Since its establishment in 1972, the Foster Grandparent Program of Southwestern Pennsylvania has strived to recruit and train limited-income seniors, ages 55 or older, to provide a minimum of 15 hours per week of one-on-one attention to special needs children. Foster Grandparents provide assistance in a number of areas including:
- Socialization – Talking, listening, reading, nurturing, and holding
- Supportive Care – Assisting in learning situations or therapy; developing self-help and life skills
Today, Foster Grandparents volunteer with children at 137 locations in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, and Washington Counties.
Sponsored locally by the American Red Cross and funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Foster Grandparent Program of Southwestern Pennsylvania provides a small non-taxable stipend ($2.65/hour) to seniors, ages 55 or older, who volunteer with special-needs children a minimum of fifteen hours each week in Head Start classrooms, schools, hospitals, shelter, and after-school programs. Special needs consist of: geographic location, single-parent household, district, and mental/physical disability.
The stipend which by federal law is not taxable and does not affect housing calculations or other benefits currently received. The stipend empowers seniors to participate in the program without incurring significant personal costs. In addition to the tax-free stipend, volunteers are reimbursed any out-of-pocket travel expenses, and supplemental accident and liability coverage while they are volunteering.
To become a volunteer, all Foster Grandparents must complete a comprehensive orientation training, pass child abuse, FBI, and criminal background checks and have clearance from their physician.