By Justin Lees
This article has been difficult for me to pen. This year we are saying good-bye to a program that is inspirational, heartwarming, and so important for both older adults and young children in our community.
Coastline has sponsored the Foster Grandparents Program for over 40 years. This federally funded program is part of the AmeriCorps service portfolio and offers qualifying adults the opportunity to volunteer in class-rooms, early childcare facilities, and similar environments. The reward for the volunteers is rich beyond words. They spend one-on-one time with young children helping them read, offering wisdom, and creating that special “grandparent” bond. Volunteers are also offered assistance with travel to and from the site and earn a small stipend for their time.
Whenever I have had the pleasure of attending a gathering of the volunteers I have truly been touched by their stories. I admire their passion for helping children and volunteerism.
As much as this program radiates joyfulness, the time has come for Coastline to turn the page to a new chapter.
A lot has changed in the 40 years since we first brought on FGP. Most notably, Coastline is facing an increased need for our services. Not only is the demand significantly higher as more and more people turn 65 every day, but the complexity of those needs is starkly higher than it was in previous decades. For Coastline to effectively serve our consumers, we need to become laser-focused on our core programs and allocate whatever available resources we have to meeting these rising needs.
The Foster Grandparent program does many things, but it does not serve our core mission of allowing people to live independently in their homes. To remain most effective in our largest programs, the time has come to shift our operations and relinquish the Foster Grandparent program.
We are planning to slowly wind down FGP at Coastline in a way that lets our volunteers complete their 2022-2023 school-year stints. Our hope is that the funding agency, Seniorcorps, will issue a request for proposal for another local agency to take over the program. If Seniorcorps successfully assigns the contract to another agency, then all of the wonders of this program will continue in the South Coast region. I am optimistic that another non-profit that has a larger focus on volunteer programs will see the value of this program and take it on.
I want to end by sending thanks, gratitude, and congratulations to all current and former foster grandparents. The impact you have made on the children’s lives will live on forever. You are all special, with or without the Foster Grandparent Program.