Start a Program

Planning to start an out-of-school time (OST) program in Pennsylvania? Here’s what you need to know!

With just 9 percent of Pennsylvania’s K-12 children enrolled in OST programs, you will be providing a much needed opportunity for young people and families in your community. There is no definitive approach to starting an OST program in Pennsylvania; however, there are best practices and regulations around the provision of quality programs. Your needs depend on the type of program you plan to create. This section will provide you with resources and tools to start a quality OST program.

Quality OST programs inspire and promote learning and positive youth development by providing opportunities for autonomy and leadership; caring relationships; connections to families, communities and schools; safe environments; and engaging activities. The PSAYDN Statement of Quality in Afterschool defines core elements (shown below) that guide OST programming, regardless of program goals or ages served. This statement provides a framework to define quality for Pennsylvania’s OST programs and all other individuals and organizations that are interested in the quality of these programs, including public and private funders, parents and youth.

Quality programming requires the following elements:

Structure and Management

  • Well-trained, consistent staff and volunteers that represent the community being served.
  • Written policies and procedures that are consistently used and updated and supported by management.
  • Sustainable funding and sound fiscal management.
  • Continuous improvement methods including: evaluation, outcomes measurement, participant/family input, strategic planning and professional development.

Positive Connections

  • Positive relationships between and among youth and staff.
  • Strong partnerships with families, schools, businesses and other community stakeholders.
  • Opportunities for youth to contribute to the well-being of the community.

Safety and Health

  • Safe and accessible environment.
  • Clean and well maintained facilities.
  • Programming and environments which promotes fitness, good nutrition and healthy choices.


  • Activities which are intentionally designed, age-appropriate, develop skills, promote learning and foster positive youth development.
  • Activities which contain varied content, learning strategies and combine different academic, recreational and cultural elements.
  • Activities which are youth-centered, are responsive to youth interests and actively involve youth in program development, planning and implementation.
  • Activities which promote understanding and respect for youth’s and others’ cultures.


To help programs reflect on their levels of quality and provide specific indicators within each Statement of Quality elements, PSAYDN developed the Quality Self-Assessment Rating Tool and Discussion Guide. This tool may be used separately or together with the Statement of Quality in Afterschool to identify levels of quality within each of the core elements and to foster discussion among program staff regarding the program’s current status, potential and priorities for quality improvement.

PSAYDN would like to thank the following organizations for their help in creating this section of the website:

Afterschool Alliance

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Pennsylvania Key

Southeastern SACC (a MELC project)

Also, in developing these resources, PSAYDN pulled from existing state and national quality standards and self-assessment tools including those used in California, New York and Missouri, as well as the PA Keys and 21st Century Standards, the School Age Childcare Environment Rating Scale, and Highscope’s Youth Program Quality Assessment.