by Karen Flores, J.D., Hotline Attorney
Growing up, I was fortunate to have experienced a close relationship with my maternal grandparents. My maternal grandmother was the quintessential old-fashioned grandma who wore flowered print dresses which were always covered with an apron she sewed herself. She helped operate the family farm in Gratiot County and spent her days cooking large meals, baking Czech pastries known as kolaches, and keeping the farm house clean and the clothes laundered. In her limited spare time, she would crochet, sew, and spend quality time with her grandchildren when they visited.
Grandparents can play a nurturing role in the lives of their grandchildren, providing companionship, caregiving, and support; plus being attached to grandchildren can greatly enhance the quality of life for grandparents too. Unfortunately, not all children have the benefit of being connected to grandparents, which can leave a void in their lives, especially those who come from at-risk backgrounds and may not receive the necessary emotional support from their families.
However, there is a program which may help fill this void – The Foster Grandparent Program can join at-risk children with a volunteer grandparent who can become their mentor, friend, and role model. The Foster Grandparent program was established in 1965 and is funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service and sponsored through Senior Corps. Adults 55 and older, who meet federally established income guidelines, can participate in the program, and improve the lives of children with special needs by helping them learn to read, tutor them in various subjects, provide child care, and be a positive influence in children’s lives.
Grandparent volunteers serve at many organizations including Head Start Centers, hospitals, schools, faith-based groups, and other youth facilities. This interaction is mutually beneficial to both the children as well as the foster grandparents, who can discover that their lives are enriched when they volunteer, stay active, and serve their community. Volunteers also receive other benefits such as a tax-exempt stipend of $2.65 per hour, one meal each day of service, mileage reimbursement, and on-going training.
For more information, contact the Michigan Association of Foster Grandparent & Senior Companion Program at www.mafgscp.org.
Karen Flores is a Part-time Staff Attorney for the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors and the Mid-America Pension Rights Project. She first joined ELM in 1995 when it was known as the Legal Hotline For Older Michiganians (LHOM).
After 4 years at LHOM, she left the practice of law to stay home with her children. She returned to ELM in 2013 as a Volunteer Attorney and was hired in August, 2013.
She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Political Science/Pre-Law. After graduating from Cooley Law School, she clerked for Circuit Court in Midland County and also represented clients on appeals of Termination of Parental Rights Orders.