History of Children and Youth Services

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• Prior to 1981 the City of Decatur had limited involvement in school-age care. The recreation department operated three summer camps for youth, one self supporting and two camps for economically disadvantaged youth. Since 1981 Decatur Recreation Department has been committed to delivering quality and affordable after-school and summer child care. The after school program started initially with just ten children at one center-based site located at Decatur Recreation Center. Two park-based and one center-based summer camps were offered.

• In 1984 the department collaborated with the City Schools of Decatur to begin the "Animal Crackers" after-school program at two school based sites (Glennwood/Westchester) and two center sites (Ebster/Decatur Rec Centers). This made Decatur the first non-school agency in the state of Georgia to provide after-school care in public school facilities. The use of the school facilities was soon expanded to allow use of school athletic fields so children participating in the after-school programs would have access to the Decatur Youth Sports Program at their school as well.

• A third after-school program, Winnona Park, was added in 1985.

• In June of 1988 Decatur Recreation's after-school child care program, "Animal Crackers," captured "Best Overall Project" and First Place, Population Category 10,001-25,000 at the 1988 GMA Convention earning the city $5,000.00 in prize money. Additionally, the program was awarded a prestigious Third Place, "Youth and Children Division," in the National League of Cities 1988 City Innovations Awards Competition. It was also named the 1988 Agency of the Year by the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association.

• In 1989, the recreation department became a part of the Oakhurst Networking Committee which worked to provide needed services to families in the Oakhurst School community. As part of the Oakhurst Project, the recreation department received funding though the Children's Trust Fund to provide after-school care at Oakhurst School. This was Decatur Recreation’s first grant funded subsidized program.

• A fifth school based site (Clairemont) was added in the fall of 1991. In February of 1991, as a part of the Oakhurst Initiative, services were expanded to include an after-school site at Fifth Avenue School and to provide youth sports scholarships to students at Oakhurst and Fifth Avenue Schools. DRCSD became the first non-United Way agency to receive funds from the United Way of Metro Atlanta to subsidize this program. DRCSD also began collaborations with the American Red Cross, Camp Fire U.S.A., and other United Way agencies to provide a wider scope of activities for youth.

• In 1991 Family Connection became a part of the Oakhurst community. Surveys showed that summer care was of great concerns to the residents. DRCSD was granted sources through Family Connection to start its Fifth Avenue summer camp.

• In 1992, the recreation department initiated an after-school program at Renfroe Middle School. 

• In 1993 DRCSD received grant funding from the Georgia Child Care Council for subsidized after school care at College Heights Elementary. This provided every city elementary school and the middle school with an on-site after school program. In 1994 Georgia Child Care Council also awarded funds to continue the after-school program at Oakhurst Elementary 

• In 1995 DRCSD was awarded a grant from GSACA to become a pilot program for the 3:00 Project, a middle school program designed to incorporate service learning, academics, conflict resolution and leisure into the after-school curriculum. That year also saw the beginning of 4 year old kindergarten in Georgia’s public schools. DRCSD became the first recreation program in Georgia to operate school based after school programs for 4 year olds attending pre-kindergarten funded by the Georgia Lottery. 

• In 1996 DRCSD received grant funds from Status of Health in DeKalb to incorporate a prevention curriculum in the 3:00 Project middle school program. Partnered with Planned Parenthood, this curriculum gave middle schoolers an opportunity to discuss and resolve teen issues. 

• A new program, Big Kid’s Club, was started in 1996. Seeing that participation of youth in grades 4 and 5 was decreasing, it was determined that an age specific curriculum was needed for this upper elementary age group. Big Kid’s Club, housed at Ebster community center, provided age-appropriate space and curriculum.. 

• In 1997 DRCSD received funds from the DeKalb Board of Health to begin the Renfroe Academy (a prescriptive tutorial program for rising 6th graders) at Renfroe Middle School as a means to strengthen the existing academic component of the after-school program. 

• Also, in 1997 DRCSD was one of three programs in the state of Georgia to achieve national after school accreditation at the Westchester Animal Crackers site. 

• At the 1998 Georgia School Age Care Association (GSACA) conference, DRCSD staff was recognized and received awards for after-school accreditation and commitment to innovative programming for youth. 

• In 1998 DRCSD and the City Schools of Decatur joined forces to submit an application for a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant and was awarded $1.8 million (over a three year period) to improve after-school activities for children in four targeted schools.

• In 2001, Clairemont Animal Crackers became accredited by the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) with technical assistance from GSACA. 

• In 2003, DRCSD and City Schools of Decatur received a second 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant from the state department of education for $2.3 million (over 5 years) for after school at Renfroe Middle, Glennwood, Oakhurst and College Heights Elementary schools. (Schools involved were adjusted when the system reorganized the schools in order to serve the same children.)

• In 2004, the fourth/fifth grade after school program changed from Big Kids’ Club to Whiz Kids.

• In 2007, Oakhurst Animal Crackers became accredited 

• In 2008, Decatur Recreation Department formed two independent divisions: Active Living to maintain traditional recreation programs and encourage an active, healthy community and Children and Youth Services to maintain the after school, summer camps or other community children’s programs. 

• In 2008, City Schools of Decatur committed to sustainability of after school by contributing funds to support the tutorial component of the after school program. 

• In 2008, 3:00 Project changed its name to Project REAL - Recreation, Enrichment, Athletics, & Learning 

• In 2009, Winnona Park Animal Cracker and Glennwood Whiz Kids became accredited 

• In 2010, Project Real with the support of a grant through GSACA and Quality Care for Children was one of the first programs in the state to become accredited by the Council On Accreditation. Because of their excellent validation visit and report, Project REAL received an expedited accreditation.