Maine spending welfare funds on after-school programs
- Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is spending $1.7 million in welfare funds on after-school programs this year in hopes that positive experiences for youth will prevent teen pregnancy, the Bangor Daily News reports.
- Critics of the plan say this use of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds, which is allowed under the federal block grant, is taking cash away from low-income families needed to cover basic necessities.
- Since 2015, state officials have been asking after-school program providers to demonstrate how their services meet the goals of TANF, including the prevention of pregnancies to unwed teen girls.
Research shows that after-school programs can lead to many positive outcomes for students, including better performance in school, improved attendance, fewer behavior problems and even healthier lifestyles. But benefits depend on how consistently and over how long a period of time students participate. Having well-planned activities, trained staff members and connections to what students are learning in school can also lead to better results.
The theory at work in Maine is that if students are successful academically, stay in school, and learn to make good decisions, they will be less likely to become teen parents — and in fact, older research found that the most common time for sexual activity among youth is the after-school hours.
A few after-school programs have the stated goal of preventing teen pregnancy. Children’s Aid's Carrera Adolescent Sexuality and Pregnancy Prevention Program, for example, includes both school-day and after-school components including a job club, tutoring and other educational support, family life and sexuality education, medical and dental services, and opportunities to play individual sports. According to the Coalition for Evidenced-Based Policy, a nonprofit organization, the intervention met the “top tier evidence standard.” Since the program began in 1984, it has been replicated throughout New York City and in at least 13 states and the District of Columbia.
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