The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 17, 2013

Foster grandparents praised for dedication

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — The dedicated foster grandparents who mentor children in the Area 1 Foster Grandparent program were praised Wednesday by Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.

Barresi told foster grandparents gathered at Northwestern Oklahoma State University-Enid their work does more than help children make academic progress. It helps them make social progress and provides a steady presence in their lives — sometimes the only steady presence they have.

Barresi spoke of Oklahoma’s high rate of children living in poverty, and pointed to the fact less than half of children living in poverty have two adults in the home.

“Most of them live in a single-parent home,” Barresi said. “That parent is often working two jobs to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.”

Additionally, the family can end up moving once or more during the school year, and a child moved more than twice during a school year typically loses so much academic ground that most or all of the school year is lost, Barresi said. It is the foster grandparent who steps into this void and helps fill the lost ground, Barresi said.

“You are that person that they can depend on,” Barresi said. “To show up for this visit is so important for them.”

Barresi said she often hears foster grandparents talk about what they themselves get out of the work.

“I can assure you, it’s mutually beneficial,” Barresi told them.

Barresi explained why the state’s standards for students’ academic progress focus heavily on the early grades. A state law now requires if a child is not ready for fourth grade, they must be retained in third.

“I know that sounds harsh,” Barresi said.

She pointed to what happens when satisfactory progress is not made.

“This year, we had people trying to graduate from high school who were reading at approximately a fourth-grade level,” Barresi said.

Success in lower grades is essential for success in higher grades, Barresi said.

“In the next five years, 65 percent of jobs will require algebra, geometry, statistics, data analysis and technical reading skills,” Barresi said.

Susie Daniels, program director for the Area I Foster Grandparent program, said in the last year, 64 volunteers helped 902 students in the region.

“That’s 64 people to go into the schools, do the flash cards, listen to children read, and make a difference in the lives of our children,” Daniels said.

The program sent volunteers to 42 schools and provided 46,226 volunteer hours between October 2012 and May 2013.

Members were given certificates recognizing the total number of hours they have given since they signed on with the program.

Enid area volunteers and their accumulated volunteer hours include Eileen Arsenault, 3,509; Pam Baldwin, 1,840; Mary Brown, 5,287; Dee Campbell, 22,252; Jennie Chasteen, 1,373; Brian Courts, 1,268; Carol Cowen, 356; Helen Davis, 4,545; Gale Duncan, 8,472; Jean Ford, 6,448; Ann Hoskins, 5,181; Frances L. Johnson, 2,906; Shirley Kilgore, 5,445; Ella Loggin, 7,154; Delfa Mirelez, 3,562; Thelma Mitchell, 7,975; Donna Jean Smith, 9,019; Mary Ann Stowe, 2,558; Margaret Vaughn, 5,334; and Bea Wulffenstein, 310.