I’m always excited whenever we have an orientation session starting for new Foster Grandparent volunteers! In case you haven’t heard of the Foster Grandparent Program, maybe you have seen some older adults in schools, Head Starts wearing red aprons and vests. I’m happy to explain. Foster Grandparent volunteers are low income, age 55+ adults that serve at those locations for 20 – 40 hours per week. In return they receive a small stipend of $2.65 per hour and limited transportation and meal reimbursement. The key element in the program is that they volunteer on a ONE-ON-ONE basis with children with special and exceptional needs or who are economically disadvantaged (to me that’s living in poverty). They supply great heaps of praise and hugs; emotional support that may be lacking at home. All of the children we serve live in poverty but most have additional needs. Some lack social and communication skills. Grandma may be working with a child who has never left home. We’ve served children with an incarcerated parent or who are from a single-parent family. Grandmas and grandpas have worked with children having physical disabilities such as speech impairment or being speech delayed. That brings me to my favorite story about the power of a Foster Grandparent.
Foster Grandparent Guillermo Pujol was a story unto himself. He had been a high school physics teacher in Cuba and a political prisoner. Grandpa worked one-on-one four hours a day, five days a week at a Head Start with a five year-old boy with developmental disabilities. The boy could not say any words and could only make a few sounds. During their time together he completed puzzles, artwork, crafts and computer games with Grandpa. In April, he began to blend sounds into one-syllable words. By the end of the school year, he could say “hi” and “bye”. To me, this is undoubtedly the best use of $2.65 an hour!
As we approach our 50th year in 2015, please help spread the word about the awesome work the Foster Grandparent volunteers do. They are the best use of $2.65 an hours. Foster Grandparents are working to solve local community problems. We need the support of the local community to have more Foster Grandparents serving more children in need.
For more information about the Foster Grandparent Program in Harris County, please contact the Program Director, Barbara Melnik, at firstname.lastname@example.org.