How to Start an After School Program in New Jersey: Step-by-Step Guide


·10 min read

Introduction: Starting an After School Program in New Jersey

Starting an after school program in New Jersey can be a rewarding experience, both personally and financially. New Jersey has a high demand for after-school programs in addition to regular school hours due to the number of working families in the state.

Before setting up your after-school program, you need a comprehensive business plan that reflects your operating costs, marketing strategy, and considers the legal requirements of the state of New Jersey.

By providing a safe environment for young people that follows New Jersey's legalities, your after-school program can contribute significantly to the well-being of children of all ages.

Afterschool Program Legal Requirements in New Jersey

Before you decide to start an after school program in New Jersey, you need to understand the legal requirements. Predominantly these involve:

  • Licensing requirements
  • Staff-to-child ratio requirements
  • Staff qualifications

Do Afterschool Programs Have to be Licensed in New Jersey?

Afterschool programs in New Jersey require licensing by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF's Office of Licensing ensures that the program meets minimum safety and health policies and requirements set by the government. To start a child care licensing application, you will need to complete a form, provide documentation of your program's health and safety practices, and pay a fee. Visit the DCF website to learn about how to get a child care license in New Jersey.

What is the Staff-to-Child Ratio in New Jersey for after school programs?

New Jersey has specific requirements for the number of staff members that must be present in a quality after-school program based on the number of children enrolled.

This is largely covered by the New Jersey Administrative Code Title 10: Chapter 122: Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers.

The Manual of Requirements for Child Care Centers in New Jersey defines the staff-to-child ratios for an after-school program. When determining these ratios, the age of the child, their safety, and the type of child care being offered were considered. Depending on the children's age, there are different staff-to-child ratios.

  • Ages 2.5 to 4 years - 1:10 adult-child ratio
  • Ages 4 to 6 years - 1:12 adult-child ratio
  • Ages 6 to 13 years - 1:15 adult-child ratio

The Manual of Requirements has deemed these ratios the most effective when delivering high-quality child care, comprised of the necessary attention and supervision required by children of these age ranges.

Learn more about the Manual of Requirements on New Jersey's Department of Children and Families website.

What are the Qualification Requirements for After School Program Staff Members?

The state of New Jersey has specific staff qualification requirements and quality standards for after-school programs. These requirements ensure that staff members have the necessary training and expertise to provide a safe and engaging environment for young people.

Group Teacher Qualifications

The after-school program group teacher must have a Bachelor's degree in child development, early childhood education, or a related field. Alternatively, they can have a Bachelor's degree in another field supported by a minimum of 9 credits in child development, early childhood education, or recreation.

Aides and Staff Qualifications

Aides in after-school programs must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent. They should be capable of assisting the group teacher in carrying out the daily program.

Staff members working in after-school programs in New Jersey need to complete health and safety training before working with children. Within this training, members of staff will cover pediatric first aid. Often these courses will also cover child abuse prevention. Finally, new staff members who intend to work with young people will undergo a background check to ensure they can work closely with children.

How to Start an After School Program in New Jersey: A step-by-step business plan

Once you've familiarized yourself with the legal requirements for starting an afterschool program in California, the next step is to develop a comprehensive business plan. This plan will help you gauge the local demand for your program, identify your target audience, explore potential federal funding sources, set your fees, and establish an effective marketing strategy.

Assess Local Demand and Competitors

First, determine the local demand for afterschool programs. Investigate the number of employed parents in your area and the availability of existing afterschool programs in nearby schools.

In this phase, it's also crucial to research your competition. Knowing the services and pricing offered by competitors will help you differentiate your afterschool program and gain an edge in the market.

Funding for Afterschool Programs

In New Jersey, various local and federal funding options are available to support afterschool programs. The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) administers grants such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program to help initiate and sustain such initiatives.

Apart from grants, you will likely need to charge fees for your program to cover operating costs. To make your program accessible to a diverse range of families and children in the community, consider offering scholarships or implementing sliding-scale fees.

We'll discuss New Jersey-specific grants and funding opportunities later in this guide.

Set Pricing for Your Afterschool Program

After identifying your funding sources, you can set the fees for your afterschool program. First, consider your operating costs, including rent, equipment, staff salaries, and other expenses. Understanding these costs will help you establish appropriate fees.

Also, examine the pricing of local afterschool programs to set competitive rates. Initially offering lower fees can help attract enrollees and generate positive reviews for your program. As your reputation grows, you can gradually increase your rates.

Develop a Marketing Strategy

The first step in developing a marketing strategy to attract families to your afterschool program is identifying your target audience. While the program caters to children, your marketing efforts should primarily target parents and guardians responsible for enrollment.

Social Media Marketing

Focus your social media marketing efforts on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where the parents and guardians of your target audience are most active. By creating business pages on these platforms, you can share updates on your program schedule and post photos and videos of your activities. If you plan to share images of children, obtain permission first and make your accounts private to protect their privacy and safety.

Collaborate with Local Schools or Community Centers

Forge partnerships with local schools and community centers to distribute promotional flyers for your afterschool program. An eye-catching flyer with relevant information can boost enrollment. Distribute them in high-traffic areas and consider offering incentives to maximize your chances of success.

Selecting a Suitable Venue and Equipment

The next step in your business plan is choosing an appropriate venue and acquiring necessary equipment for your afterschool club. Take into account the venue's safety, accessibility, and proximity to nearby schools. Will children be able to walk to the location, or will they require transportation?

Also, consider the availability of equipment like computers, books, and sports gear at the venue.

Managing Bookings and Payment Collection

Efficiently managing bookings and payment collection is a crucial aspect of your business plan. You can accomplish this with a booking system, spreadsheet, or traditional pen-and-paper methods. However, we recommend using an online booking system like Pembee, which allows parents and guardians to book services online without contacting you directly. This system streamlines registration, generates live attendance registers, and ensures your afterschool club runs smoothly.

Hiring Qualified Staff Members

Hiring qualified, experienced, and passionate staff members is critical for providing high-quality childcare at your afterschool club.

After School Activity Ideas

Some after school activity ideas include:

  • Gardening clubs
  • Photography workshops
  • Art classes
  • Drama performances
  • Sports activities
  • Cooking and baking sessions
  • Dance lessons

For more ideas on activities to include in your program, check out our blog post on after school club activity ideas.

Grants in New Jersey for After School Child Care

New Jersey offers various grants to help start and maintain quality afterschool programs. These grants support organizations and individuals dedicated to providing enriching afterschool experiences to children statewide.

21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC)

The 21st CCLC is a federally funded grant for afterschool programs that serve high-poverty, low-performing schools. The program emphasizes learning opportunities, literacy, and community engagement.

Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)

This federally funded program supports afterschool programs specifically working with and assisting low-income families and children with limited opportunities. CCDF aims to provide affordable childcare with an educational focus.

The Victoria Foundation

The Victoria Foundation logo

The Victoria Foundation is a private foundation that provides grants to non-profit organizations in New Jersey that focus on education, including afterschool programs. The foundation is particularly interested in supporting initiatives that promote academic success, youth development, and community engagement in low-income communities.

The Community Foundation of New Jersey (CFNJ):

CFNJ offers grants to non-profit organizations in New Jersey that focus on a wide range of issues, including education and youth development. Their grant programs support initiatives that promote learning, community engagement, and well-being for children and families in the state.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation logo

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation supports non-profit organizations in New Jersey that focus on various areas, including education, the arts, and the environment. They provide grants for projects and programs that benefit the communities they serve, including afterschool initiatives that promote learning and personal growth for children and youth.

How to apply for these grants:

  1. Research each grant's eligibility requirements
  2. Ensure your program meets these requirements
  3. Write and submit a detailed proposal outlining your business plan

We recommend researching the eligibility requirements and guidelines for each grant, as they can vary.

Other grants and funding opportunities may be available at local and regional levels, so don't forget to explore these options!

Other useful resources

  • Afterschool Alliance: The Afterschool Alliance collaborates with agencies, elected officials, businesses, 50 state afterschool networks, community leaders, and program providers across the nation to expand support for quality afterschool programs and best practices.
  • New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition (NJSACC): The NJSACC is a statewide network of afterschool professionals dedicated to promoting and supporting quality afterschool programming.
  • After School Program Grant Proposal Cover Letter: Our comprehensive guide will help you write a persuasive grant proposal cover letter that impresses funders.

In Conclusion

Establishing an afterschool program in New Jersey can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience that benefits the local community, offers quality childcare, and supports children's development.

Starting an afterschool program in New Jersey requires careful planning, diligent preparation, understanding startup costs and grants, and adhering to legal requirements. To comply with New Jersey regulations, you must follow specific staff-to-child ratio requirements, complete health and safety training, and undergo background checks. Additionally, you must create an environment that promotes the safety and well-being of the children in your care.

Apart from the legalities, a solid business plan is essential. Make sure you understand the local demand and competition, develop a marketing strategy, determine your operating costs, and secure funding through grants or other sources. Furthermore, it is crucial to choose an appropriate venue, hire qualified staff members, and create engaging activities.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a high-quality afterschool program that positively impacts your community and provides exceptional childcare experiences.