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.
If you’re a Foster Grandparent, share your experiences.