Making a Difference as a Foster Grandparent

Making a Difference as a Foster Grandparent

Volunteer to be a foster grandparent. Offer warmth and support to children in need.

Ten-year-old Kyle lives in a youth detention center with other troubled kids. He comes from a broken family and has a poor relationship with both of his parents. The only adult he really connects with is an older woman he knows only as Grandma Judy. She’s a volunteer who visits the center several times a week. Sometimes she brings new books or bakes homemade cookies for the boys. Most important, she is there to offer love and support to all the kids in Kyle’s unit.

Each year, about 30,000 senior volunteers tend to the needs of about 275,000 young children and teenagers across the country. These volunteers are part of the Foster Grandparents Program (FGP). This is a growing government-funded organization. Its main goal is to offer warmth, support and attention to children who are in difficult life situations.

In this unique program, senior volunteers are assigned to a setting or program. They are matched with youths who could benefit from their involvement. They might choose a school, hospital, homeless shelter, youth group, day care center or correctional facility.

A source of comfort

Most seniors who become foster grandparents enjoy interacting with children. They believe they can make a difference in their lives.

Many communities just can’t afford to hire people to help these children in need. The volunteers provide much-needed community services. These services may include:

  • Emotional support to child victims of abuse and neglect. This may involve talking with, listening or reading to, nurturing or holding a child.
  • Tutoring for children who need help with reading, writing or math.
  • Mentoring and/or advice for troubled teens or young mothers.
  • Special care, such as bathing, dressing or feeding of premature infants and children with physical disabilities or other medical problems.

What’s involved?

If you’d like to become a foster grandparent, you must meet certain income requirements and be at least 60 years of age. Further, you need to:

  • Have a genuine love for children with special needs
  • Be able to volunteer between 15 and 40 hours a week
  • Complete an application and schedule an interview
  • Complete orientation training
  • Be in good health

What are the benefits?

The main benefit of working for the Foster Grandparent Program is the personal satisfaction of changing young lives forever. What can compare to the joy of seeing a child blossom and grow with the love you provide?

In addition to personal satisfaction, you also receive the following:

  • Pre-service and monthly training sessions. All volunteers get 40 hours of training and orientation to the program, in addition to follow-up support and advice.
  • Reimbursement for transportation.
  • Some meals during volunteer time.
  • An annual physical.
  • Accident and liability insurance while on duty.
  • A modest, tax-free stipend to offset the cost of volunteering.
  • Recognition, such as trips, cards and gifts.
  • The opportunity to meet other seniors and help your community.

Are you retired, good with children and looking for something meaningful to do with your time? Foster grandparenting may be for you. It’s a great way to stay active, learn new skills (or share old ones) and meet new challenges. Also, studies have shown that volunteering is actually beneficial for your health!

If you are interested in becoming a foster grandparent, contact Senior Corps for more information. There are opportunities in almost every state.

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