BY MELANIE BUCK –
The Foster Grandparent Program celebrated its 50th year in the nation last year and this year marks its 19th year in Polk County. The Foster Grandparent Program has workers in several of the county’s schools including Acorn Elementary, Louise Durham, Holly Harshman, PCDC Adult Wellness and preschool, and Van-Cove and Wickes Elementaries.
Terry Williams of the DeQueen/Mena Educational Co-Op heads up the program. Williams said the program not only helps the students learn to read or be more attentive in class, but it also helps the foster grandparent, giving them something to do and a purpose. “It gives the grandparents meaning and they tutor at-risk students,” said Williams. “The school picks the child and places the grandparent with them. It helps both the child and the grandparent.”
The program is a federally funded program that is based out of the DeQueen/Mena Educational Co-Op. Williams said more foster grandparents are needed and adults 55 and over are encouraged to apply. The foster grandparent helps the student read and they also do things like help keep the student in their seat if they are a little antsy that day, and provides emotional support as well. “They can’t discipline them but they can talk to them or comfort them,” Williams explained.
The foster grandparents are considered volunteers, working around 15 hours per week, but they do receive a little pay. Williams said what little the grandparent makes, does not count against their social security, disability, or retirement income, which is a concern of many.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster grandparent, contact Terry Williams at 870-386-2251, or talk to your local school.