Grand Rapids Afterschool Network
The City of Grand Rapids has had a focus on improving the quality of its afterschool programs for almost two decades. Grand Rapids' Expanded Learning Opportunity Network, known as The ELO Network, has grown from its beginnings in 2001 to a collaborative of over 100 partners and 60 member organizations, including afterschool providers, business partners, nonprofits, government, elected officials, and parents. The ELO Network's collaborative model brings many voices around the table to plan, promote, expand, and improve afterschool opportunities.
Collectively, Network members serve over 21,000 children at 180 sites who are working to ensure every child in the Grand Rapids community has access to quality after school programs that are well coordinated and make efficient use of dollars. The ELO Network is recognized as a Model Collaborative by the Michigan Afterschool Partnership (MASP) for driving system-wide change in after school, developing standards of quality for after school programs, and building partnerships to enhance and sustain quality programming.
In January 1995, the City Commission pledged its commitment to children through the adoption of a resolution supporting community-defined standards for children in Kent County called "Our Children, Our Future." City leaders established the Child Well-Being Task Force in March 1995 to assess city operations and make recommendations to better fulfill these standards. The task force presented seven recommendations to the city commission in December 1995 noting that successful completion of their recommendations hinged on the creation of an Office of Children, Youth & Families with appropriate responsibilities and staff support.
As a result, a partnership was created through the City Commission/Board of Education Liaison Committee comprised of three city commissioners and three Board of Education members. A statement of joint goals and objectives addressing issues of children, youth and families was created by the committee, and was adopted by their respective bodies in June 1997. The first program administrator was hired in August 1998 to develop the office and promote "Our Children, Our Future" standards in policy and practice. This city office houses the ELO Network administrator. At the inception, the city's mayor has served as Chair of the Network demonstrating a strong commitment from the local government for afterschool programs and while no longer the chair, the mayor remains committed and supportive.
The ELO Quality/Best Practices Committee was established in 2003 and completed the development of their quality standards for afterschool programs in Grand Rapids in 2006. They heavily utilized the National School-Age Care Alliance Standards for Quality School-Age Care (now the National Afterschool Association) which is the only accrediting body for afterschool programs in the nation. The committee created the ELO Standards of Quality for After School Programs in partnership with the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality (Weikart Center) to utilize its research and evidence-based Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) tool to measure the quality of programs and provide support for continuous improvement of programs.
Our Community's Children is a city office supported by the city and the Grand Rapids Public Schools. The staff are supported by individually raised philanthropic resources focused on specific projects and bodies of work to advance the access to quality afterschool learning and other youth-focused opportunities. The ELO Network is a volunteer-based entity of community organizations and partners that contribute their time, commitment and a nominal membership fee to help the Network function.
The ELO Network members all use the OST Quality Standards in their organization's programming enabling over 21,000 youth to have access to high quality learning experiences in safe, structured settings. The Network's partnership with the Wiekart Center provides quantitative research and evaluation of program practices to support a continuous improvement process with staff.
Institute for Youth, Education and Families
Our Community's Children
City of Grand Rapids
300 Monroe, Suite 921
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Last modified: March 2016