Seniors looking to volunteer may find themselves hearing about the Foster Grandparent Program. Here we’ll look at exactly what it is.
There are many great ways to remain active and involved in your community during your retirement years. As discussed in the previous article about retirement and early retirement risks, the statistics indicate the positive factors that help seniors have longevity during their retirement years. One of the best ways to stay connected in your community and keep your mind and body healthy is volunteering.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is the entity that manages all community service initiatives and programs for the federal government. CNCS provides opportunities for adolescents, adults, and seniors to give back to their local communities or discover opportunities to serve in different areas of the United States. CNCS recently consolidated their multi-facet names under one umbrella, known as AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps is an opportunity for individuals of all ages and backgrounds to give their time and talent to strengthen communities and its senior branch is called AmeriCorps Seniors. AmeriCorps Seniors oversees several volunteer programs for seniors including the Foster Grandparent Program, formerly known as the Senior Corps Foster Grandparent Program.
The Foster Grandparent Program Explained
The AmeriCorps Seniors’ Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) is a program designed to benefit senior citizens and help them provide community service through active community engagement. The program was rebranded in 2020 to include the “AmeriCorps” name to better market its direct association with all its volunteer programs. FGP was initially established as a pilot program on August 28, 1965 to encourage low-income individuals over the age of 60 to engage in community service.
Today, the program allows American seniors age 55 and older to engage in volunteer service and to provide one-one-one support to children with special needs to improve their academic, social, or emotional development. FGP volunteers help children to learn to read and provide one-one-one tutoring; mentor trouble teenagers and young mothers; care for premature infants or children with disabilities; help children who have been abused or neglected. – Americorps.gov
Volunteer assignments can entail mentoring at a youth center, being a teacher assistant in an elementary classroom, a childcare assistant at an Early Head Start or tutoring a youth at a library. Volunteer opportunities are based upon an organization’s needs, goals, and objectives.
Who is Eligible to Become a Foster Grandparent?
Do you love children and have a desire to continue to make an impact in their lives? Well, you do not have to foster a child to make a difference in a young person’s life. Even if you have grandchildren of your own, a few hours a week can make an outstanding contribution in the life of a child that just might be starving for attention or motivation.
To be eligible for the AmeriCorps Seniors’ Foster Grandparent Program you must:
- Be at least 55 years of age.
- Pass a background check.
- Enjoy working with infants, youth and/or teens.
All programs managed by AmeriCorps Seniors require you be at least 55 years of age. Certain AmeriCorps Senior programs, like the Foster Grandparent Program, have an income restriction based upon their service area.
How do I Become a Foster Grandparent?
You can apply to become a Foster Grandparent by signing up online or directly connecting with a local partnering organization. Schools, government agencies, local nonprofits, faith-based and community organizations are eligible to sponsor the Foster Grandparent Program.
Do Foster Grandparents Get Paid?
Volunteerism is a rewarding experience. Volunteers are invaluable. Although you do not expect to be compensated when you volunteer your time, services or commodities, Foster Grandparents do receive a stipend.
Being a Foster Grandparent is not a job. Therefore, you do not have to worry about being lured out of retirement. Since the program is geared towards seniors who are mostly retired, FGP strives to make it feasible for seniors to remain active in their communities without having to deal with out-of-pocket expenses. The stipend is not a paycheck or anything that will make you feel as though you hit the lottery, but it is a nice perk for those living on a fixed income.
If you are on a fixed income, you do not have to be concerned about taxes on your FGP stipend, it counting as your income, or effecting any benefits you might currently be receiving. A statement explaining to agencies or any other relevant parties can be prepared for you to provide to anyone requesting documentation.
Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteer service has rewarding benefits. The Foster Grandparent volunteer program has enticing benefits to encourage seniors to volunteer that include:
- Stipend. As previously mentioned, one of the benefits to being a Foster Grandparent is that you receive a monthly stipend. The stipend is determined by the number of hours you decide to volunteer a week.
- Mileage reimbursement. Foster Grandparent volunteers also receive mileage reimbursement. If you do not have a vehicle or choose to use public transportation, you will be reimbursed based on the approved transportation fees.
- Insurance benefits. Foster Grandparent volunteers have the option to receive supplemental insurance benefits.
Serving as a Foster Grandparent will allow you the opportunity to stay active in your community and help it thrive by your contributions. Volunteers can also benefit from receiving an increased sense of belonging, opportunities to connect with other seniors, and establish new relationships.
In addition, not only will you be actively engaged in your community, but you will also be physically and mentally active. You do not have to run a marathon to serve, however, you will have an active routine that will help stimulate longevity.
Ready to Serve?
The Foster Grandparent Program has been thriving in many communities throughout the United States since its inception. Success stories have been captured by community organizations and leaders confirming the impact that volunteers have had in the lives of children and families. Many seniors have reported how their volunteer experience has affected their lives in a positive way. The children mentored by a Foster Grandparent develop a relationship with volunteers that inspire, motivate, and teach them to be their best. They truly see the volunteers as a foster grandparent!
To join or learn more about the Foster Grandparent Program or other volunteer opportunities that AmeriCorps Seniors has to offer, please visit: www. Americorps.gov
It’s tragic that foster grandparents can’t simply be the foster-grandparent to children who suffer system-shock, a contentious divorce, or the loss of one or both parents via death or the penal system.
(system-shock = trauma caused by CPS, family court, juvenile court, etc)