The Foster Grandparent Program is part of Senior Corps, a network of national service programs that provide older Americans the opportunity to volunteer for a child and harness their life experiences and skills to benefit their communities. As a Foster Grandparent, elder residents serve as role models, mentors, and friends to children and youth. Foster Grandparents typically serve through a variety of local organizations—including faith-based groups, municipal parks, Head Start Centers, schools, and other youth facilities—to help children learn to read, provide one-on-one tutoring, and guide children at a critical time in their lives. In short, Foster Grandparents dedicate their time and experience to improve the lives of children and youth.
The Program originated on August 28, 1965 as a national demonstration effort to show how income-eligible persons age 55 or over have the maturity and experience to establish personal relationships with children having either exceptional or special needs. The Program’s dual purpose is to enhance the lives of children through a caring relationship and to provide a high quality experience that enriches the lives of the volunteers and the children they serve.
The Mayor and Commission made a joint referral to the Neighborhoods/Community Affairs Committee and the Senior Affairs Committee to discuss this item. The referrals were issued at the March 13, 2019 City Commission meeting. The item was discussed by the Senior Affairs Committee at its March 25, 2019 meeting. The item was heard and forwarded to the Mayor and Commission with an affirmative recommendation at the Committee’s May 20, 2019 meeting.
Our community is fortunate to have a variety of senior citizens who are ready and willing to volunteer to make a difference. There are also various opportunities to connect ready seniors with eager youth. Miami-Dade County Public Schools partners with Miami-Dade County to promote its Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) which persons 55 years of age and older an opportunity to contribute their time, expertise and experience as school volunteers. Volunteers must:
• Complete a background check
• Attend orientation training
• Agree to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours per month
In exchange for volunteering, program participants receive transportation reimbursement and school recognition among other benefits. The program’s goal is to promote student school attendance, build students confidence and growth, and enhance social relationships that support student achievement.
This program was discussed with the Senior Affairs Committee. The Committee agreed that, since the framework to volunteer is available through Miami-Dade County Public Schools and that this was a direct route to connect seniors with youth, that perhaps the City could explore ways to support the existing program as a means of increasing voluntarism among the City’s elder residents. The Office of Community Services will add volunteer recruitment for the School Board’s RSVP initiative to its outreach events held targeting our community’s elder residents. We will also update the Office of Housing and Community Services webpage on the City’s website to provide this volunteer information.
In addition to the schools, staff explored the possibility of expanding accessibility to volunteer opportunities within the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. There are two opportunities that may yield maximum benefit for the volunteers and the youth served: the City’s afterschool programs and its toddler programs.
The City’s Parks and Recreation Department offers afterschool enrichment programming for children and youth. Senior volunteers can be assets to support the enrichment programming by offering programming support and one-to-one engagement with youth including such activities as art and cooking classes. In these instances, the individual skills of the senior volunteers can serve to inspire and support youth as they cultivate their own skills. Programming typically takes place 2pm to 5pm at various parks in the City including Flamingo Park, Scott Rakow Youth Center and North Shore Youth Center (offering easy access to volunteer opportunities).
In addition to the afterschool programming for school-age youth, senior volunteers can be helpful for the Park and Recreation Department’s toddler classes which seek to provide toddlers with enrichment, stimulation and supervised play time. This is a wonderful opportunity for seniors to interact with and engage young children in a meaningful way. Programming typically takes place 9am to 1pm at various parks in the City including Flamingo Park, South Pointe Park, Scott Rakow Youth Center and North Shore Youth Center (offering easy access to volunteer opportunities).
The Parks and Recreation Department can supervise up to four senior volunteers per site, per program to ensure a quality, mutually beneficial experience for both volunteer and mentored youth. Please note that all volunteers through the City’s Parks and Recreation Department must undergo criminal background screening and training prior to being assigned a volunteer activity.