In the US state of Missouri ninety year old Verneile Jones was recently honored for her service to her community. Verneile is the mother of ten, grandmother of thirty and great-grandmother to thirty more. But on this special day Verneile was being honored for another role she has proudly filled for twenty-seven years. Verneile Jones has been a foster grandmother at her local community center. She says “she just loves kids.”
Foster grandparenting is a volunteer position in virtually every community. It may take place in your local church, in the schools or in a variety of community programs and centers. Perhaps your community has a Head Start program, or Boys and Girls clubs. Maybe your local church has a place for young people to meet after school hours. Take a look around your own neighborhood and you’ll find opportunities to serve.
Why foster grandparenting? Thousands of young people are in dire need of role models and mentors and friends. Many come from broken homes and from poverty so deep it affects every aspect of life. Many children don’t know their parents and may be living in a setting that doesn’t give them the nurturing and guidance they need to find a pathway to success in life. Every one of these children will benefit from an older friend who shows an interest in their life.
Volunteering as a foster grandparent, whether in a formal setting or informally getting together with a youngster may be the best thing you can do to stay active and know you’re making a difference in someone’s life. Young people often just need to know that someone cares about them. They need to talk about their life choices, their fears and problems, their friendships and their futures. You can be that listening ear and that one person who believes in the child. There is power in offering a youngster love with no strings attached. They will feel that someone is in their corner. Someone cares.
Who can be a foster grandparent? You can. Anyone can. You may be most comfortable meeting a child for lunch at the local school. The only requirement is showing up to demonstrate your interest and spend a little time with him. Or you may enjoy one on one tutoring in reading or math or writing skills. Once again, you needn’t be an expert to listen to a child read and discuss the book’s content. It’s as easy as asking a few questions and then listening to the answers. Many after school programs will offer children arts and crafts and sporting choices. Perhaps you’ll fit in one of those programs.
Check it out. You have years of life experience and children will love to hear your stories. What mistakes did you make? What lessons did you learn that can be passed on to the younger generation? What advice can you offer and what skills can you pass on to youngsters? Foster grandparenting is a win-win situation. You’ll feel good about getting out into the community and staying active and the children you serve will gain too. Why not give it a try?