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Local Foster Grandparent Program in Need of New Sponsor

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: June 05, 2019 06:44 PM

The Foster Grandparent Program of Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin is in jeopardy with no sponsor in place to support the program.

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The program which serves students with special or exceptional needs by pairing them with a foster grandparent mentor is no longer being sponsored by Catholic Community Services, leaving parents, students, and foster grandparents concerned on the future of the program.

Steve Johnson, the board president of Catholic Community Services, and Clint Thursby, the director of Catholic Community Services, sent a joint letter on May 6 saying Catholic Community Services and their parent organization, Catholic Charities Bureau, will not be extending its sponsorship of Senior Corps grants through Corporation for National and Community Service(CNCS) beyond the current grant cycles that expire after June 30.

“Our organization cherishes the many relationships and partnerships that have been built through the Foster Grandparent and Retired Senior Volunteer Programs over the last 45 years,” Johnson and Thursby said.

Catholic Community Services did not provide a reason as to why they are no longer sponsoring the program. 

“The project sponsor has voluntarily chosen to no longer sponsor this program. CNCS will hold a replacement competition to choose a new sponsor in late fall or early winter,” Samantha Jo Warfield, a spokesperson for CNCS, said.

The Foster Grandparent Program of Northeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin currently has 90 active volunteers that serve 40 schools, daycares, and head start centers across six counties.

"I feel like I have a lot of grandchildren. I’ve only got three but I have a lot at school. I spoil them like I do my own grand kids,” Laura Kryzer, A foster grandparent at Pine City Elementary, said.

Grandma Laura is one of seven foster grandparents at Pine City Elementary. She has been part of the program for over eight years.

Kryzer said she got her start back when her granddaughter was in kindergarten at Pine City Elementary. She said she looks forward to helping the kids with a variety of skills like numbers, spelling, writing, and even spoils the kids with hugs and treats.

The Foster Grandparent Program has made a significant impact to students who need that extra support and attention in school by having their foster grandparent work with them one on one.

"She helps me like with reading and like math,” Connor Jahnz, a student who is part of the Foster Grandparent Program, said about his foster grandparent.

"All of us are hoping for it to continue on because we need to be here for the kids most importantly. That helps the teachers too to carry through each day,” Kryzer said.

With Catholic Community Services no longer sponsoring the program, its left without the financial support it needs to continue.

"That's seven bodies we would be potentially losing. They are helping students in a very critical time in their education,” Deanna Jahnz, a parent and peer coach at Pike City Elementary, said.

Jahnz used to teach kindergarten at Pine City Elementary and said she had foster grandparents in her class that gave her extra support.

“It's like having another grandma in their life. To have another supportive person in the classroom to give that hug or tie that shoe or read a book or practice a skill is very incredible,” Jahnz said.

Jahnz said her son Connor was shy coming into kindergarten, and said knowing he had someone else to greet him and help him was calming for her as a mom.

"I read to her and we just have one book for everybody,” Connor said about his activities he does with his foster grandparent.

Although foster grandparents can continue to volunteer, they will no longer receive their tax free stipend and help with transportation costs.

"Many of them need the friendship and income. They need the kids. They need them as much as the kids and the teachers do too,” Jahnz said.

Grandma Laura said she taught a girl how to spell her last name that has 13 letters. She adds that she learns from her students everyday as well.

"It makes me feel so good when I walk out and I know that the child did it and the teacher says, Grandma Laura you did it again,” Kryzer said. “I just know I'm doing a good job. I have 6th graders that still come up to me and say hey and give me a hug. They know I was there for them when they needed it.”

Catholic Community Services sent another letter out on May 17 saying for over 40 years, the organization has provided sponsorship as well as operational and administrative oversight for the program.

“We are dedicated to supporting an orderly conclusion of our sponsorship as the area schools are wrapping up in this year’s cycle and will commit to facilitating a transition of the grants to a new sponsor as determined by CNCS.”

The letter also noted that in March 2019, Barbara Stewart, the CEO for CNCS, said President Donald Trump’s current budget for Fiscal Year 2020 proposes the elimination of CNCS. Funding has been requested for an orderly shutdown. Current funding runs out in September 30.

To learn more about the Foster Grandparent Program, click here

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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