Foster grandparents are valuable resource

Over and over we are told that "kids keep you young." Sometimes it might seem like an excuse to justify a lifestyle – perhaps by grandparents who often babysit their grandchildren or by someone who babysits for a little extra cash. That notion is soon dispelled, however, after meeting Foster Grandparent Pat Hunter. Hunter, a Shady Cove resident, is the foster grandparent for 32-hours a week at Shady Cove School. Although she is a senior, the clear sparkle and intelligence in her eyes belie her age. When Hunter says, "Kids keep me young," she means it and it is convincing.


Hunter who is called "Grandma" by the students and most of the staff
has worked with children her whole life. She is the oldest of five
children, has 3 biological and 2 adopted children, is a step parent,
was a foster parent, has 19 grandchildren and has a bachelor’s degree
in human development with an emphasis on infant and toddlers. After all
that, Hunter still wanted to give back to society and so she became
part of the Foster Grandparent Program of Southern Oregon.
   
Hunter
understands the complexity of today’s world and she says this about her
students, "Their needs are so great now." She cites causes such as the
economy, morality, disrespect – things prevalent in our society today.
Hunter feels her role is to give the boys and girls encouragement and
help with their studies and other problems.  "I just have to be there
for them," she emphasizes.
   
Hunter assists in two classrooms.
One is the fourth grade class of Joann Nadell where the children are
taught math and science and the other a middle school class with the
focus on reading and writing. That teacher is Kennia Monroe.
   
While
visiting Mrs. Nadell’s class it is obvious how the boys and girls
respond to Hunter’s gentle but firm instruction. The young students
return the respect she subtly teaches them. The children come to her in
a respectful manner for help on a test or asking to use the bathroom.
Hunter responds to all requests in her low-keyed way that seems to
work. On occasion she might have to quiet a few noisy students but in
general the students are orderly.
   
During recess, Hunter
often works in the school library rather than outdoors. Library
Coordinator, Karen Rickerd, said "Grandma" is a huge help to kids
during recess. She regularly does crafts with the children such as the
intricate snowflakes hanging on the walls. She also shops at thrift
stores to get puzzles and toys for recess. Rickerd said the most
important function Hunter does is give "incredible emotional support
for the kids who need it." She helps kids who have ongoing problems.
And she even gives a hug when needed, said Rickerd smiling.
   
Hunter
teaches correct behavior by example and through interaction with the
children and adults, added Rickerd. This includes teaching not to
interrupt and how to deal with others. In fact, the children are very
polite
saying "excuse me" and "please." The school motto, "Be safe, be respectful and be responsible," is actually what Hunter teaches.
   
All
of this much needed attention and one-on-one with students is a result
of the foster grandparent program. Hunter cannot say enough about it.
The program helps the children and is also good for her as it keeps her
busy and happy. It is also a learning experience with the classroom
lessons from her own childhood revisited.
   
"I just want the
people to know this is a great program. The kids are awesome," says the
senior that tries to do everything with the students including roller
skating. Hunter encourages others to become foster grandparents. With
the current economy, there is more stress in homes and many times it is
the children that suffer. More "grandmas and grandpas" are needed.
Judging by Hunter, the program is a win-win situation.
   
The
Foster Grandparent Program of Southern Oregon is part of the federal
agency Corporation for National and Community Service and is sponsored
locally by Rogue Valley Manor. In 2007-2008 foster grandparents spent
88,872 hours working with children throughout Southern Oregon in
various settings.
   
Although currently 110 seniors from
Jackson, Josephine and Klamath Counties are enrolled in the program,
Hunter is the only foster grandparent in Shady Cove.
   
A
foster grandparent must be at least 60-years old. There are annual
constrictions on personal income. The benefits are $2.65 per hour – a
non-taxable stipend. Other benefits include on-the-job accident and
liability insurance, mileage reimbursement, the possibility of a hot
lunch, accrued personal time leave, annual physical examination,
training and more. For more information call Lori Shumate at (541)
857-7793 or Pat Hunter at 878-3829.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent

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