrations feel more optimistic than others. But this one has my (generally) pessimistic self feeling really, really optimistic.
Why? A couple of reasons ...
When state lockdowns closed schools and offices, countless working parents had to supervise remote learning in addition to working their full-time jobs. The absolute need for programs to support working parents could not have been more clear or urgent. The impact of this crisis—and our field's unprecedented response to it—allowed us to demonstrate and deliver that dual benefit of "care" and "learning" our field provides. I am optimistic that parents now understand, value and will advocate for necessary investments in the expansion of quality school-aged childcare programs. In fact, a broad caregiving plan that includes investments in programs and the workforce is expected to be a primary focus of President Biden's agenda.
The negative impacts of the virus, isolation and racial strife have caused tremendous damage to the well-being of young people. While those facts present nothing to be optimistic about, what I am optimistic about is the recognition of—and reaction to—these impacts from many outside the youth development field. We can expect—and will advocate for—more investments in health and wellness resources from a variety of federal agencies. Plus, we'll soon be announcing a new corporate-led initiative that focuses on the social and emotional well-being of children and young people that will help elevate this issue among the business and economic sector. Expected public investments, the coming corporate investment, and the ongoing philanthropic investment in this work will ensure the afterschool field is prepared to address the tragic impacts of this crisis on our children and young people.
Department and agency leadership that has deep expertise and experience also has me feeling optimistic. When I think about a new Labor Secretary who knows first-hand about the value of summer youth employment because he has seen it in Boston, or an Education Secretary who can reference great statewide afterschool work that is happening in his home state of Connecticut, or a Health and Human Services Secretary who comes from California, where so many public and private investments have been made to support the well-being of young people, it's hard not to be fully hopeful. It's exciting to know that years of investment and field-building around city and state systems of afterschool have the ability to positively impact and influence our federal agenda.
But what makes me really optimistic? Knowing that these administration changes are happening at a time when we, as a field, are coming together in unprecedented ways—speaking with one voice and working in a united way to make certain we are leveraging all of our organizational and individual strengths and assets to ensure that afterschool—and the children, families and communities we serve—have the resources, support and encouragement to do the work our nation needs them to do. I am also optimistic because I know our ongoing work with young people—helping them find and use their voices—is adding to and amplifying all of our efforts.
Hope over experience? Yep. I'm fully optimistic.
Written by Gina Warner, President & CEO of the National AfterSchool Association.