The Foster Grandparents Program

As we grow older, our knowledge and wisdom increases. And as we grow older, we become more isolated and lonely, mainly due to the fact that our children are busy with their own lives. As we age and it becomes harder for us to keep up with the younger generation, we seem to lose out on life. Empty nest syndrome sets in, causing depression and a feeling of uselessness. Because seniors have so much to share, one organization is taking advantage of that -- they have developed the foster Grandparents program. Now disadvantaged and challenged kids have access to a growing population that gives them guidance and training. We discuss here the Foster Grandparents program, and how you can become involved.

The Foster Grandparents Program

The Foster Grandparents program was instituted nationally in 1965. It was designed to be a cooperative effort between the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to allow low income seniors to volunteer with children who were in need. Sergeant Shriver developed this program as a component of Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty.

The Senior Corps

The Foster Grandparents program is an arm of the Senior Corps. It is designed so that people over age 55 can share a lifetime of experience and knowledge. People can share their talents and expertise with the community, and give more meaning to their lives in the process. The Senior Corps has several branches. They include The Foster Grandparents Program, the Senior Companion Program and the RSVP Program. Each program is unique in the way it serves the community. The Senior Corps was created during the Kennedy administration; today it links more than 500,000 elder citizens to service opportunities in the community.

What Can I Do?

It depends on your area of expertise. Many disadvantaged kids just need someone to relate to. Taking a child to the movies or out for ice cream is very rewarding, and the child benefits greatly from the interaction. Some kids live in large foster care homes where the operators just do not have the time to meet more than their basic needs. Although the better foster care facilities take the children on group outings, this does not meet the needs of the individual child. Many of these children are gifted in ways that does not come to light unless someone takes the one on one time with them. This is where the Foster Grandparents Program shines.

How Do I Join?

Joining the Foster Grandparents Program means nothing more than filling out forms and being available from 15 to 40 hours per week. Certain eligibility parameters are required, depending on income. This program is designed for seniors who are on a fixed income. They will receive a stipend for volunteering their time. Information on Foster Grandparenting is available online at

What Is Available?

A lot of retired people have been involved in high visibility jobs over the years. They have much to offer, and it is a good thing for them to share. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Offer emotional support to child victims of abuse and neglect.
  • Tutor children with low literacy skills
  • Mentor troubled teenagers and young mothers
  • Care for premature infants and children with physical disabilities and severe illnesses.

What Are The Benefits?

Besides the obvious satisfaction you will feel for helping disadvantaged kids, the Foster Grandparenting Program offers real-time benefits:
  • A modest stipend is given to help defray the cost of volunteering.
  • Pre-service and monthly training events are available.
  • The foster grandparent will receive a yearly physical.
  • Some meals are provided during service
  • Insurance is also provided.
  • You are reimbursed for travel.

Probably the biggest benefit of being a foster grandparent is participating in the community with those less fortunate than you are. Many children benefit from having a foster grandparent. They can grow both emotionally and intellectually with the mentorship of a foster grandparent. You are sharing a lifetime of experience that a disadvantaged child might never receive otherwise. If you are lonely or bored, consider being a foster grandparent. A lot of disadvantaged kids out there will thank you.

Considering living with your children or grandchildren? Read about multigenerational households.

Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.