CITY OF ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL
Mayor Arlene J. Mulder

CHILDREN AT PLAY AND OUTREACH PROGRAMS

1. Briefly describe your programs.

CHILDREN AT PLAY

The Park District "CAP" (Children at Play) program is open to elementary school aged children in kindergarten through 5th grade who need supervision before and after school. The program features a variety of recreational activities sponsored in conjunction with the Park District, local school districts 21, 25 and 59 and the Village of Arlington Heights. Daily activities will vary based on class size and location but typically include 2-4 structured activities with optional participation. Quiet space is also made available for children who wish to use the time to complete school assignments. The program is held on weekdays from 7:00-9:00 a.m. and 3:30-6:00 p.m. at the 10 elementary schools within the community. In addition to providing opportunities for safe and enjoyable recreational experiences, activities are structured to positively contribute to the social and emotional development of participants.

SUMMER "OUTREACH" CAMP PROGRAM

The Park District summer "Outreach" camp is a loosely structured, drop-in recreation program offered to children ages 5-16 who are potentially exposed in "at-risk" environments. The program is offered on a no-fee basis and is designed to introduce lifelong recreational activities which enhance the quality of life, build greater self-esteem and provide alternatives to participation in less desirable activity. "Outreach" camp is currently offered from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on weekdays during the summer months at two local apartment complexes located on opposite sides of the community. Park District staffs, together with representatives from the local police force, identify areas within the community where the greatest need exists. Camp activities include arts and crafts, sports, games, cookouts and field trips. Bilingual staff are hired to accommodate the needs of non-English speaking participants.

2. When were the programs created and why?

CHILDREN AT PLAY ("CAP" PROGRAM)

In 1987, the Park District was approached by a group of parents and principals from one local elementary school district indicating an interest and seeking Park District involvement in the development of a before and after school day-care program for students. In an effort to measure the need for such a program, the Park District conducted a survey through the school district. Meetings with parents and school administrators were also organized by the Park District staff to obtain additional input. Based on the positive response, it was decided to pursue implementation of the program beginning in the 1988/89 school year. The strategy was contingent upon and successfully implemented through intergovernmental cooperation and support from both the local school district and Village of Arlington Heights. In its inaugural year, the Park District "CAP" program was held at SIX schools within one district and attracted a total of 150 participants. As the number of mothers entering the workforce increased throughout the 1990ís, the Park District "CAP" program expanded to three local districts encompassing ten schools with 650 participants.

SUMMER "OUTREACH" CAMP PROGRAM

In 1994, the Arlington Heights Park District Board of Commissioners and administrative staff recognized the growing need within the community to provide more affordable or no-fee recreational opportunities to underprivileged youth. With the increased entry of low-income housing units and minorities into this primarily white-collar community, rising incidence of vandalism and signs of gang association, the need for services gradually became more pronounced. In response to the need, the Park District implemented the Outreach program in the summer of 1995. Park District staff worked closely with the Arlington Heights Police Department and managers of low-income housing units to determine which areas of the community would derive the greatest benefit. In the first year, the program was made available on site at two local apartment complexes perceived to possess the most significant need.

3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?

CHILDREN AT PLAY ("CAP") PROGRAM)

The effectiveness of the "CAP" Program is measured through program evaluations and verbal communications from parents, participants, school administrators and instructors. Currently, the program boasts a 98% satisfaction rating based on the most recent evaluations. Attendance levels, the rapid growth in participation and a program return rate of 98% of eligible participants are also used as measurements of success.

SUMMER "OUTREACH" CAMP PROGRAM

The direct impact of the Outreach Campís effectiveness is somewhat intangible. Since the program attempts to stimulate positive recreational choices for disadvantaged youth in their formative years, the true benefits of the program may only be realized at some point in the future. Other measurements of success, however, are immediately afforded through verbal and written communications with program counselors, parents, housing complex management personnel, the local police department and program participants. Changes in demographics, such as fluctuations in the incidence of crime, may serve as future tools for assessing the programís effectiveness.

4. How is the program financed?

CHILDREN AT PLAY ("CAP") PROGRAM

The Arlington Heights Park District "CAP" program is funded primarily through user fees and charges assessed to program participants. Each year, the Village of Arlington Heights has generously supported the "CAP" Program by providing scholarship funds for residents who demonstrate a need for the service but who are unable to afford the cost of participation. Village support is afforded through the use of Community Development Block Grant Funding, allocated to municipalities through the federal government. A small percentage of revenues may also be supplemented through the general operating fund of the Village.

The volume of requests for "CAP" program financial support, however, has occasionally exceeded the level of financial resources available on an annual basis. As a result, the Park District has attempted to seek alternative avenues for supplementing revenues through local fundraising efforts. In 1997, the Park District submitted application for both the "CAP" and Outreach programs and was selected as one of two beneficiaries of the proceeds from a major charity event. The event is sponsored annually by the Village Special Events Commission and generated approximately $3,000 to supplement the CAP scholarship budget in 1998. At the current time, no funding for the "CAP" Program is provided directly to the Park District from the COPS Office of the U.S. Department of Justice.

OUTREACH CAMP PROGRAM

Summer Outreach Camp is funded through the recreation department budget as a no-fee program. Department revenues are derived primarily through fees, charges and property taxes from the general recreation fund, which contributes approximately $6,000 to the program on an annual basis. In special circumstances, a small fee may be assessed to participants to absorb the cost of admissions, bus transportation or other contractual services for field trips. Much like the CAP Program, opportunities to supplement program budget for staff and supplies have been sought through local fundraising efforts. Proceeds from the 1998, Arlington Benefit Ball, contributed approximately $3,000 toward the program. At the current time, no funding for the Outreach program is provided through the COPS Office of the U.S. Department of Justice.

5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?

Direct community-wide involvement in the "CAP" and Outreach programs has been somewhat limited. Indirectly, however, residents have become involved by supporting the local fundraising efforts of the Village Special Events Commission through their attendance at the Arlington Benefit Ball, which benefitted both Park District programs in 1998. Other forms of community involvement have been represented through resident donations of personal computers, games and supplies used for both programs. Local high school students have also volunteered time to assist "CAP" participants as homework tutors after school while senior members of the community have taken part in an intergenerational program. Although the Park District Outreach program is not aggressively promoted, all members of the community likely derive an indirect benefit. Both the Park District "CAP" and Outreach programs have been overwhelmingly received by those who partake in the program and those who reap its benefits.

6. What are the major lessons learned from the program?

CHILDREN AT PLAY ("CAP") PROGRAM)

The Park District "CAP" program is a fine example of the goals that can be accomplished through intergovernmental agreements and partnerships. In a climate influenced by a decline in financial resources, this program would likely not have become a reality without the cooperation and commitment demonstrated on behalf of three public entities. As the need for specialized programs and services continues to grow, alliances such as this may play an even more important role in accomplishing shared goals.

The success of the "CAP" program was also built on a core group of individuals who were committed to carrying the plan through to completion. Once the program was initiated, hiring a good mix of staff, providing adequate training and ensuring that supervisors recognize what is appropriate for school aged youths in a recreational setting is extremely important. Staff has also found that by giving participants choices and allowing them to exercise some control over what they do, the success of the program is further enhanced. Utilizing space that is conducive to the types of activities planned is also important.

It may also be important to note that unlike many other programs and services of the Park District, the "CAP" program is not supported by tax dollars. Outside of the scholarship funds provided through the Village of Arlington Heights, revenues to support expense are derived exclusively through use fees and charges. The Park District has found that the majority of people within the community are willing to pay for services provided they are deemed to be of high quality and value.

SUMMER "OUTREACH" CAMP PROGRAM

Although the immediate impact of the Outreach program may be intangible, it is perceived to provide significant value. Despite the socio-economic background of any community, there will likely always be a need for services such as this that promote opportunities for positive social and recreational experiences at a foundational level. As the ethnic and economic diversity of the Arlington Heights community increases in the next decade, the need for services are expected to heighten.

The success of the Outreach Camp is directly correlated to the quality, commitment and personalities of the people working with the program. Hiring staff that are committed to the cause, can relate to a diverse group of children on a social and emotional level, and understand their recreational needs is extremely important. Like the CAP program, giving participants choices and allowing them to exercise some control over the activities planned enhances the success of the program.

7. Contact person:

Pam Graczyk, Children at Play & Outreach Camp Supervisor

Arlington Heights Park District, 410 N. Arlington Heights Road

Arlington Heights, Illinois 60004

(847) 577-3003, ext. 213; FAX: (847) 577-3050

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