'Those are the grandkids I never had”: Foster Grandparent program gives seniors and children a chance to bond

Posted at 6:59 AM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 16:54:12-05

CLEVELAND — There’s a lot to be learned from our elders. And, there’s a lot little ones can teach us. The Foster Grandparent program at East End Neighborhood House is expanding, thanks to a grant from the Cleveland Foundation.

The program, which has been around since the 1960s, gives senior citizens a chance to get active and bond with kids aged between 3 and 12 years old throughout the city of Cleveland.

Roughly 90 seniors are in the program, spread throughout 20 Cleveland Metropolitan Schools and various childcare centers.

They clock about 90,000 volunteer hours every year.

For 72-year-old Detra Smith, otherwise known as “Granny Dee,” the hours fly by. She puts in 8 hours a day, five days a week.

“It’s not really a job, because you’re with the kids and they keep you going and that’s the most important thing. They keep you up and going. You’re not sitting around doing nothing,” Granny Dee said. She’s been in a classroom at East End for the last three years. She took over after her mother passed away, a foster grandparent for two decades.

“It keeps you busy, keeps your mind working and it keeps you healthy,” she said. “They’re my grandkids! Those are the grandkids I never had.”

Pre-K teacher Devin Bates said he sees the impact on the children day after day.

“You should see the children, they’re amazed to see someone who’s an elder move like they move and play around with them and run around them,” Bates said, adding that the wisdom and knowledge each foster grandparent brings is unmatched.

“And that’s what we do here at East End, we try to involve everybody in the process because it does take a village, it takes the elders, it takes the children, it takes the teachers and the staff,” Bates said.

The seniors are given a small stipend — between $2-3 an hour — and transportation is provided.

The program is federally funded and the Cleveland Foundation grant allows them to add 20 more seniors to their roster. Click here for more information.

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