Ontario’s BGC Clubs: Proven, Cost-Effective, and Affordable
BGC Canada (formerly the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs) is the largest child- and youth-serving organization in Canada, serving nearly 65,000 children and youth at more than 300 locations across Ontario. During critical before and after-school hours, regular participation in the high-quality, community-tailored programs offered by BGC across the province mitigates the risk of unhealthy behaviours and helps young people develop into healthy, active, and engaged adults.
Clubs in Ontario support those who are at greatest risk, especially those from marginalized communities—Indigenous and racialized children, newcomers, children with disabilities, and low-income families. Our trained staff help young people build the confidence and sense of belonging they need to overcome barriers and form positive relationships, while reflecting the diversity of their local communities. By delivering evidence-based, effective, and tailored programs, Clubs provide young people with the opportunity to explore their interests, develop their strengths, and realize positive outcomes in academics, physical activity, technology, self-expression, healthy living, mental health, and more.
Many of Ontario’s Clubs were founded by police officers and veterans, who recognized the importance of giving children and youth the opportunities they need to grow successfully into adulthood. More than 9 out of 10 BGC alumni agree that their involvement with a Club has made them better off, providing them with valuable life skills and helping them learn to be leaders.
Building on What Works
BGC Clubs in Ontario supported communities through the pandemic, and are now helping families struggling with inflation and the rising cost of living. Our after-school recreation programs are a proven and affordable choice for parents in vulnerable communities across Ontario. In a recent survey, 90% of parents reported that affordable before- and after-school care helps them stay in the workforce and keeps them financially stable. Recent studies have shown that BGC Clubs also have life-long benefits for participants; children and youth who attend Club are less likely to interact with the justice system, and have better health and academic outcomes.
Our partnership with the Ontario government is a key part of this success. Through a modest annual investment of $14.6 million in Ontario’s After-School Program (ASP), the province delivers a major impact. The ASP provides life-changing after-school recreation programs for 13,500 children and youth annually, including at BGC Clubs. Funding for the ASP, however, has not been indexed to inflation, and providers are now operating ASP funded spaces at a significant loss. To ensure that BGC Clubs across the province can meet increased need and rising costs, we recommend increased investment in Ontario’s After School program.
BGC Clubs also recognize that there are significant gaps in before- and after-school delivery across the province. Many communities, in rural areas in particular, do not have adequate spaces for school-age children, limiting parent’s ability to stay in the workforce. To address these gaps, we recommend direct investment in BGC Canada for mapping, evaluation, and expansion of BGC Clubs into communities in need.
Recommendation: Invest in Ontario’s After School Program
For more than ten years, ASP funding had flatlined. Following the fall 2023 announcement, the program operates at $14.6M annually. In 2009, this covered 90% of the real costs of running quality after-school programs. With rising program costs, increased wages, inflation, and increasing rental fees in schools and community locations, provincial funding supports less than 25% of the real cost of the program. Providers have exhausted other funding options, and are asking the provincial government to increase their contribution to support children, youth and families across the province.
Option 1: Supporting Ontario’s After School Program – fund 70% of the program
An additional investment of $25.5M annually would cover 70% of the overall costs of running the program. Under this scenario, providers would be able to continue to operate the existing 13,500 spaces, eliminating the need for cuts. (total investment of $40.5M, annually)
Option 2: A Thriving After-School Program – fund 100% of the program
An additional investment of $39M annually would cover 100% of the overall costs of running the program, meeting the initial intention of the investment. This would ensure sustainable high-quality and free after school programming for 13,500 children currently support by this program and would enhance ASP implementation partners’ ability to respond to increasing child, youth, and community needs.
This funding would also ensure that no child is ever turned away based on ability to pay, and would remove significant administrative burdens from providers who currently evaluate family income to determine program fees. (total investment of $54M, annually)
An increase in funding is needed to ensure that ASP funded spaces can continue to operate given inflationary pressures.
Recommendation: Invest in BGC Club Expansion
Studies show that structured before and after-school programs are critical for healthy development—children who attend for the most hours over the most years benefit the most—and provide powerful gains for families and communities. This is especially true in rural and low-income communities and for children who have had adverse childhood experiences. Before and after-school programs are extremely well suited to meet the distinct developmental needs of school-aged children and increase resiliency in young people, and are crucial in helping children recover from the negative impacts of the pandemic.
Waitlists and gaps in before- and after-school care continue to grow, particularly in rural areas and outside of the GTA. A recent survey conducted for BGC Canada found that 33% of families in Ontario are interested in finding before- and after-school care for their child(ren), but aren’t able to because of a lack of affordable or nearby spaces. A significant majority of parents further support government investment in before- and after-school care.
As a first step towards meeting this growing need, BGC recommends an investment of $2M for mapping and evaluation, including community consultations, demographic and service delivery forecasting and modelling, and shovel-ready preparations with local Clubs, stakeholders, and communities. With this investment, BGC would be ready to begin expansion in communities identified as priorities by the Ontario government by 2025.
BGC Canada has welcomed the Ontario government’s support through the After School Program, the implementation of the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Childcare Agreement, and ongoing regulatory changes to ensure that parents and children have access to safe, affordable, and accessible care. Through continued modest investments, Ontario can make a significant impact in the lives of families across the province for generations to come.
For more information
Director, Public Policy & Engagement, BGC Canada