Seniors Helping Children

“Tell me what happened,” said Grandma Vicky.

Ten-year-old Susan hangs her head and won’t look her in the eye. “It wasn’t my fault,” she says.

Grandma Vicky prompts her, “Tell me what you could have done to make things different.”

“I guess I shouldn’t have yelled at her.”

“What do you think you should do now?” asked Grandma Vicky.

“I guess I should say I’m sorry,” said Susan.

This conversation happened between a Foster Grandparents and her assigned student. The student had difficulties working out differences with other students and often initiated loud disagreements.

Foster Grandparents do not discipline, but they do a lot of listening. One cooperating teacher said every child deserves an adult who will listen to what they have to say. Susan’s teacher asked Grandma Vicky to do what she could to help Susan think before she reacted. Susan’s behavior and her grades slowly improved over the school year. During the next school year, Susan sought out Grandma Vicky to proudly tell her she had been named Student of the Month.

The Foster Grandparent Program began in 1965 as part of the Senior Corps – a federal program guided by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In 1985, the program came to the Southern Tier counties of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany as an outreach program of Lutheran Social Services, who continues to be FGP’s local sponsor.

The program’s mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.

A Foster Grandparent provides a child “in need” with intensive, one-on-one attention, something not always possible for a teacher with a classroom full of students. Teachers and childcare providers report that children make academic progress, learn social skills and find a compassionate friend in the Foster Grandparent.

Foster Grandparents are welcomed in child care centers, Head Start projects and elementary school classrooms.

The Foster Grandparent Program meets the 2011-15 national strategic plan to “improve graduation rates for students” and “improve grade level performance.”

Grandma Vicky helped her assigned child learn to get along. Grandma Marge says she helps babies learn to walk. Grandma June says her students can spell when they leave her classroom.

Those interested in joining the Foster Grandparent Program can call 665-5354. New federal guidelines welcome seniors ages 55-plus of moderate income. Enrolled seniors receive a tax-free stipend, transportation assistance and the love and respect of the children they serve and the teachers they assist.