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Parent's Day July 28: Foster Grandparents Can Play a Role

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a resolution unanimously adopted by the U. S. Congress establishing the fourth Sunday of every July as "Parents' Day", a day of commemoration similar to Mother's Day and Father's Day. According to the Congressional Resolution, Parents' Day is established for "recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children." Visit the Parent's Day website to find out more.(External Link)

A vital program that helps support the role of parents is the Foster Grandparent Program. This program helps families that have children with exceptional needs - children who are developmentally, emotionally or physically challenged or at risk. Foster Grandparents are volunteers age 55 and older who serve as role models, mentors and friends to these children, providing encouragement, support, consistency and love. Their devoted service can make a profound and lasting impact on the children whose lives they touch.

The Foster Grandparent program exemplifies just how valuable the contributions of older persons can be to society. The program commonly uses the expression "every dollar spent twice". What that means is for every dollar spent on a child, that same dollar provides an equal benefit to those Foster Grandparent volunteers who receive as much, if not more, than they give.

In New York State older adult volunteers participating in this program serve one-on-one as tutors and mentors to more than 6,700 young people who have special needs. These programs are supported by state, federal and local funding. In order to qualify a person must be 55 years of age or older and physically able to serve children with exceptional or special needs. An hourly stipend is available to those Foster Grandparents that have an annual income from all sources that is no more than 200 percent of poverty level guidelines ($11,490 for an individual and $15,510 for a couple). Income is not a requirement for participation, however.

The benefits of volunteering are many. Recent studies have shown that people who volunteer live longer and healthier lives, experience less depression, and have lower incidence of heart disease. But according to one volunteer - "They just grab your heart because these are 'in need kids' … they need extra attention. I suggest to anybody who can, do it. I wouldn't change it for the world."

If you are interested in becoming a Foster Grandparent or to obtain additional information about the Foster Grandparent program, contact the local Foster Grandparent Program near you.(External Link)

Did You Know?
The Foster Grandparent Program was first piloted on August 28, 1965 to engage low income people over 60 in community service. Foster Grandparents, along with RSVP and Senior Companions was originally mandated under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973. When the Corporation for National and Community Service was formed by President Clinton in 1993, these three programs were merged under a single agency--Senior Corps.