A grandparent plays an influential role in the lives of grandchildren, often providing additional emotional support and being a safe confidante away from parents. A grandparent frequently serves as a mentor and can be a secure and comforting place to turn in a time of need. More research is being done about the important role grandparents have in the lives of their grandchildren and the positive outcomes that can come from a strong grandparent-grandchild relationship. What about children who don’t have grandparents or a strong family support system? The Sacramento County Foster Grandparent Program works to fill the familial gap for children who don’t have grandparents.
The Program is a volunteer program for seniors 55 years of age or older. Volunteers choose from a variety of activities including:
Tutoring and mentoring children
Holding and nurturing babies who are born prematurely with health problems or parentally exposed to drugs/alcohol
Helping children with long term illnesses
Caring for children who have been abused or neglected
Helping children who are at risk from dropping out of school
Helping children who are at risk of substance abuse.
Volunteers work in a variety of settings including hospitals, schools, the Children’s Receiving Home, and juvenile hall. Most volunteer a minimum of 15 hours per week.
On Friday, September 25, the Sacramento County Foster Grandparent Program celebrated the national program's 50th year with a luncheon and dance at the Dante Club of Sacramento. The program has been in Sacramento County since 1974. When the national program began in 1965, it had only 800 volunteers nationwide. The program now has more than 30,000 volunteers and many local programs have a volunteer waitlist.
The strong bonds these volunteers build with the children often lasts years and can have a lifelong influence on children’s lives. One volunteer, known as Grandma Ora, formed such a strong bond with a young girl, in just one short year, that years later, after the girl had moved away and graduated from high school, the girl returned to find Grandma Ora, just to say, “Thank you.”
“The program not only helps children who are struggling, but also helps the seniors stay connected with the community,” says Deanna Quintanilla, Volunteer Program Specialist with Senior and Adult Services. “Our senior volunteers feel needed; the children give them a reason to get up in the morning.”
If you are interested in becoming a Foster Grandparent, visit the Foster Grandparent Program webpage or call 916-875-3569.