“They truly connect with the children. They provide a sense of stability, of understanding, of compassion for the students. By often working one-on-one with students, foster grandparents are able to reach them in ways that we as teachers only wish we had the time to do,” one local teacher described the Foster Grandparent Program.
Grandmas are making a name for themselves in area schools. And for these women (and sometimes men in the role of grandpas) nothing could be more precious than reconnecting with youth and becoming role models for dozens of children who biologically would never be able to call them “grandma.”
Nearly 100 foster grandparents work in a 10-county region (Calhoun, Jackson, Marshall, Ohio, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wirt and Wood), the majority of which are in the public education system under a Memorandum of Understanding. They also find themselves tutoring and assisting in daycares and head start programs.
The benefits are numerous. On one occasion, a foster grandma was checking out of a local store when the cashier noticed her. “I know you,” the young woman said. “You taught me in school. You made a difference in my life.”
It is the one-on-one interaction that these foster grandparents age 55 and older give to youth that forms a desire for the children to learn, and often to excel in schoolwork. At times, the foster grandparents help those who have missed school catch up on assignments, at other times they provide assistance to those who may not be able to just follow along in a group setting and instead requires some individual explanation. They don’t go to baby-sit, but to encourage the children to learn. They are there for them as a listening and caring adult.
Foster grandparents serve between 15 to 40 hours a week in not just educational realms, but some help in hospitals or correctional institutions. In return for their effort, they receive a nontaxable stipend of $2.65 per hour, accident and liability insurances and meals while on duty, reimbursement for transportation, and monthly training.
“Our foster grandparents enjoy being with the children, they find a sense of worth, something to look forward to each day. With little ones waiting on them, they have a reason to get up and going,” assured Janet Somerville, director of the Foster Grandparent Program.