Survey: Many Youngsters Home Alone After School

ByABC News
September 11, 2000, 11:18 AM

W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 11 -- Despite attempts to lower child-care costs andexpand choices, many children are left alone after school ends andbefore their parents come home from work.

One in five children ages 6 to 12 are regularly left withoutadult supervision after school, according to a survey of workingparents.

Older children are more likely to spend their after-school hourshome alone rather than in day care, activities at school or underthe supervision of a relative or baby sitter, researchers at thenonpartisan Urban Institute reported today.

Main Barrier Not Necessarily Cost

They also found that more affluent, nonminority workers reportedleaving children home alone even if they worked 9-to-5 jobs. Thatsurprised some analysts and parents who believed the main barrierto supervision was cost.

Self-care among school-age children is clearly a fact of lifefor millions of working families, said report co-author GinaAdams, an Urban Institute researcher.

The report, based on a telephone survey of more than 44,000households in 1997, does not explain why parents make the choicesthey do.

Im sure they are anguishing and struggling and talking totheir kids on the phone as frequently as they can, cobbling thingstogether from one day to the next, said Lois Salisbury, directorof Children Now, an Oakland, Calif.-based group that deals with theaffect on families of health care, media and tax policies.

Lack of Supervision Called Risky

Researchers, policy-makers and child advocates say the time anychild spends unsupervised is filled with risks such as injury, druguse, falling behind in studies.

Millions of children without care in the hours after schoolare in harms way, President Clinton said in a statement. He isseeking $1 billion for after-school programs for more than 2million children.

Salisbury said parents face new challenges in caring for theiryoungsters.

Working parents could once count on a neighborhood of caring,watchful adults to fill in the gap, she said. Neighborhoods areghost towns during the day, and that is regardless of economicbackground.