The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

MARCH  2004

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.

The People News
Special Report






Community Grandparents  

An asset to a child's education

by Alexandra Edwards

Being a grandparent is one of the most rewarding rolls that life has to offer. It is a chance for parents who have had many years of experience in bringing up a child, to relive the past by enjoying the pleasures small children can bring. The grandparent  can  concentrate on  fun things and satisfy a child's needs without dealing with the everyday problems that come with parenting. Children sense the security, love and stability a grandparent has to offer and often respond positively to the special attention. Some retired seniors, through having their own grandchildren, have recognized the valuable knowledge, experience and understanding they possess and how it can be used to benefit other children in the community.

The Foster Grandparent Program a non-profit organization, was established by Congress in 1965 as a component of President Lyndon B. Johnson's war on poverty and was intended to demonstrate that the life-experience of limited-income seniors makes them especially well-suited to form meaningful supportive relationships with children with exceptional or special needs. The Foster Grandparent Program is one of three senior volunteer programs of the National Senior Corps and is federally funded and administered by the

Alexandra Edwards

Corporation for National Senior Service. Today there are over 23,000 volunteer Foster Grandparents across the nation.

The Senior Corps head-quarters for this area is based in Chattanooga. It covers Hamilton,  Bradley and McMinn Counties and to date has a total of 102 Foster Grandparents serving the needs of local children. These seniors, mostly women, give up to 20 hours a week of their time and can be instantly recognized by the children by the red smocks they wear. They support the children by  serving as care-givers, tutors

Above: Grandma Jo Carlton and Program Volunteer Coordinator, Joyce Slocomb assisting with a pre-school class.
Below: Jo Carlton helping out at East Cleveland Early Childhood Center.

and role models in places such as  schools, Head Start Centers, daycare centers and special institutions that assist at-risk children.

It is not difficult to meet the requirements to be a

Foster Grandparent volunteer. To qualify, one must be 60 years of age or older, be mentally able to perform the necessary tasks of foster parenting, pass a physical exam, live in the county in which they intend to serve, be no longer in the regular work force, and care enough about children with special or exceptional needs to want to help them reach their fullest potential. In Bradley and McMinn counties, it is also required that the applicant have a drivers license and their own vehicle.

Although the real reward is the priceless hours of volunteered love, Foster Grandparents in this program are paid an hourly tax-free stipend. They are

reimbursed for transport costs and have paid leave for holidays and vacations. They also receive a daily meal when taken with the children, and a free annual physical. Locally, funding for the program is supplied by Chattanooga Human Services.

Bobbie Sue Miller, became program assistant for the Foster Parent Program here in Bradley County four years ago after working with senior citizens for several years. She said "society makes older people feel they are useless, this program gives a chance for them to do something useful ... to be there for the children." 

Bradley County presently has 16 active Foster Grandparents, twelve of which assist at East Cleveland Early Childhood Learning Center and four at Oak Grove Elementary School. Their day begins at 8 am until noon each morning, Monday through Friday.  At East Cleveland Early Childhood Center, the Foster Grandparents are assigned to help with children from infant to pre-kindergarten age. They are able to provide one on one assistance, an extra pair of loving hands to help with the slower children that need extra attention with reading, painting or drawing. Building their self esteem by praising them when they do well and making them feel special and valuable. The Foster Grandparents at Oak Grove Elementary School help in Kindergarten through 5th grade classes. The kids enjoy having them there and both teachers and Principals embrace the Foster Grandparent program for the much needed help it brings.

"The program helps meet vital needs and solve critical problems in education. Sometimes all a child needs is someone to listen to them.  For some parents it's a necessity to take full time jobs during the day and they have little energy or time to spend on their children's needs when they get home. The Foster Grandparents fill that gap by volunteering their love and assistance," Bobbie Sue Miller said."

Many of the volunteers have been with the program for years as there is no upper age limit. Once they start working with the children, they find it difficult to give up on them, they become so close. Even after a recent hip replacement, 80 year old Foster Grandma Miss Kitty said she has no intentions of giving up her work. And said, she has helped at both schools over the years. At Oak Grove she once spent many hours with

a child in 3rd grade who was having trouble learning his ABC's, but the extra effort paid off, by the time he was in 5th grade he was reading at grade level. This little boy may never have caught up if it wasn't for Miss Kitty's patience and caring.

Grandmas in action:
Above, Miss Kitty.
Below left, Miss Joanne
Below right, Alberta Goss and Bobbie Finnel (right)

The little money the senior citizens receive from the program may help pay toward some of their household bills but the love, affection and assistance they give to our community schools is priceless. Grandparents view children in a different light than they did when they were parents. The

bond that forms between a young child and a grandparent can be a remarkable and rewarding experience for both. The Foster Grandparent Program benefits the child, the senior citizen and the community.

For more information call Bobbie Sue Miller (423) 476-5739.