Foster Grandparents ready for school

There will be 41 foster grandparents in seven area school systems on the first day of school this month.

According to Jeanine Nemitz, Foster Grandparents director, another three volunteers are being trained this month to begin in October.

“The reason we don’t train those people and put them in the classrooms on the first day is so much of their training is job shadowing with other grandparents and we don’t have anybody working in the summer,” Nemitz said. “It’s always best if we wait with their training.”

Foster Grandparents will be in Fort Dodge Community School District, St. Edmond Catholic Schools, St. Paul Lutheran School, Community Christian School, Dayton Elementary, Community Day Care, Head Start and Manson Northwest Webster Elementary.

The number of volunteers matches the previous school year, Nemitz said.

“We’re not expanding,” she said. “Our funding was cut by $17,000 this year and so we’re trying to look at reduced schedules for all of our current grandparents and the three we’re bringing on will take reduced schedules and take the place of a couple who have retired.”

Students and teachers alike benefit from having a foster grandparent, Nemitz said.

“The best comment I ever heard from a teacher was when she said a child can work one-to-one with a grandparent and feel confident to make a mistake, because grandparents don’t give report cards,” she said. “They get one-to-one listening to them read, working on all the things a teacher can’t get to individually and the grandparents can.”

Nemitz said she is pleased with the results of the program, which is celebrating its 40th year.

“I could talk for hours about how proud I am of the work our grandparents do and what it also allows them to accomplish in their own lives,” she said. “This is sort of a chance for them to reinvent themselves after they’ve retired, because everyone has to be at least 55.”

Joining Foster Grandparents is easy, Nemitz said. The process begins with an application.

“Anyone who contacts us about it, we send them information on the program first and they fill out their information,” she said. “They have to pass a background check, that includes fingerprinting through the FBI, because we want kids to be safe and we want to ensure we’re putting people out there we can trust to the best extent possible.”

There is a training process, Nemitz said. Foster grandparents don’t need a background in education to participate.

“Our grandparents have to come to us from everywhere, from the cafeteria at the hospital, to being teacher associates, working in the laundry at a nursing home, to being stay-at-home parents,” she said. “We give them free service training. They get to job shadow with current grandparents. The first day of school is when you’re 65 is no easier than the first day of school when you’re five.”

She added, “We try to give them the tools they need to be as much help as possible to the kids.”

For information about Foster Grandparents, contact Jeanine Nemitz, program director, at 576-5401 or email