Foster Grandparents Help Kids and Themselves

“If you want to get out of the house, if you want to do something fun and rewarding, try the Foster Grandparents program. I guarantee you’ll stay.”

--Deborrah Robinson, Foster Grandparent

The Foster Grandparents program (FGP), administered in Texas by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, invites volunteers age 55 and older to serve young people in their communities.

The program, “helps grandparents take care of people who have so much to gain from our knowledge and care and attention,” said Foster Grandparent Deborrah Robinson. “What we bring is the love and attention they need.”

Elizabeth Yocum, DADS director of the Foster Grandparent program, said foster grandparents are role models, mentors, and friends to children with exceptional needs who have the ability to give the kind of comfort and love that sets a child on the path toward a successful future.

 “Being involved in the program gives aging adults a place to remain active within their communities. They earn a little money, get out of their homes and socialize, and are exposed to people they might not otherwise meet.

“Foster grandparents come from all walks of life, and work with children who have been neglected, are at risk for juvenile offenses, or are children with special needs,” she said.

Texas was one of the first 21 states to become involved with the National Foster Grandparent program, as a pilot initiative from the Lyndon Johnson administration in 1965. During the past 10 years alone, DADS Foster Grandparent volunteers have spent almost 4.5 million hours with more than 24,000 children.

FGP volunteers serve at thousands of local organizations that:

  • Help children learn to read and provide one-on-one tutoring
  • Mentor troubled teenagers and young mothers
  • Care for premature infants or children with disabilities
  • Help children who have been abused or neglected  

Foster grandparents serve from 15 to 40 hours per week in locations including schools, hospitals, juvenile correctional institutions, daycare facilities or Head Start centers. They receive pre-service orientation, training, supplemental accident and liability insurance, and meals while on duty. Volunteers who meet certain income guidelines also receive a small stipend.

The program, “offers active older adults a high-impact pace to serve,” said foster grandparent Elezear Fadmaitan. “And at the same time, we’re taking care of people who have so much to gain from our knowledge and care and attention.”

Some researchers believe that social engagement—and the lack of it—can affect cognitive functioning and happiness, which in turn can affect overall health. Not only does FGP help kids, it also helps some people who might otherwise be idle. While some retirees thrive, as many as 25 percent experience a significant drop in their health and well-being. Programs like FGP offer meaningful ways to socialize and impart wisdom and care to younger generations.

“You don’t need any special skills or education,” Yocum said. “Your whole life has given you plenty of experience; you just need to want to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Becoming a Foster Grandparent Volunteer

If you are 55 or older and would like more information on the DADS Foster Grandparent program, call 512-438-4088 or visit www.dads.state.tx.us/fostergrandparents.