A new team began growing the Foster Grandparent Program of Southwestern PA just a few months ago by adding two (2) new coordinators and a new Supervisor. Kaytlyne Povlik, a new Coordinator, is responsible for three (3) of the six (6) counties served – Fayette, Greene and Washington and is based out of the Lemont Furnace PIC office. Sue Pierce, also a new Coordinator, is responsible for the other 3 counties – Allegheny, Beaver and Butler and is based out of the Beaver Valley Mall PIC office. Carrie Schmucker, the Supervisor, is based out of the Greensburg PIC office. They are all committed to the incredible benefits of this program for not only the children we serve but the seniors who are the backbone of this program.
The Foster Grandparent Program of Southwestern PA is an impactful federally funded program. The Private Industry Council matches seniors 55+ who are low income (200% poverty level) with children in an educational setting that have special or exceptional needs. No prior experience is necessary but a want and love of children with the willingness to assist children in their scholastic achievements. There are benefits to being a volunteer. We provide a small hourly stipend, a daily meal allowance, traveling expense reimbursement and an opportunity to make a difference in your community.
Children with special needs have difficulties with issues such as hearing or vision, physical or health issues or things such as autism or ADHD. Children with exceptional needs encompass those living in poverty, having a parent in the military, or living in a single parent home. These children really excel when they are assigned a grandparent who helps them cope with whatever daily difficulties they face.
We are targeting 5 main areas for improvement in the children – Literacy, math, social/emotional, attendance and academic engagement. The improvements are incredible! We ask the teachers to provide feedback twice a year on the children assigned a grandparent and if they have improved in any of these 5 areas. Most, if not all, have improved in all areas due to the one on one caring relationship created by that Foster Grandparent.
The impact for our seniors is just as great. They have found a renewed purpose in life. They stay vital and active well into their later years. They have so much to offer our children and their future success! One story in particular needs to be shared. We have a volunteer who is physically challenged. She is in a motorized wheelchair. She had a neighbor that “badgered” her to become a Foster Grandparent. She reluctantly agreed. Since coming on board and beginning her service she exclaimed to us that, “I now have found my purpose! I have a reason to get up every morning and have those smiling little faces to look forward to. I now know I can make a difference.” And she does in unbelievable ways!
The benefits to our schools, after school programs, faith based schools, Head Start classrooms, Pre-K classrooms and all of the teachers are also extremely positive. The teachers have an extra set of hands and eyes to assist daily with the needs of the children within their classroom. The teachers love having a grandparent in their rooms! We are a team with one purpose, providing a supportive and meaningful one on one relationship between children and our elders.
We are currently in a growth effort. We are adding 150 additional volunteers within our six (6) county service area by the end of 2016. If you meet the income requirement, are over 55 and have a passion for children please contact Carrie Schmucker @ 724-836-2600 to discuss if this program is for you. Or you can download and send in the pre-interest form. If you are a non-profit or government run school and would like to have a foster grandparent in your classroom, contact Carrie as well.