A group of foster grandparents in North Texas are role models and mentors to children with special and exceptional needs in their communities.
The Dallas Foster Grandparent Program has been in existence since 1981 and the National Foster Grandparent Program goes back even further, to 1965.
The program provides a way for volunteers who are 55 years old and older to stay active and sharp by working with children in their communities. The Dallas program, sponsored locally by Senior Source, is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service. That is the federal agency promoting volunteer opportunities for older adults.
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June Robinson and Loretta Stovall are sisters and both foster grandmothers.
"It helps me to know that I am doing something for the children," Robinson said. "It helps me to feel good about myself."
Robinson said she loves what she does. She said it benefits her just as much, if not more, than the children she serves.
"It means that I am helping somebody even if it’s just helping one child. Who knows that child may grow up to be a leader, or a president, or a doctor or whatever," Robinson said.
These foster grandparents have put up some impressive numbers over the years. More than 100 foster grandparents, 112,747 hours served and 6,655 children with special needs are being mentored or tutored thanks to foster grandparents.
Robinson’s sister echoed her thoughts about how the intergenerational relationship works both ways.
"It keeps my mind functioning," Stovall said. "I can think better. You know, being around kids and I love it. I love doing this."
Triste Vasquez-White, Director of the Foster Grandparent Program at Senior Source has seen first-hand how this program can help a child.
"Specifically in the foster grandparent program we are engaging lower income, older adults to work with children with special needs to improve their educational outcomes," Vasquez-White said.
The Foster Grandparent Program is open to low-income persons age 55 and over. Volunteers receive a stipend of $2.65 per hour. The stipend is not regarded as income and does not affect other benefits or assistance the volunteers may receive. Volunteers also receive a meal every day, bus or car fare, and are covered by accident insurance. Volunteers serve 15-40 hours per week. They are provided with 20 hours of training prior to placement at a volunteer site and four additional hours of in-service training monthly.