Most longstanding professions eventually develop some set of institutional or professional standards through which practice and procedure are scrutinized. Experts suggest that there are two hallmarks of a new field: a professional association and an agreed-upon set of standards for practice. The Standards for Quality School-Age Care of the National School-Age Care Alliance (NSACA) were first published in 1995. The Standards were designed to describe effective practices in out-of-school time care and to institute guidelines for policy and programs.
Some school-age care professionals suggest that the NSACA Standards are limited in scope because they were designed with only youth between the ages of five and 14 in mind, although programs serve children and youth of all ages. As a result, the Standards may serve more as a baseline for revision and adaptation. Examples and indicators of quality reflect the characteristics of the program and the population served. Citywide After-School initiatives have moved in different directions along the issue of standards. Their experiences are helpful in considering the choices and challenges associated with standards development and implementation.