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Foster Grandparents provide old-school care for kids around King County

Photo courtesy of Pike Market Child Care and Preschool

 Tots at Pike Market Child Care and Preschool enjoy the usual preschool perks — playtime with friends, stories and healthy snacks — with the bonus of daily visits from grandma

It’s not their own relations visiting school to provide the cozy warmth only grannies can give, but seniors from the Foster Grandparents Program. The national program, which is locally coordinated through Catholic Community Services, has seniors in 20 schools and community centers in King County alone.  

“It’s an amazing resource in our community,” said Ilene Stark, executive director for the downtown child care and preschool. 

Four “grandmas” spend 20 hours a week working with children at the school, providing mentoring, emotional support and extra adult contact for kids. The current participants are all Asian and live near Pike Place Market. Most have been spending their mornings with the children for more than six years, and the oldest grandma, who’s 89, has been coming for 16 years. 

“The Foster Grandparents Program adds to the school’s incredible diversity, and it creates more individualized attention for our kids,” Stark said. The school serves a diverse socioeconomic population, with approximately 70 percent of the families receiving tuition assistance. 

Seniors must be low- or limited-income to participate in the program, which began as part of the 1960s War on Poverty initiative. The seniors receive a small stipend for their time. As with the grandmas at Pike Market Child Care and Preschool, many are immigrants or refugees without nearby family.

“The Foster Grandparents Program is a way for seniors to feel engaged,” said Katie Auger, the program’s volunteer coordinator for King and Snohomish counties. “They have so much knowledge and compassion to share, and it helps kids who can use extra love and attention.” 

Foster Grandparents Program: ccsww.org/site/PageServer?pagename=fostergrandparent

Pike Market Child Care and Preschool: pikemarketkids.org

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