“COVID-19 has put stress on an already stressed programming system. I feel like this has put a spotlight on the need for our programs and the staffing issue” one survey respondent reports in Afterschool Alliance’s most recent survey of afterschool program providers. Another says, “Staffing remains a challenge. It has always been challenging but now even more so.” A third respondent states, “This has been a really hard year and continues to be a difficult year. Right now, our largest challenge is hiring and finding more staff so we can serve more families.”
Based on findings from Afterschool Alliance’s online survey conducted Nov. 1-Dec. 13, 2021, it is unmistakable that staffing—from recruiting new staff to retaining current staff—is the number one concern for afterschool program providers in Kentucky and across the nation. The national findings highlighted in the brief, Where Did All the Afterschool Staff Go?, provide a stark picture of the ways in which staffing is impacting the ability of providers to meet the needs of the children and families they serve.
A summary of key takeaways from state-level data for Kentucky is provided below:
Programs are open, but staffing is a challenge.
- Nearly 9 in 10 KY providers (88 percent) report that they are physically open in some capacity, similar to the national average of 86 percent. However, only 45 percent report that they are operating at pre-COVID capacity limits, while 34 percent report that they are operating at reduced capacity due to health and safety protocols. More than half of programs that are open in-person in some capacity report that there is a waitlist for their program (52 percent).
- Staffing issues are among the most common challenges reported by KY providers, with close to 2 in 3 providers (64 percent) reporting that they are very or extremely concerned about finding staff to hire or staffing shortages and 58 percent of programs reporting that they are extremely or very concerned about maintaining adequate staff through health concerns and new procedures. Additionally, 48 percent are concerned about being able to meet the demand for programs.
- When it comes to staffing, 61 percent of KY providers report that it has been difficult for their program to hire and/or retain staff, including more than one-third who report that it has been very difficult (36 percent).
- Most KY providers report that they have done something new to attract or retain staff (61 percent), with the most common steps including increasing staff salaries (39 percent), providing free childcare (30 percent), and providing additional professional development (24 percent).
- When asked which resources would be most helpful to their program, advice on staff burnout and keeping teams engaged (39 percent) and tools and trainings to prepare staff to deliver high-quality summer learning programs (39 percent) took the top two spots, followed by advice on funding streams and securing foundation funds (33 percent), communication tools to help families learn more about the supports and benefits of afterschool and summer programs (27 percent), and updates on COVID-19 relevant to the afterschool field (24 percent).
New funding sources and cost increases used to support hiring efforts
- Nearly 2 in 3 KY providers (61 percent) report that they are very or extremely concerned about the long-term funding and the program’s future
- KY providers responding to the survey are more likely than providers nationally to report that their organization has been reached out to or in conversations with local education leaders about receiving funding through the federal COVID relief funds (67 percent vs. 50 percent, although the percentage reporting that they have received COVID relief dollars is on par with the national average (21 percent and 19 percent, respectively).
- Three in ten KY providers (30 percent) report that their program has received new funding sources for their fall 2021 programming, with programs receiving new funds saying that the funds have helped them with services including serving more students (40 percent), supporting staff recruitment efforts (40 percent), and hiring more staff (30 percent).
- 39 percent of programs in KY report their cost-per-child per week has increased during the fall of 2021, with a majority of programs (54 percent) reporting an increase of more than 10 percent. Among programs reporting increases, the most common cause by far reported are staffing costs (62 percent). Other reasons for the increase include supplies (31 percent), food (31 percent), and cleaning protocols (23 percent).
General concerns remain high
- Concerns regarding students are high among KY providers, with strong majorities reporting that they are very or extremely concerned about students experiencing learning loss (85 percent), their students’ mental and emotional health (82 percent), missing opportunities for social connections (79 percent), and that there are children in their community who need afterschool programming and are not able to access it (73 percent). More than half of providers (55 percent) report that they are very or extremely concerned about losing touch with students in need.
Despite these sobering findings, on the whole, KY program providers are optimistic about their futures, with 73 percent reporting optimism and more than half saying that they feel that the worst is over (61 percent). Among programs able to access COVID-relief funding, programs say that the additional funds have helped them with services including serving more students (40 percent), supporting staff recruitment efforts (40 percent), and hiring more staff (30 percent).
If your program is struggling with staff shortages, we recommend checking out the Afterschool Alliance’s Staff Recruitment Toolkit, where you can find tips to recruit new staff, funding ideas to boost staff pay, sample flyers and graphics, sample copy for ads and social media posts, and more.
Data are based on an online survey, conducted by Edge Research between Nov. 1-Dec. 13, 2021, of 1,048 afterschool program providers, including 33 respondents who report that their program is located in Kentucky.