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DHS Foster Grandparent program makes a difference in the lives of its volunteers

Date: 03/01/2018

Four employees of the Full Potential Child Development Center nursery – most of them millennial aged ladies – made bottles, changed a diaper, or prepared lunch.

The nursery – which has baby beds neatly placed along the walls – was quiet. Small noises from an infant moving around in their bed or eating lunch in their baby chair accompanied the occasional whispers of center staff.

Suddenly a baby’s whimper interrupted the quietness.   

Seated comfortably in a chair, Brenda Williams – a senior citizen who volunteers at the center as part of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Foster Grandparent program – softly told one of the young ladies to bring the child to her.

Once she got the baby placed in her arms, Williams swayed slightly. Meanwhile, she gently rubbed the child’s back. The baby who was once restless had quickly fallen asleep with its head rested on Williams’ shoulder.              

Williams then carefully put the infant in a bed where it continued to sleep. 

For the moment, Williams completed her task. As a Foster Grandparent, her job is to assist the staff of the child care center by helping with the children. 

“I absolutely love working with the kids,” Williams said. “I’m very happy with the Foster Grandparent program.” 

Through the DHS Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE), the Foster Grandparent Program is giving volunteers, all of whom are seniors, a chance to care for and teach special needs children. In the process, volunteers also get an opportunity to remain active.

The Foster Grandparent program is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service Senior Corps and OCCE. The federally funded program allows individuals age 55-and-older, who meet the income requirement, to volunteer 20-plus hours a week at a school, head start program, human development center, approved child care center, or an accredited community site.

“The Foster Grandparent program gives many of our volunteers something to look forward to,” said Foster Grandparent Program Coordinator Robert Watson. “Kids are very inquisitive. So working with the youth helps our Foster Grandparents remain mentally sharp.”

Ruenell Clayton loves talking to and singing with the children. 

“Getting down on the floor reading to the kids and singing along with them – all of that helps me,” the volunteer said. “It keeps me active.”

For several reasons, Charlie Brown enjoys the program.

“Being a volunteer helps me because I know I’m making an impact,” she said. “Seeing smiles on the kids’ faces is a special feeling.”

“My grandkids are all grown. So the children I work with are my kids,” said Foster Grandparent Frances Schueler. “They give me a reason to get out of the house.”

For more information about the program, contact Watson at (501) 320-8902.

 

 

Caption: Standing in the photo above, Brenda Williams is on the left while Charlie Brown is on the right.

Arkansas Department
of Human Services
(501) 682-1001

TTY: 1-800-285-1131 or dial 711 for Arkansas Relay Service

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