10/25/10 — Foster Grandparents Program

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Foster Grandparents Program

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 25, 2010 1:52 PM

Delbra McIntyre is just looking for a few good men and women.

But most importantly, she says, they must have the spirit of a volunteer.

She came on board as administrator of the Foster Grandparents program at WAGES -- Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency -- earlier this year, only three months after retiring from a 26-year career in adult services at the Department of Social Services.

"This was not planned," she said. "It just kind of came to me. But I love it. It's different from what I have done, which was more out in the field, preventing abuse for adults and elderly seniors."

These days, her role is to match seniors with a child who could benefit from having a grandparent figure.

WAGES has sponsored the national Foster Grandpar-ents effort for 38 years.

"The program requires that we work with the special needs or exceptional needs children," Ms. McIntyre said, explaining that the definition has expanded beyond working with the developmentally delayed. "Special needs can be a child from a single parent home, a child who has a problem playing with others, who has emotional problems, or has problems with literacy or reading comprehension."

Work plans are created in several areas -- including literacy, nurturing and mentoring.

As the needs increase, so have the work stations around the county. Recently, Ms. Intyre said, four stations were added, bringing the total to 18.

"We added Carver Elem-entary School in Mount Olive," she pointed out. "We had one at the Head Start center in Mount Olive but that was the only volunteer station we had at that end of the county."

The other three newest locations for volunteers to serve include North Drive and Eastern Wayne elementary schools and Bright Beginnings Day Care.

At present, grant funding caps the number of volunteers working in the program at 100. There is no cap, however, for the number of children served.

"We currently have 94 volunteers, and we're serving 190 children," she said. "One-on-one mentoring and one-on-one nurturing is our No. 1 goal."

While there is a small stipend paid to the workers, it is still considered a volunteer position.

And yet, because of the economy, it has drawn a spate of people inquiring about the job.

As a result, Ms. McIntyre said, "We have had to change the way we receive volunteers. We have had to change our process. Used to, in the past, people would call and say, 'I want to be a volunteer.' Now we ask for applications. They have to come in for an interview so it really is an interview to be a volunteer."

There are several criteria to be considered -- including income eligibility and a commitment to work 20 hours a week -- but first and foremost, it is about a willingness to serve.

"A volunteer has to have a spirit of a volunteer -- a giving spirit, a loving spirit, even though they receive a stipend," Ms. McIntyre said. "The children get used to them. They're like their grandparents. We want them to be like real grandparents to these children. The wisdom that they have has to be imparted to these children."

The program has been fortunate to boast an exceptional pool of workers dedicated to the effort.

"These volunteers are relentless," said Ms. McIntyre, pointing out that the current range of ages is 55 to 88 years old. "These are seniors, so they retire, they have health problems, their own issues, taking care of their own grandchildren, so we're always recruiting volunteers. ...

"This generation of people, we don't have to talk to them about being dependable, we don't have to talk them about being on time, about being responsible. And those are the kind of values we want them to put into the children."

For more information on the program, call 734-1178 or go online to www.wagesnc.org.