Community Action’s Foster Grandparent Program recently passed the State of Michigan’s Quality and Assurance audit with flying colors – and for good reason. The program serves four counties in Michigan (Barry, Branch, Calhoun and St. Joseph); and provides low-income adults, age 60 and older, an opportunity for providing service to children in their local communities. The Foster Grandparent Program offers seniors the chance to stay active by mentoring and tutoring children in their community.
Veola, a Foster Grandparent since 1995, joined the program for a way to get active within the community. Veola, along with many other Foster Grandparent volunteers, spends her time helping children in the classroom. “I have this one boy that I’ve been really helping write his ABC’s. I just like to work with kids, period.”
Not only do they help academically, but also on a personal level. The Foster Grandparent volunteers find it almost impossible not to form a bond with the kids. “I go home sometimes and dream about these kids,” says Veola.
Community Action’s Foster Grandparent Program began in Branch and Calhoun Counties in 1972 and expanded into St. Joseph and Barry Counties in 1997.
Dixie, another Foster Grandparent, thanks the children because, “They get me up and out of that house.” The children are not the only ones getting something out of the program. “You don’t feel your age as much when you get up and get out,” Dixie says.
Volunteer placements are individualized to meet the volunteers’ and children’s needs. Foster Grandparent Volunteers serve children in public schools, Head Start classrooms, and pre-school centers under the direct supervision of a teacher or administrator.
“I think the grandmas are just a great component. The kids love them – they refer to them as ‘grandma’,” says one elementary school principal. “Foster Grandparents offer extra individual and small group time for the kids. [The grandparents are] someone that understands the children; someone that can console the kids when they are having a difficult time.”
Participants may volunteer 15 – 40 hours a week. In exchange for their service, grandparent volunteers receive training, transportation assistance, a meal while volunteering, and a modest, non-taxable stipend of $2.65 per hour that does not affect Social Security or State Assistance in any way. The program also provides the opportunity to build new friendships.
The Foster Grandparent Program is a wonderful way for low- income retirees to help the children of their community in a supervised setting and receive a small monitorial reimbursement for their time. The relationships they establish give the children and themselves a positive outlook on life, and show that aging can be a time of ongoing activity and growth. Foster Grandparent volunteers not only provide hours of valuable service, but are also a model for successful aging.
The Foster Grandparent Program is always seeking men and women who would like to make a difference in a child’s life. To find out how you can become involved, please call the Community Action office at 1-877-422-2726 or visit us online at www.CAASCM.org.
Source: News release from Community Action