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Foster grandparenting in St. Louis: ‘Intergenerational relationships are beneficial on many levels'

Cardinal Ritter Senior Services’ Foster Grandparents program connects seniors with low-income children with special needs.
Cardinal Ritter Senior Services
Cardinal Ritter Senior Services’ Foster Grandparents program connects seniors with low-income children with special needs.";

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Aarya Locker, the director of Cardinal Ritter Senior Services’ Foster Grandparents program joined host Don Marsh to discuss how seniors can serve as foster grandparents/mentors to low income children with special needs.

“Intergenerational relationships are beneficial on so many levels,” Locker said. “All of our grandparent-volunteers have a wealth of experience and wisdom. They have patience and a genuine love for children. They’re able to be present in a different way than we as parents can. They have the time, the willingness to be there. They’re able to give extra love and emotional support to children who may not be getting everything they need.”

The program works with Head Start programs, Crisis Nursery or transitional housing nurseries to serve children who are living in poverty.

Volunteer “foster grandparents” are age 55 and up and they volunteer 15+ hours a week in a school setting. They work one-on-one with teachers to help children with extra social and emotional needs. They are able to give extra attention to children when teachers may not be able to do so.

“We had an instance where there was a child who had had a pretty significant amount of neglect in their life and did not know how to eat with other people and so our volunteer sat with this child every day at lunch, at first by themselves, and then gradually with the group until the child was able to eat with the group without the grandma present,” Locker said. “That was amazing.”

A grandparent will work with a child from a semester to a year at a time.

Cardinal Ritter Senior Services’ Foster Grandparent program in St. Louis only works in a school setting but, in the 300 locations elsewhere around the country, sometimes grandparents work with children in homes or in juvenile detention facilities.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer for the program, you can find more information on Cardinal Ritter Senior Services’ website here.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.
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