Foster Grandparent volunteers are adults over 55 who serve between 5 and 40 hours each week at a school, child care or after-school program. This program provides a small, tax-free stipend to income-eligible seniors, in addition to mileage reimbursements for travel to and from one’s assigned site, meal reimbursements, paid time off, and annual recognition events.
In schools, Foster Grandparents give one-on-one attention to students in support of their academic goals. Foster Grandparents help children learn to read, practice math skills, mentor at-risk children, assist students who experience learning disabilities, keep struggling children on task, and provide encouragement and academic or emotional support to students. Foster Grandparents serve as positive role models and are there to provide additional support to students.
In child care centers, Foster Grandparents provide caring attention to babies, toddlers and preschoolers, helping them with the building blocks of early learning. Foster Grandparents help children to develop skills in early literacy, language and cognitive development, and social skills. To accomplish these goals, Foster Grandparents engage in positive play, reading, modelling, and nurturing. Foster Grandparents feel like an important part of the team – without the responsibilities and pressures of a job.
Foster Grandparent volunteers receive consistent support from a Friends Program Coordinator, who serves as a liaison to ensure a positive experience for both the volunteer and the site. Coordinators also host regular workshops where topics relating to either child development or senior health are presented, such as educational support methods, early literacy, social issues that impact families and children, managing stress, and more.
Win for Teachers:
In the bustling environment of classrooms, Foster Grandparents offer invaluable support to students individually or in small groups, and they also play a significant role in prepping classroom materials, alleviating some of the teacher's workload. In 2022, 100% of teachers reported that having a Foster Grandparent volunteer made a remarkable difference in meeting the diverse needs of their students. As one teacher emphasized, "Our Foster Grandparent is the only other consistent adult in my room. Her support is invaluable to me." With each volunteer having undergone thorough interviews, reference checks, training, and extensive background checks, teachers can confidently rely on the support and assistance they bring to the classroom. The presence of a Foster Grandparent enriches the learning environment and enhances the overall educational experience for both students and educators.
Win for Volunteers:
Volunteering as a Foster Grandparent offers numerous benefits for the volunteers themselves. It becomes an enriching experience that goes beyond the classroom, providing them with a sense of purpose, connection, and community, reducing feelings of isolation. As one Foster Grandparent shared, "Being a Foster Grandparent has allowed me to keep my brain sharp, get out of the house, and give back to my community." By joining the program, volunteers have the opportunity to share their lifetime of wisdom and experience, leaving a positive impact on the lives of young learners. The structured routine of their volunteer work brings stability and consistency to their days, creating a rewarding and fulfilling experience. More than this, the stipend they receive not only acknowledges their commitment but also provides some extra pocket money, making their contribution even more satisfying as they make a lasting difference in the lives of students they mentor.
Win for Students:
Students in public schools, Headstarts, child care centers, and after-school programs experience major benefits from the nurturing bond formed with a Foster Grandparent volunteer. This special relationship plays a pivotal role in fostering academic, emotional, and social success for young learners. Particularly for students facing unique life challenges, the personalized attention and care offered by our volunteers proves invaluable. In 2022, 96% of children paired with a Foster Grandparent successfully advanced to the next grade level. Testimonials from teachers reveal the profound impact, with one sharing, "The students adore our volunteer. She offers them stability and consistency, an extra set of hands, and a fresh pair of eyes in an ever-busy, evolving classroom!"
When it comes to being a Foster Grandparent, Diane is a pro. She’s been in the program for 15 years, spending 14 of those years at Abbott-Downing School in Concord, and making occasional visits to Merrimack Valley Daycare when Abbott-Downing is closed for breaks.
Diane’s time with the Foster Grandparent Program is especially special because of the relationship she has developed with her classroom teacher, Liz, who has welcomed Diane into her classroom for 14 years. “We’ve developed a great friendship within the school, and outside of the school. She’s been a real good friend to me. I just love her to pieces.”
Diane is not only valued in her classroom. She shares that she feels appreciated by the entire school- especially by those in the kindergarten wing where she spends most of her time. “One of the really cool things as years go by is that kids in the hallway will see me and say, ‘Hi Grammy! Hi Grammy!’ Everyone in the school calls me Grammy”. Diane has undeniably become a trusted adult for many through her time, patience, and involvement. Students often turn to her when they need some help regulating their emotions and talking through their feelings together on rough days. Otherwise, she can be found reading stories, playing games, and doing crafts, all alongside them.
Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from this program; Diane is, too. “I can come home each day and know that I’ve touched a life and made a difference. I don’t have all of my grandchildren around me. It’s wonderful to get to be a grandmother to all of these children.” The Foster Grandparents Program has given her a strong sense of purpose and value- something that older adults may often struggle to find. To any teachers who are interested in having a Foster Grandparent, she shares her message: “Give it a try. You could be touching a senior’s life, and the senior could touch the lives of the students. You may even develop a strong relationship like I did. It could be such a help. You won’t know unless you try.”