Most agree that improvements and cutbacks are needed at all levels of government. Unfortunately, lawmakers who control the huge budgets that fund government programs are elected officials and are therefore very slow to cut into programs that might cost them votes; it’s a game of compromise. However, the severity of the current economy is causing them to take aim at everything, with many cost-effective programs getting caught in the crossfire.
One of the buzzwords in health and human services today is “evidence-based research.” Another is “sustainability.” The idea is simple, and it makes sense. Programs must show results and become as self-sufficient as possible, and few programs illustrate this better than the Foster Grandparent Program, especially those serving the Big Bend of Florida.
Nationally, the Foster Grandparent Program, which began in 1965, provides loving and experienced tutors and mentors to children and youth with special needs. Approximately 31,000 Foster Grandparents meet the needs of more than 260,000 young people each year. Typically working one-on-one, Foster Grandparents provide support in schools, hospitals, drug treatment centers, correctional institutions, and child care centers. Among other activities, they go over schoolwork, reinforce values, teach parenting skills to young mothers, and care for premature infants and children with disabilities. Foster Grandparents often maintain an ongoing, intensive relationship with their young clients for a year or longer.
In a desperate effort to cut spending, the Foster Grandparent Program was targeted for elimination and was only sustained at reduced levels through an emergency provision, and although no one would suggest the $2.65 per hour stipend and transportation reimbursement the Foster Grandparents receive were excessive, the public outcry to save the program has been limited because these senior heroes operate quietly in the background. Consequently, station organizers who oversee services are gratefully reaching out for support, requesting all who recognize the vital role these “grandmas” and “grandpas” play to take a stand with them to save this unique resource. Here’s what a few had to say:
“We need FGPs in every class. Find more money!”
“Our FGP volunteer lights up our classroom.”
“FGPs provide loving care for the child.”
“FGPs have increased positive academic outcomes for sure.”
The evidence agrees:
• 87 percent of children and youth report showing a lot or a fair amount of improvement in their academic performance since establishing a relationship with a Foster Grandparent.
• 90 percent of children and youth report showing a lot or a fair amount of improvement in their self-image since establishing a relationship with a Foster Grandparent.
• 90 percent of special education youth served demonstrated improvement and growth in areas critical to independent living.
The benefits are unmistakable and the costs are minimal compared to alternatives, not to mention the great benefits realized by the Foster Grandparents, as an astounding 98 percent report improvements in their quality of life. To find out more, please contact Deborah Latson at (850) 245-5923, or email at LatsonD@ecsbigbend.org, or visit www.seniorcorps.gov.
Please don’t throw granny to the curb! Call today.