In A Place to Call Home, Barton J. Hirsch identifies the strengths of after-school settings while challenging them to rise to new levels of excellence. After-school programs have attracted a strong and growing constituency. Parents, educators, researchers, and policymakers are engaged in pivotal debates about how after-school programs should be oriented. Powerful forces are pushing programs to be more school-like and oriented to academic drill. However, A Place to Call Home: After-School Programs for Urban Youth provides convincing evidence that yielding to such forces would be tragic, a wasted opportunity. Through original and provocative analysis, author Barton J. Hirsch describes his research conducted over a four-year period at six Boys & Girls Clubs all located in low income, predominantly minority, urban neighborhoods. Hirsch shows that the culture of the after-school center meets the needs of the urban youth by drawing upon and replicating positive features of the youth's familial environment and peer group. Staff first engage and then socialize youth toward positive identities by means of recreational activities and wide-ranging mentoring relationships.
These club environments are repeatedly referred to as a "second home" by participating youth and seem to thrive even though formal psychoeducational programs often fail to reach their full potential. After-school clubs offer critical resources to urban youth in their passage to adulthood. A Place to Call Home does a tremendous job of helping us to appreciate this fact. Clinical, community, and developmental psychologists, social workers, youth workers, and policymakers will discover much from Hirsch's analysis, abundant case illustrations, and verbatim field notes as well as fascinating quantitative results describing these successful after-school environments.