The bond between grandparents and grandkids … it’s unlike like any other relationship. Many grandparents, whose kids are long past the “want-to-be- nurtured” stage, miss having someone to take care of, spoil and influence, while little ones look up to their grandmothers and grandfathers with an incomparable and unwavering adoration and respect.
So when a grandparent doesn’t have his or her grandkids close by or a child’s Nana and Papa have moved or passed away, there’s a hole that needs to be filled on both sides of the relationship. Enter the Foster Grandparent Program.
In this 50-year-old program, which matches approximately 31,000 seniors (age 55 and older) with about 260,000 children with special needs each year, kids receive much-needed support in areas such as reading, writing and math, while they also gain the one-on-one attention they may not be getting in the classroom or at home. While helping them to perform better in school, the relationship with these foster grandparents also gives them a more successful start in life.
But the program plays an equally essential role in the lives of the stand-in grandparents, who meet up with their “grandkids” in schools, local youth facilities, Head Start Centers and through a variety of faith-based groups. Obviously spending time with these rambunctious youngsters demands a certain level of physical activity from the seniors.
“I have so much fun with them, says one St. Louis foster grandma, who plays ball with and reads to a group of active 2-year-olds. “This gives me energy and motivation to keep going.”
But the regular interaction keeps their minds active, too. And in many cases, this new relationship gives them back a feeling of purpose that an empty nest or retirement took away from them.
In most programs, seniors who qualify financially can even receive a modest, tax-free stipend for their volunteer work, reimbursement for travel, meals associated with their assignment, annual physical exams, plus accident and liability insurance coverage while on duty.
For more information, visit http://www.seniorcorps.org/rsvp/foster-grandparents/ or search online for your local program.
If you’re a Foster Grandparent, share your experiences.