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AARP AARP States Volunteering

Become a Foster Grandparent and Help Children Love Learning

Elderly man and little girl reading Bible together©jarenwicklund

By Gina King

Sometimes a change in locale leads to a life change never imagined and adds meaningful purpose to our lives beyond our dreams. When 79 year old Arthur Bradlaw sold his house after retirement, the move led him to meet a friend who was involved in Thames Valley Council of Community Action (TVCCA) Foster Grandparent program. The friend served as a mentor for children in local schools, and after some time Bradlaw became involved in the program. This helped him to get out of the house and make a difference in children’s lives while doing so.

Bradlaw has been a Foster Grandparent for 13 years now. He has positively impacted many children’s lives, working with a diverse group of youngsters from 18 months to 3 years old who need extra attention in school. “No matter what age they are,” Bradlaw says, “they want to learn.”

On any given school day, Bradlaw helps the children at TVCCA’s Taftville Child Development Center learn their colors, how to glue, cut with scissors, and the importance of sharing with classmates—all important life skills. “I show them when I get involved — that leads them to get involved,” he says.

  As a retired senior, you have a tendency to lose structure when you’re not working. Becoming a Foster Grandparent gave my life more meaning and I tell everybody about it.” — Foster Grandparent Catherine Wilson

The Foster Grandparent program in Connecticut receives its funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service and currently has funding for 57 Foster Grandparents throughout 24 schools, preschools, and Head Start programs in southeastern and northern Connecticut. These Foster Grandparents make a difference every day in the lives of the children they mentor.

Foster Grandparents help the children they work with by improving each child’s behavioral and educational outcome through assistance with social skills, math, writing, and reading, and by providing one-on-one attention outside of the busy classroom. Jennifer Johnson, director of Senior Volunteer Services at TVCCA, receives positive feedback about Foster Grandparents from school administrators. “They say that having the volunteers in the school changes the culture within the school, making it a better place,” Johnson says. “Once a volunteer has been in a classroom for a few weeks they become part of the school family; the children grow very attached to them.”

Foster Grandparent Catherine Wilson says she “always had a heart for kids in trouble.” Through her church she worked with troubled teens, engaging them in bible studies and organizing social events. At 68 and in semi-retirement, Wilson said her early desire to be a teacher is now realized as a Foster Grandparent. She is known as “Grandma Catherine” to first and second graders at Moosup Elementary School in Moosup, Connecticut.

“As a retired senior, you have a tendency to lose structure when you’re not working,” Wilson says. “Becoming a Foster Grandparent gave my life more meaning and I tell everybody about it.”

Wilson works with as many as 20 children throughout five different classrooms, encouraging them to read, playing sight word games, and helping them with math skills. “I love it, it’s my favorite job I have ever had.”

Become a Foster Grandparent!

The Foster Grandparent program is open to seniors age 55+ who can serve in a school setting between 15-30 hours a week for the duration of the school year. No formal experience is needed; only patience and a willingness to make a difference.

All volunteers receive orientation and annual training from TVCCA, and additional training from the school where they volunteer. Income-eligible Foster Grandparents are paid a tax-free, hourly stipend. Supplemental  accident and liability insurance are also provided for service time.

To learn more, contact Jennifer Johnson, director of Senior Volunteer Services, at 860-425-6615 (office) or 860-303-2392 (cell), or email her at

Gina King is the Program Coordinator for Thames Valley Council for Community Action, Inc. 


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