The Foster Grandparent Program is a nationally based program that is regulated and monitored federally by AmeriCorps Seniors and supported on a statewide level through Michigan’s DHHS’s Behavioral, Physical Health and Aging Administration (BPHAA). It has been sponsored locally by the Council on Aging, Inc., serving St. Clair County since 1977. It is a grant funded program, supported additionally through the local senior millage, fund raisers, and donations.
The Program recruits, screens, trains, and supports volunteers aged 55 and older who meet income guidelines, to provide mentoring and tutoring services to at-risk children in public, non-profit settings. Each year 55 to 60 foster grandparents serve at approximately 25 or more different volunteer sites including preschool, elementary school and head start classrooms, along with special programs providing services to children. Volunteers individually serve 9 to 40 hours per week and together provide up to 60,000 hours of service in our community annually. Foster Grandparents are linked to the services and programs that the Council on Aging, Inc. provides.
The are other benefits for the limited income seniors including a small tax-exempt stipend that helps enable volunteers to serve without it being a cost burden on already stretched budgets. Volunteers are also assisted with transportation to/from their volunteer stations through mileage reimbursement or the Council on Aging Senior Transportation and Blue Water Transportation services. Foster Grandparents also are offered a daily meal during their service day, pre-placement and on-going training, recognition, and social events.
The main benefit that volunteers list as their reason for continuing as a foster grandparent is the knowledge that they are making a difference in the life of a child. It is a win-win program for seniors, the children, and the community.