In the spring of 2004, a household survey on after-school care in America confirmed what civic leaders already suspected: nearly 11 percent of elementary school children and 34 percent of middle schoolers report that they are in unsupervised "self-care" after school. African American and Hispanic youth spend more time unsupervised than other children, yet 53 percent of African American and 40 percent of Hispanic families say they would enroll their children in after-school programs if they were available. Twenty-three percent of Caucasian parents agree. Sponsored by the After-school Alliance, the America After 3 PM survey found that parents whose children are not in after-school programs think their kids would benefit from programs in several ways: through fun/personal enjoyment; being safe and avoiding trouble; gaining academic enrichment; and improving social skills, health, and fitness. For purposes of this paper, "after-school system" is defined broadly to include programs that serve children: (1) during out-of-school time, including before and after school, school breaks, and summer vacation; (2) K-12, in elementary, middle, and high school; (3) in programs that may be licensed or unlicensed; and (4) in school and community-based facilities. This paper concludes that in communities where the system architects have shared goals, a blueprint for building out system components, stable funding, quality standards, and public will, there is greater likelihood that the end result will be a holistic system that truly meets the need of children and families.