The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) is over 50 years old nationally and 26 years old locally. The South East Texas Foster Grandparent Program (SETFGP) started in 1989 after discussions between James Martin, chief juvenile probation officer for Jefferson County, Roxanne Smith Parks, current director of Area Agency on Aging, and Don Kelly, former executive director of the SETRPC. They went on to write a grant that would enable 10 volunteers to mentor adolescents confined in the Juvenile Detention Facility. This would give new purpose to the lives of seniors and hopefully a sense of stability in an otherwise unstable situation. So it began, one volunteer, one site. 36 years later we are 95 strong serving 44 sites. And yes, we still have that first volunteer, and now even her son is a volunteer. The SETFGP has spent the last sixteen years helping to develop a community of care for the children of Southeast Texas by supporting older Americans in becoming an integral part of the process, there by being part of a solution. We whole heartily believe in the notion that “it takes a village to raise a child”.
The FGP provides a way for limited-income people age 55 and older to serve as extended family members to children and youth with exceptional needs. Foster Grandparents serve from 15 to 40 hours a week in schools, hospitals, correctional institutions, day-care facilities, and Head Start centers. They help children who have been abused or neglected, mentor troubled teenagers and young mothers, and care for premature infants and children with physical disabilities. In return for their service, Foster Grandparents receive a non-taxable stipend of $2.65 an hour, accident and liability insurance and meals (at most sites) while on duty, reimbursement for transportation, and monthly training. More than 30,000 Foster Grandparents tend to the needs of 275,000 young children and teenagers each year.