Age no obstacle for foster grandparents
By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Aug. 4, 2002
Grace Clark has been a foster grandparent for 28 years. She turned 90 years old last Friday.
Later this month she will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Lauderdale County Foster Grandparent program, to which she has devoted nearly one-third of her life. A recognition for foster grandparents and celebration of the program is scheduled for Aug. 29, at the Church of the Mediator.
Clark has worked with children ages 13 to 17, at East Mississippi State Hospital as a foster grandparent the whole time she has been in the program.
A former substitute teacher for the Lauderdale County School District, Clark said she couldn't begin to guess how many children she has helped over the years.
Two other local foster grandparents are also in their 90s. The newest kid on the foster grandparents block is also the oldest. Carolyn E. Abney turned 92 in June. She started working in the program last year at East End Head Start.
Sometimes she reads to the children, sometimes she helps them with their art work. She said she is looking forward to school starting back this year.
Clois Smith, a foster grandparent for 22 years, turned 90 in May. She has worked at several school locations, but for the past 12 years she has worked with preschool children at Care Lodge, a shelter for abused women and children.
Each of the women are without children of their own, but they are devoted to so many each day. Smith said she would continue to work as a foster grandparent, even without the stipend she earns of $2.65 a day.
As for their ages, Abney, Clark and Smith said they don't think about it until somebody mentions it.
Program past, direction
Bob Glazar, foster grandparents program director, said the program is a winning asset for everyone.
The program began on Sept. 1, 1972, with 20 foster grandparents working at East Mississippi State Hospital. It has now at its maximum for funding with 109 foster grandparents who serve children with special needs at about 30 sites in Lauderdale, Clarke and Jasper counties.
The program is sponsored by the Multi-County Community Service Agency and is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Currently foster grandparents must be seniors age 60 or older of limited income who are in good health. They typically work four hours a day with two children, five days a week. Along with their daily stipend, they are reimbursed for mileage and are provided with lunch during work days. They also participate in monthly in-service workshops.
Glazar said he is hoping to see some restrictions lifted in the future to allow the program to expand and allow more flexibility for foster grandparents to work more hours.