SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC) is celebrating its 50-year partnership with the Foster Grandparent Program that aims to help struggling children.
The Foster Grandparent Program was launched nationally in 1965 and allows low-income senior citizens to assist children who are struggling one way or another. OACAC began its work with the program shortly thereafter in 1972.
“If they’re not catching (onto) their multiplication really fast or they need extra one-on-one help, the grandparents can do that,” program Director Kathy Moore told The Heartlander. “The grandparents are there for mentoring, tutoring, just to be their friend and love unconditionally.”
Moore says foster grandparents must be 55 years of age or older and are carefully vetted with background checks before they can begin working with children. Although foster grandparents are considered volunteers, they are paid a non-taxable stipend of $3.15 per hour. If approved, foster grandparents will undergo a 20-hour orientation where they will shadow a seasoned foster grandparent already in the system.
Foster grandparents go into public schools, Head Starts, private daycares, boys ranches and girls homes in a 14-county area. At least six children at each organization are assigned to a foster grandparent during the school year.
Foster grandparents can volunteer a minimum of five hours a week and a maximum of 40 hours a week. Volunteers are also reimbursed for their mileage expenses.
Moore says most foster grandparents form a tight bond with the teacher they were originally assigned to, and often stay with them for several years. One grandmother has been in the program over 25 years – half of the entire program’s life – and has kept the same teacher for 21 of those years.
Moore told The Heartlander she noticed a major increase in positivity when schools began allowing foster grandparents back inside the classroom once worries over COVID-19 faded.
“I think this program really benefits both parties, the children and the grandparents,” Moore said. “The children are getting somebody they see who is genuinely happy to see them, wants to play with them and give them lots of love. In return, the kids are giving the grandparents the same.”
OACAC will be hosting a 50-year celebration event for the Foster Grandparents Program on Sept. 28 in Springfield. Visit the OACAC website to keep up to date.