City Spotlight: Denver Uses Data to Provide Equitable Access to Afterschool
Many cities may have various afterschool offerings, however, a major consideration is how to target these opportunities to make sure they are equitable. In Denver, the solution to increasing equity came through efficient use of data.
Denver is home to many afterschool programs and providers. The Denver Afterschool Alliance (DAA), a sponsored initiative of the city’s Office of Children's Affairs, is a diverse collaborative of afterschool stakeholders working together to ensure Denver youth have access to quality afterschool programs and enrichment opportunities. Through data mapping, DAA and the city of Denver have been able to make informed decisions about resource distribution to realize their vision of equitable access to opportunity.
Each year, the Office of Children’s Affairs collects data from local, state and federal sources on the state of children and families in the Denver Metro area. They use this data to better understand how Denver’s nearly 135,000 children are faring. City and neighborhood data are collected on a variety of measures including health, family, economic stability, school readiness, academic achievement and youth success. The information is mapped and published in an annual report made easily accessible online, ensuring that all programs and stakeholders use the same data to guide their decisions.
Specifically, the Office of Children’s Affairs uses this data to identify gaps in access and opportunity that drive changes in policy, programs and services for children. Each year, the city creates a set of indices to help them identify “opportunity neighborhoods” and communities in need of increased resources and support.
Over the past few years the data that the Office of Children's Affairs's collected and published in its annual reports revealed that children and youth in far northeast Denver and southwest Denver lacked access to the same opportunities that young people from communities closer to the center of the city had. This led to a targeted approach by the city and DAA to bring more program providers to these two neighborhoods by increasing grant funds to programs operating in or expanding to the far northeast and southwest. As a result, both areas saw an increase in afterschool programming.
Similarly, at the beginning of summer 2015, there was an uptick in gang violence in two particular neighborhoods in north Denver. Data helped the city and DAA identify current resources allocated to youth programs in those neighborhoods. The city then convened community organizations and providers and adjusted resources accordingly. At the convening, it was determined that in order to provide safe spaces for youth in these neighborhoods, the city would provide additional funds to programs so they could extend out-of-school programming for a longer period in the summer and later into the evening.
Decisions such as these would be incredibly difficult without the coordinated use of data. Denver’s data collection and mapping efforts result in increased equity and allows the city to play an important and active role in working towards positive outcomes for their young people.