Don’t Count on Technology!!!!

If you are concerned about the things your children see on the Internet and want to try and protect them from it, don’t count on technology to do it for you. I work at a children’s home that uses the most current filtering software to try and protect our children from the bad influences of the Internet. I found out today how easy it is to defeat.

You would think that since I work with the Internet everyday that I would know about these things, but I had never heard of tunnel proxies until today. Tunnel proxies are what our children use to access blocked sites such,, and all the other sites that our filtering software is supposed to block. Type in “unblock myspace” or “tunnel proxy” in a search engine and you will get listing after listing of different sites that offer a free tunnel proxy to allow your children to access material you thought was being blocked by your filtering software.

Using several of these proxies I was able to view several of the sites that our filtering software was supposed to be blocking. Just so you know, we use top of the line filtering software installed on our server and updated daily. I am sure there are other programs that can be used to stop these proxies but I am also sure it will just continue to be a tit for tat game of cat and mouse that will continued to played with us putting up blocks and somebody else writing software to defeat it.

So the realization that I came to today as did our administrators is that protecting our children from the Internet comes down to good parenting skills; you can’t rely on technology to do it for you.

So what can you do?

  1. Be clear with your children and explain to them your expectations and under what conditions they will be allowed to continue to use the computer.
  2. Keep the computers in the public parts of the house. Children are less likely to view offensive material if they have to do it in a public place.
  3. Do not be a afraid to look over their shoulder when they are viewing the internet. Accountability goes a long ways in helping somebody make good choices. If they suddenly close the browser as you approach, don’t be afraid to look at the history and see what they were viewing. There are also programs that run in the background that can record sites viewed and everything typed by the user.
  4. If your child continues to view inappropriate material don’t be afraid to block them from the computer. There are several good programs that can be used to limit access to the computer and internet. At the facility I work at we use “Computer Time” and I highly recommend it.
  5. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think your children are immune from the garbage on the internet, turns out every kid on campus over the age for 13 knew how to do this. Be proactive, and most of all spend time with them, get to know them, and know what they are doing (have a relationship with them).
  6. Continue to use filtering software; it still works great for protecting younger children from the perils of the internet.

I believe these measures can be effective whether you are a birth parent trying to limit the offensive material your children have access to or a houseparent trying to do the same for the children in your care.

Don’t Pencil Whip Your Fire Drills


“Pencil whipping” is a term we used in the military which means to complete the paperwork on something without actually doing it. It was most often used for checks, drills and inspections that people didn’t want to do. I was much too uptight to do it very often but I have been known to do it.

Since becoming a houseparent I have discovered that fire drills and safety inspections are things that could very easily be blown off and pencil whipped. I assure you I will never, ever do it again. I have become aware of at least two fires recently at facilities. One was in staff quarters the other was in a cottage. Thankfully nobody was hurt in either fire.

In the cottage fire I have to commend the houseparents. All their smoke detectors had been recently checked and were working and they had practiced a fire drill just a week earlier. All the children and staff evacuated the cottage just like they had practiced and it went very smoothly. The fact that it happened at 12:30 AM and everyone was in bed makes the smooth evacuation even more impressive.

The fire started when the water heater malfunctioned and started a fire in the stack. It set off the smoke alarm in the laundry room and also one in the hall. The houseparent responded and was able to put the fire out with the cottage fire extinguisher (that also requires monthly checks. Look at the back of the tag) At the same time the housemom was insuring the evacuation went smoothly and accounted for all the children. Because of their quick action, damage was limited to the area around the water heater and some minor smoke damage throughout the house. Repairs are being made and they should be back in the cottage by next week, which I am sure they are very thankful for, because the temporary cottage is not nearly as convenient as the regular one.

Please do your safety checks, inspect your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and practice your fire drills. The life you save may be your own.



Without incriminating myself, there have been times when I think all of us get comfortable and may let some of the mundane tasks slip and then try to catch up by bending the rules.

Having experienced a fire this past week really drives your message home.- Thanks!


I have a close friend who has 10 biological children. They practice fire drills regularly. One thing they did every couple of months was to blindfold the children (for the drill, of course). Next, dad would go outside the child’s bedroom window, and talk to them from there, having the child get out of the house with the blindfold on. Mom would stay inside to make sure the older children did not cheat and to encourage the younger children. This paid off big time. They had a fire sweep their house and everyone was safe. They felt the extra step of doing it blindfolded made a huge difference as it was dark when their actual fire happened and especially the younger ones were more prepared.

We are here to protect these kids. And true, the life we save may be our own.


That is a really cool idea with the blindfolds. Will probably help the kids (and HP’s) look forward to the monthly drill! Not to mention making it second nature getting out of the house quickly and safely.

Dating in your home 

Do you allow your kids to bring their boyfriends or girlfriends into your home? I’ve met many house parents who are proud that a member of the opposite sex has NEVER entered their home.

This puzzles me. Have we never been teenagers before? Have we forgotten what dating was like? The house parents who don’t allow bf/gf to visit in their home always talk about raging hormones and such, but that’s exactly why I do allow my girls boyfriends to visit.

Now don’t get me wrong, I make them stay in a public place. I check on them frequently, and I always get to know the boy, telling them my expectations. I get involved with my girls relationships offering advice and opinion as much as possible.

Look, if you never allow your kids to date, if they can’t bring home this person they THINK they love, what do you think they will do? So often they will end up in the bushes somewhere. What’s more scary still is that you can set up a “Romeo and Juliet” relationship where the kids think “it’s us against the world” and then you’re asking for even bigger trouble.

I suggest the following.

1) Get to know the person your child likes.

2) Invite them over, talk to them, lay down ground rules.

3) Let the bf/gf know that you are involved in your kids lives and that can be good or bad for them, it’s up to them.

4) Talk frequently to your kids about why you do what you do and what you expect from them in return.

5) Supervise, interact, and walk around like a warden when the visits happen. I am very relational with my kids, but when their boyfriends visit I don’t care if I act like a prison guard (lol). I care about my kids too much to allow anything to happen, but I also care to much to ban bf’s from my house because I KNOW the result of that approach.

At least think about it..


This may surprise some people considering the history I have with Adam but I 100% agree with him on this one.

In addition I would like to add that I feel much better when my son’s girlfriend is here than when he is out with her, because when they are here I know nothing inappropriate is happening. Same goes for kids I’ve had in the past and also in the future when our daughter and other children become old enough to be immune to cooties.


I know sooner or later I will be dealing with this issue. At present I have no kids that are at the dating stage, but we are getting close. It’s kinda one of those things Iv’e taken for granted. I really don’t even know our policy on it- but will be finding out shortly after seeing this post.

What are the guidelines set in the house? Sitting on the couch together or different seats?

What are the limits of personal display of affection?

How do you handle (or do you) off campus dates, for example movies?

Just the nature of what we do, supervision has to be a constant. I am very curious as to how to effectively balance the supervision and personal space with teens that are at the next level of developing a healthy relationship with the opposite gender. I believe a lot of facilities choose to not even allow a dating relationship to happen because of the above mentioned concerns and the unmentioned but obvious sexual concerns. 

I let our girls sit with their boyfriends. I must be able to see their head and hands at all times.

I try and make other kids sit in the same room with them when at all possible. I often try and have double dates in the home, not just ONE couple in a room by themselves.

PDA can be no more than one arm around a shoulder or a head (high) on a shoulder. That’s it.

Off campus dates are granted based on trust, level of student (we have levels where I work that kids earn by behavior and attitude), and their willingness to allow me to know about their relationship and talk to me and or my wife about it.



I do like the level achievement systems. It really gives kids something to work towards and a little easier on staff discussions as to which kids qualify to do what without all the drama a treatment team can muster. Kind of makes me long for the ole’ Boys Town Achievement levels.

Cool topic- Looking forward to going back on shift and finding out where we stand on the dating issue.

Called2workwith youth
Have any of you had to deal with the kids that put on a real good facade of being good and trustworthy and all that, just to get on the highest level. Then once they do and get the privilege of going in town on a date, they get caught having sex and get dropped. That seemed to happen a lot at the place we worked at.

I agree teens should be allowed to date, but there should definitely be supervision.

Names How Are You Addressed


How do your kids address you? If you’ve been called different things at various facilities, what has seemed to be most comfortable for the kids and to you? ie. by first name, Mr/Mrs. So-and-so, etc. I think it must be a fine line between comfort and familiarity and respect. Any insight on this would be appreciated. Also, did you choose, or did your facility inform you?



All the facilities we have been at have left it open for us. We prefer Mr. or Mrs. And first name.



Ours calls us Mr. and Mrs. with first name attached. It is/was our choice. With our biological children still home, I did not think it was fair to them (this is our first job as houseparents) to let others call us mom or dad. This may change over time.



Wow…I had completely forgotten that was the new trend (“new” according to my parents) in the States. Which is weird because the kids at my old Child Care facility called me that.

The only thing I had been able to come up with was from my childhood in South Africa. There you call everyone “Auntie so-and-so” or “Uncle so-and-so”. Although the shortened it with my mom and just called her Auntie B. Pretty much anyone who is not like a teacher, or stranger, or not actually related to you. Like, at church I called everyone more than 10 years older than me Auntie and Uncle. Even my parents would call the people older than them Auntie and Uncle. It was just polite.

I’ve stopped since living in the states, but people I met in the USA during visits in my childhood are still Uncle and Auntie to me. You can usually tell when in my life I met a person based on that. Sometimes I find myself at a loss about common practices because my own childhood doesn’t apply.



We have worked in a long term residential foster care home for the last 8 years. We have been in our current cottage for 5 years this month, minus a 9 month sabbatical. Some of the children in our cottage have been with us since before they were 2 years old; don’t even remember their birth parents. Additionally, they will probably be with us until they graduate from school. We are the only parents they know, and those children call us mom and dad.

We have a girl that we claim as a daughter that we raised since she was fourteen. She calls us Mr. Mike or Ms Marje. When she refers to us to other she says, “This is my mom and Dad”

We have some children that are more comfortable calling us Mr. Mike or Ms Marje and we are OK with that.

At the home we worked at in Wyoming the just called us by our first names. Things are much less formal in the western culture and it is totally acceptable to address adults by their first name. Additionally, the children we worked with there were in placement short term. The longest we had in placement when we were there was 22 months. We were encouraged not to allow any of the children address us as mom and dad.

At the home we worked at in Texas the children were not allowed to call us Mom or Dad. They all called us Mr. Mike or Ms Marje.



I use to correct kids that tried going the “Mom and Dad” route. My supervisor helped me see the other side of the issue. I use to believe that a kid would have serious transitional issues if they moved and saw me as Dad.

Now I see a kid that does that needs to call someone Dad. I really respect any HP that will allow them to do that. My supervisor helped me to see that a kid will have transitional issues no matter what they call you. It’s the relationship itself that is important. (Thanks Craig!)



At our facility here in Texas our “titles” are “Mom” and “Pop” followed by last names for specificity if there is more than one of us present. I’ve had kids tell me that they are a little uncomfortable with the Mom title at first, but none have ever seemed to have a problem with “Pop”. In fact, sometimes they will slip and call me Dad….I love it when that happens. 



I love that mom and pop followed by your name idea – very cute! We go by Mr. Billy and Ms. Rachel (chosen by facility). Some kids choose to call us mom and dad, and that’s fine with us!



Our present facility prefers that my wife and I are called Mom and Pop and if in a group of other houseparents our last name is added. We work with middle school age girls and it is harder for them to get used to calling my wife mom then calling me pop but they get used to in no time. At our previous home it was Mr. and Ms and then our first names which for me was harder to get used to. The first children’s home we worked in was less formal and our first names were used. For me I guess I like Pop the best but we do teach the girls the we have first names and my wife and I don’t address each other as mom and pop. It is easier for them to see us as real people if they understand we have real names too. The only thing I don’t like about being called pop is when administrative staff call me pop instead of by my name as if I have no identity beyond my job title.


Haven’t posted for a while. My wife and I are still in the process of becoming HPs. We recently visited a terrific Christian facility and spent time with three cottages, including overnight. My/our question is. How do you as houseparents not show favoritism to some kids more than others?. As a parent of three I love and treat my kids all the same, but as a HP I would think it would harder to do this. Darrel

It is difficult. There are kids that you WILL NOT get along with and others that pull at your heart and you feel you could make them your own. For me, this is where my faith comes into effect. God has a way of humbling you when you begin to treat one in a way that you wouldn’t treat another.

My director gave me this advice. You have to recognize that one kid could get preferential treatment. When you have openly recognized this you work hard at not doing it. To do this ask yourself before you do something with or for that child – Would I do this for the child that I don’t get along with? If I do this for little Bobby, what am I going to do for Joe?

This is a battle that EVERY hp deals with. If they say they don’t – They’re lying. It is an everyday battle for hp’s. You have to wake up in the morning and pray that God will give you patience and understanding for the difficult kids. That he would help you find a common ground with them and that He will help give you a spirit of humility and the love for each child in your care that he has.

No one does it perfect! But, the longer you are a hp, the more you learn. You will learn how to work at finding common ground with a child.

Also, having a director that is observant is a HUGE plus. If your director can see that you are giving unfair treatment, then they can step in and let you know. Try not to take this as criticism, but as an observation. Let your director know if a child is hard to connect with. Let the director in on the situation and they really can help.

OK, I’m not a HP, but I’ve worked with kids in Scouts, Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, raised my own two as well as my wife’s two children (my step-daughters). So, although I hesitate to chime in, here I go anyway.

Is there a difference between truly showing favoritism and the perception of showing favoritism. What I mean is, suppose Johnny at age 8 just eats up attention from a parent (or HP); he loves to sit next to you while watching TV or eating dinner, wants you to tuck him in at night and so on… Pushing him away might be hurtful for him. Now little Bobby (who is now 11 years old) has always had a “tough guy” exterior. You’ve always gotten along with him, but he did not crave that kind of attention and it simply did not interest him if you tried to show that kind of attention. I’ve been in similar situations where I was accused of showing favoritism when in reality; I was simply allowing a child like Johnny to follow me around because he wanted to be near me.

Another example of perceived favoritism might be the case, as was sited by another member of these forums, where a child in your home is the only one with no place to go for a holiday. So, he goes with you for the holiday. Some of the other children may perceive that as favoritism. I’ve even worked with some adults who would see that as being favoritism. I’m not saying it is but there are those who in the face of all the facts would say it is.

So, since my wife and I are looking into the possibility of doing this in a couple of years, I would like to add to the open question.

My question is do you ever struggle with the perception of favoritism when in fact underlying it all there really was not favoritism?

If so, were you accused of favoritism by the other children, or by adults?

Or am I wrong in my assumption that cases like the examples above are only perceived favoritism?

No, it definitely exists. We have 2 boys in our home right now. One is 15 yrs old and definitely does not want hugs, or any kind of physical touch right now. The other is 6 yrs old and CRAVES it. We do morning hugs, during the day hugs, come home from school hugs. We hold him in our laps. We tuck him in at night, and because he gets scared easily at night, I stay in his room and pet his head until he falls asleep.

This has been questioned by several people as whether or not we are showing him favoritism or “more love.” We just have to do our best to provide what the older does need. We are open to hugs with him and let him know this. I play football and basketball with him. My wife takes him to starbucks for coffee. We try to spend 1-on-1 time after the younger goes to bed. It can certainly be perceived as favoritism, but you just have to know your kids and believe in what is best for them.

I have always thought that favoritism was not nearly as big of an issue as anti-favoritism.

Anti-favoritism is what you show toward that kid or kids that you don’t connect with or rub you the wrong way. You could even say that you don’t like. You really have to check your attitude when you deal with them and make sure you don’t let your feelings dictate your behavior.

My wife and I do pretty good with this because it seems we always have a different child that we have difficulty with so we are able to keep each other in check. If you don’t have a spouse to keep you in check, listen to your supervisors and coworkers, because you can do it and be completely blind to it.

Thanks for all the replies. The Home we visited actually was in the process of switching a couple of kids between homes. Administration said they sometimes do this because of personality differences with the kid and the Houseparent.

I first saw this subject and really didn’t have time to answer… goes…..I believe “favoritism” is natural. Even God said that King David was “a man after my own heart”. I’m not jealous of David. But it shows me that we naturally will “favor” those who please us. I think the key is fairness. We are to treat each other the way we want to be treated. That’s fairness. We are tasked with the parental role of guiding and growing the children in our care. Proper behavior earns privileges. That’s fairness. Some of those privileges may mean being treated more “favorably” in certain trustworthy situations.

The real difficulty comes when you have to treat – with equal fairness – those kids who may not be so loveable (snot running from his nose and shoes always untied) and those who are blessed with natural cuteness. In this business they both have needs or they wouldn’t be here. Meeting their needs with the unconditional love of Christ while maintaining fairness is what works for my little guys.

As for the comment above, I have seen “personality differences” cause a child to be relocated to another cottage. It’s usually a shortcoming in the houseparent that caused the problem.

I’m sure there’s more that can be said, but that’s all for now.

Do you let kids drive your car?

This question is mostly directed toward those that work in long term facilities. The facility that I work at can be the home of children from the time they are young until they finish college. The policy is that they can get their learner’s permit when the reach 15 and they can renew it until they are 18. As long as they don’t have a driver’s license they can drive one of the designated training cars with an adult. Once they get their license they are no longer allowed to drive because our facility’s insurance won’t cover them. Once they turn 18 and can purchase their own insurance, we (the facility) will help them get a car.

However, many of the kids get their license at 16 because some go home on visits and family members let them drive or they have sponsors that let them drive. I know some houseparents that will let the children drive their personal vehicles. This is something that I have never done, 1) because I am somewhat of a stickler for following policy and 2) I am terrified of my insurance company.

My vehicles are not insured to use for work and I think that allowing a home child to drive it while I am on duty would constitute using it for work. Frankly, I don’t make near enough money to take on that liability. I was wondering what others thought. Have you ever allowed a child in your care to drive your personal vehicle. Either way, why?

The older teen cottages here are allowed to drive a HP’s car if the HP is with them and they have shown enough responsibility to drive and meet all the local licensing laws.

I have let some of the boys I have worked with at other facilities drive my vehicle, but only on the ranch in an open field with nothing to hit but cow patties. Even then I was real nervous.

I agree with you on not making enough to assume the liability. One bad accident and my family don’t eat, and we like to eat.

Consequences for Smoking

Do you have any special consequences you give for smoking?? We have tried different things but

Is the smoking occurring at school or home, or elsewhere? Is there some person that instigating, condoning, or facilitating the behavior?

I admit, I’ve not had to deal with this particular issue. I’ll be interested in how others have handled it.

Smoking was at home. One person is the leader and the others follow along. The leader is the one who has obtained the contraband (both cigarettes and dip) from someone else on campus. Our consequences have to be respectful, reasonable and related. We have had them in the past make a nice donation to the American Cancer Society, which usually works. I don’t think it will work on this kid though. 

We have a younger cottage now so we don’t deal with it. BEFORE though I felt like the DEA running operations in Columbia.

Some kids the consequences work. I have discovered that there are some kids who will not quit. I don’t care what the consequence or how severe the punishment will be, they will not quit. In the past it has became a power struggle between me and the kid.

What can you do? Nothing. You will not stop them from getting the tobacco. In fact the more you struggle with them and increase the consequences, the worse and more defiant they will become.

IMO- Sit down with your team, come up with what you all believe is an effective response cost for any tobacco use and stick with it. Being consistent and fair with everyone will probably produce more positive results than always increasing consequences, becoming emotionally charged and/ or threatening a kid.

In the past I had a teen that we constantly worked on. Daily room searches, chore consequences and threats. More than once admin threatened to throw the kid out if he did not quit. He only escalated in use, brought more tobacco into the facility and encouraged more kids to use. It became a power struggle between him and the system!!!

I look back on it now and realize we did more to push the kid away than we did to help him. Telling him he had to go if he did not quit was kind of the equivalent of telling your Grandpa he was no longer a part of the family because he smoked a pack of Camels. I wonder how many of us would tell our own Bio kids the same thing? How many of us HP’s are struggling/ have struggled with tobacco? We sometimes need to remember our own journey. Definitely not a shining moment in my HP career.

There are also lots of Tobacco cessation classes in the community and Quit Coaches. I have seen some success with kids that went through some of those classes.

My biggest issue with tobacco was the underground network kids would create. Somewhere on the forum I asked for help with where all they could hide their stash. Very informative! After reading all the suggestions of where to look I found a lot of stuff. I was able to put a crimp in the black market activities.
Good Luck!!!

Launchpad, let me start by saying, “I missed ya MAN!!” I find your topics and replies so insightful. You make my job real easy, because your advice is usually better than mine. You usually say what I want to say, only better. Welcome Back!!!

I agree with you about the tobacco. Some kids will never quit, and it will always be a struggle. For some kids, their smoking becomes one of the most important things in their lives, and if they can drive somebody else nuts with it all the better.

The only way to change behavior is to find something they would rather do or something that they value more that can be taken away if they don’t stop. (I realize there is the whole God thing with changing behavior, but in a worldly sense there is really only the two options)

I have a 17 yr old birth son that decided he wanted to smoke like all the kids (which by the way I don’t approve of, but have found it difficult to stop him from seeing) he hangs out with , it wasn’t until I promised to cut him off financially (no vehicle, car insurance, cell phone, lunch money, etc.), unless he quits smoking. I told him if he wanted to smoke, he was going to have to pay for it completely. I wasn’t going to subsidize it by providing a vehicle to drive, an affordable cell phone, and lunch money to buy them with. If he could afford to provide all those things himself and still had money left over to buy cigarettes, I figured it must be a real priority. So far it seems to be working, I haven’t found any cigs in two days.

BTW – I must say I enjoy the look on his face when he sees me crushing an almost full pack of $4 cigarettes.

Consequence for Cell Phone

Hi everyone! Was just wondering what a good consequence would be for an 18-year-old who snuck in a cell phone (cell phones are not allowed at our cottage). The biggest issue we have is that he lied to us about having one. I made him do a few extra chores but as far as a consequence for the lying, I feel there needs to be something more. What is you guys’s take on this?

Well, our level system is based kind of on a “trust” idea. The more we feel that we can trust you – the more privileges and freedoms you will have. Bringing in a cell phone and then lying to me about it is not showing me that I can trust you. It would be a pretty serious issue in my house. I know that in many homes this might not be that big of deal or that uncommon, but based on my boys and my home it would be. I would probably check their bag everyday when they got home before they went to their room. They would be restricted in the privileges they have at the house because in my mind I cannot trust this kid to do the things that they are supposed to. Until they can prove to me that they are not going to lie and they have rebuilt that trust – I’m pulling in the reigns.

Same here—same here! Our system is based on trust, too. We don’t have a point system or anything like that. We try to model a home as close as we can. This boy in particular hates to write and I was reading the book, “Boundaries with Kids” by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend (good Christian book, by the way), and I was reading the chapter on internalizing. My husband and I decided to come up with a good consequence that fit the crime but couldn’t think of any until I had read that chapter. This young man does not internalize mistakes he makes. So, we decided to have him write us a letter (he hates writing, by the way–only loves computer work). So, it had to be written out. We posed three questions to him that needed to be answered by the end of the weekend. These are the three questions and feel free to use them for other things if anyone wants to. I feel this makes kids think internally instead of just externally all of the time:

  1. What did it mean to you to lie to us; did it benefit you in any way?
  2. How do you think it made us feel that you lied?
  3. How does this behavior hurt you?

And you know, he came up with some pretty good answers that also revealed a lot about himself to us through this. He was using the cell phone to call his mom because it’s long distance for all of these kids to call their moms, so we can’t have them call their parents, but their parents are more than welcome to call anytime here they want to talk to their kids. They are also encouraged to write letters. I feel bad about the rule of not being able to call their parents if it’s long distance, but then again, I get upset that the parents don’t call their kids on a regular basis, too. It’s very frustrating.

Cigarettes Need some suggestions

Here’s the deal. I have a kid who has been out foxing me on hiding contraband. He smokes and dips when he gets the chance (mostly at school, I think), and is very, very good at hiding his habit. Most of the time he gets caught at school smoking. Other times we catch other kids and their response is usually they get their stash from him.

I am certain he has a stash very close to the house. His room belongings and person are searched daily at varying times. My wife and I have discussed several Black ops type of scenarios to find his little treasure trove. We know he is smoking at school and at certain times when he manages to disappear for a few minutes around the house, usually while me and my wife are dealing with another kid. He is constantly on restriction and has no access to his allowance, yet he seems to be getting supplied from somewhere at school.

The main thing perplexing me is we never smell smoke on him. Not on his fingers or clothes. Being a former chain smoker in my mis-spent youth I have found this a very difficult thing to accomplish smoking without the smell of cigarettes on your clothing. This kid is good.

What is he using to cover the smell? Any idea how I can put a crimp in his black market activities. He obviously has no desire to change. I do hope to find a way he will not drag some of the other boys down his road. Any suggestions?

Favorite outdoor hiding places I have seen are:

  • Inside the van
  • In the mail box
  • Under a board or cinder block in the yard
  • In the eaves of an outbuilding

Favorite on person hiding places I have seen is:

  • In their socks
  • Hollowed out soles in shoes(under the insoles)
  • In their underwear
  • Pens with insides removed

The sneakiest kids I have known always hide their stash in public places, sometimes right under your nose. Check in the crevices deep inside the couch or a chair. In seldom used cabinets or end tables. We had a boy that hid his cigarettes in a little curio cabinet we had on the wall by the front door. He hid them there for over a year before we discovered them.

If he doesn’t have smoke on his fingers, he is using some sort of holder like a clip or tubing. It is probably hidden with his stash.

It sounds like individual consequences are NOT a big deal with him, so you may try group consequences. Even those that aren’t smoking with him, probably know where his stash is. Some group consequence like cancelling fun activities out of a lack of trust for the group, might encourage others to at least, in confidence, give up his stash and there will be a few less cigarettes in the world.

Always check with your administration before using group consequences and if they don’t produce results fairly quickly stop using them. You don’t want to create a situation that could result in the boy being abused by the other boys.

You also may have to accept that he may never change. He will either get good enough at hiding or abstaining to complete the program, will blow out of the placement, or forever live with the consequences of smoking and getting caught.

Just try to always be fair and to build a relationship with him, it may have a bigger effect than anything else. 

Thank you! I never even considered some of those hiding places (Pen, shoes). My wife and I did a search and came up with nothing. We then decided to go with the group consequence. We sat the boys down and explained if one of them was caught or suspected of smoking or any other tobacco use, all of them would earn a workday for every incident.

Twenty minutes later I had three lighters, 4 cigarettes and an empty can of snuff. Every kid except for the one I have been dealing with gave up all locations of known or suspected hiding places and are watching the other boy like a hawk. Of course the other boy is spitting mad. Nothing beats peer encouragement.

Awesome suggestions! It has already made a difference in the house over the last few days.

Thanks again!


My wife and I are trying to get a better control on the kids borrowing stuff from each other. We’re talking toys and electronics mostly as we have young boys in the cottage. We generally don’t have a problem with borrowing if they’ve received permission from the owner – we have been also been requiring that they get our permission. The problem is that we don’t want to have to give our permission for every little matchbox car they happen to swap for an hour – they’re not going to remember to do it anyway.

Any ideas?

We have had the boys do contracts in the past. Lately we have had a no trading, borrowing, lending policy in place. Mainly because we were being overwhelmed with all the contracts and back room deals the kids were making. It was like watching stockbrokers work the boards on Wall Street. 

We also have young children (ages 4-11), our policy is that borrowing is not allowed period!!! If they are playing together they can share toys and stuff, but the child that owns the toys must be present when they (the toys) are being played with. And because all our children know that borrowing is not allowed, the child playing with the other persons toys will receive the consequences, and if we know that the other child loaned it willingly we will take it up for a period of time.

We have never allowed sharing clothes regardless of the age; it just caused too many hassles.

We have found that loaning and borrowing is just too hard to police. If a child has something that belongs to somebody else it is impossible to tell who is telling the truth when one says, “he loaned it to me” and the other say, “I did not, he took it” 

Thanks WM, I think we’ll be trying your method. -TexPop

Cottage Rules, Some Suggestions


I remember a post in the old forum about somebody wanting suggestions on cottage rules. Here is a list of rules we have posted in our current cottage. I used them with of a Racing Themed Behavioral Chart I developed (that I hope to be writing an article about soon and posting on the main website). They are specific to our cottage (we are a basic care facility that cares for children from infancy through college) and may not work in any other situation. I am posting them simply as a starting point for somebody trying to come up with their own rules.

Cottage Rules

? Pick up your stuff!!! Do not leave toys, shoes, clothes, your purse, etc anywhere but in your room.
? Rooms must be clean & beds made before leaving for school or other activity.
? Middle & High School kids must use their alarm clocks to awake in the morning
? NO Eating in Bedroom, TV Room, or Living Room!!!! Exceptions may be made by the houseparent for special occasions in the TV Room, like movie night, parties, etc.
? Clear & Rinse your dishes at meal & snack time.
? If you use something – put it back. If you make a mess – clean it up.
? Follow as a minimum the 10 Commandments. Follow the other 625 commandments as needed.
? Personal phone calls will be limited to 30 minutes a day.
? Respect each other & their property.
? No eating or drinking on the van without permission from staff.
? Bedtimes – School Nights
o 2nd Grade & Less – 8:00 PM
o 3rd-5th Grade – 9:00 PM
o 6th and Up – 10:00 PM
? Bedtimes – Friday Night
o 2nd Grade & Less – 10:00 PM
o 3rd-5th Grade – 11:00 PM
o 6th and Up – 12:00 PM
? Bedtimes – Saturday Night
o 2nd Grade & Less – 9:00 PM
o 3rd-5th Grade – 10:00 PM
o 6th and Up – 11:00 PM
? What Bedtime Means
o Bedtime for 5th grade or less means in bed & lights out.
o Bedtime for 6th grade and up means in the room and quite with no one else in the room. However, not getting up the following morning will result in an early bedtime that night.
? Do your laundry on your laundry day. You may start your laundry at 4:00 PM and it must be out by bedtime.
? Live by these few simple rules and life will be more pleasant for everyone around here!!!!


Wow! Those are late bedtimes!


Like I said these rules are specific to our situation. But, the key with the later bedtimes is the responsibility of the youth. If they can’t get up in the morning on THEIR OWN they don’t have the later bedtime.

As far as Friday Night Late Night, with all the stuff that we usually have to do with PR events and stuff, we wouldn’t get to bed very early anyway most weekends so we have just made it a fun and late night. Additionally, I would rather have my alone time in the morning anyway, and let the children sleep when I can. And finally, if we have something early Saturday or Sunday morning we have to be at, we adjust our bedtimes accordingly.


Well put Mike, Bed times about the way we did them in the past. Your right depends on the House.


Wow those are late bedtimes. At my last placement bedtime was 7:30 on weeknights for 10 and under but we do get up at 5 am in the morning.

Where I am now bedtime is nine o’clock for all the kids who aren’t at work, they can read in their room or whatever as long as they are quiet but they must be in their rooms. but then again we do shift work and all the kids should be close to being asleep by 11 otherwise our night staff would be out of ratio


Our little kids do not leave for school until 7:30 AM so we don’t have to wake them up until 6:00 AM.

In the first home we worked at, bedtimes were very different. It was a therapeutic group home that had a level system with a focus on Behavior Modification. Your bedtime was based upon your level and the lowest level went to bed at 8:00 PM whether they were 13 or 17 (we had no youth under 13). The highest level went to bed at 9:30 PM. At that home bedtime meant: in-bed and lights out at your bedtime. If you were one minute late you would lose points on your daily score.

However that is a very different situation compared to the basic residential foster care situation we are now in

The TRASH Our Kids Listen To, Trashy Music


Has anyone ever told our “therapists” that there is more to problems kids face than the so called “abuse” they have been through. I have seen to many therapists focus to much on so called abuse that some kids have faced, and not enough attention on what they listen to. I am a houseparent going on 4 years now, and recently I picked up some CD’s that our kids have here at the home. Inside the CD’s was the insert that had the words to all the songs on the CD. I was utterly floored at some of the words, phrases, trash and garbage that are on these CD’s that our kids pump in their minds all the time by these portable CD players they carry around all the time listening to this garbage. MOST of the songs on the CD’s dealt with sex, demons, suicide, rape, killing, hate and violence. BUT, when you mention this to the therapists, they act like its no big deal. COME ON people, the human brain is like a computer, what you put in is what comes out. Like the Bible plainly says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”. If our kids are pumping this trash in their minds all the time, maybe we need to not be so focused on the fact that “Little Johnnie or Susie” has been abused, but focus more attention on what “Little Johnnie or Susie” is pumping into their minds 24/7. NO WONDER our kids are so full of anger, violence, sexually active and troubled. Let’s pay more attention to what they are LISTENING to and WATCHING on TV……trash in…..trash out!!!
IF…you have any thoughts on this, please post them here.




Although I am a firm believer in the “Garbage in – Garbage Out” Principle and we are very vigilante (and are fortunate that we are allowed to be) to limit the type of entertainment that our children (Birth and Home) are exposed to.

However, I don’t believe that the root of the problem can be traced to inappropriate music and movies. The entire culture that these children come from affects every aspect of the child’s behavior. And it is a DIFFERENT Culture in most cases. I don’t mean an ethnic culture, many times it is a culture based on drug abuse, or poverty, crime, etc.


I am also appalled at the amount of trash these kids listen to. Funny though because I listened to some 80’s music the other day and I couldn’t believe the message that was sent through songs I thought were pretty tame. I came out ok I think.

Are you able to watch what things come in your cottage? I know at our home, the kids know they aren’t allowed to listen to any CD that has the parental advisory on it. If they do have something, it is taken from them and they are given consequences. Also, if they are listening to it in the cottage or van where others can hear, they earn consequences for any bad words that come out of the radio. When consistent, the kids are quick to jump and change the station to something more appropriate. Walmart has CD’s of the popular singers/rappers with the bad words edited out – I don’t think (and I could be wrong) that they sell any parental advisory CD’s at all. Hope this helps!

Lady Incredible

Where I work the kids aren’t allowed any cd’s or tapes at all and they are not allowed to watch any music channels either.


Even if you buy the cds at Walmart what difference does it make its not like the kids dont know what real words go in place of the edited words.

Personally I don’t care what movies my teenagers watch as long as they’re not rated R PG -13 and less, as far as music goes they can’t listen to parentally advised cds but I don’t care what radio station they have on their walkmans, they have been listening and watching stuff for years already and only letting them watch G movies isn’t going to make a difference in their treatment.

I have 8 girls between 12 – 18 all higher levels of care and they all behave pretty well, I have about 1 restraint every six months or so and most of he older kids have jobs and they all pass in school yet when I worked at a facility where they could only watch g or pg movies and could barely have any CDs those kids were in restraints a couple of times a week hardly any of them had jobs and a lot of them were failing in school so I don’t think what they listen to or watch makes a difference either way.


I agree that music can build up or tear down a kid’s spirit. All one has to do is watch how they act out after listening to certain music. In the place I work there are rules against raunchy, lewd music. But the kids still have it. One day I was in one of the girls bedroom. I looked down and saw a homemade cd that had written on it , “F@@k da police..” I confiscated this cd but another girl found it and returned it to the owner. I informed the hp about the content of the cd and they just sighed and said, “OH! These teens and their music!”

“I worked at a facility where they could only watch g or pg movies and could barely have any CDs those kids were in restraints a couple of times a week hardly any of them had jobs and a lot of them were failing in school so I don’t think what they listen to or watch makes a difference either way.”

That statement alone would give me ca
use to wonder if “Control” was not an issue and problem of the staff and not so much the result of children’s behavior. I agree that the music has less effect on the kids and more on us.

Having worked for 2 years in a Level 12 facility in California that was totally “Hands Off” with some very tough kids I simply don’t believe in the need for “restraints” at all.

There are better ways.

But if you are into controlling too many things that are really out of your control how can you effect any positive change in the youth?

Although I prefer Neal Diamond and good Country music, the music youth prefer is reflective of the environment they are growing up in and the most you can hope for is take the energy they are looking to channel through the music and focus it in other areas.

Try sitting down and listing to some of their music with them and questioning them on what it means to them. A lot of times they are only listening to it because “everyone else does” and have no concepts for the words or meanings in the words. I’ve seen kids start to question themselves after really stopping to think about the words and message.

Unless you are on a closed campus with a private school this is a battle that requires far too much energy for little effective outcome.


To add to the comment I wrote before regarding music, I think worrying too much about the cds and movies our kids are watching and listening to is nit picking.

All kids both abused and not abused listen to all kinds of music with inappropriate language by the time a kid is nine or ten most kids are familiar with every bad word or phrase there is regardless of how or where they grow up even if you think they aren’t.

The words they listen to may seem shocking to some of you but it’s the way the kids talk. They are listening to language they know and things they feel. Don’t nitpick with them just because they enjoy something a lot of the older generation houseparents don’t understand. Listening to cds that have the F word in them is hopefully the worst thing most of these kids ever do.

And someone earlier said you should see the way some of these kids act after listening to their music well you should pay more attention to the way they act after coming back from their therapists.

Nit picking about CD’S and movies is like the cop on a power trip who goes after some kids loitering on a corner or soaping up car windows instead of worrying about the guy down the street who’s robbing someone’s house.

These kids have such little control over their lives at the moment. don’t look to take away some of the few things they can enjoy. They need to be learning to make their own choices now not when their 18 and on their own. Maybe leaving care when they can stay in just so they can listen to a stupid CD or watch a freaking movie.


I do not think it is a matter of control so much as what is the issue you are dealing with. We have groups with such diversity of problems. I do not always think it is the rating so much as the content. I do however for the sake of group peace have to set guidelines and some things are just not accepted for public hearing or viewing

GA Sheriffs’ Youth Homes

We have the same issues with music on our campus. We do encourage the boys to appreciate all types of music. Several of the boys have asked for guitars at Christmas time. They are forming their own band on campus. They have kept it clean

Hair Color and Piercings


What if any policies do your homes have on hair color and body piercings???


Our first facility (A therapeutic Group Home) you were not allowed to dye your hair while in the program. Breaking the rule meant starting over. As far as piercings: Girls could only have piercings in their ears and could only wear hoop or stud earrings. NO safety pins, chains, etc. Boys could only have one piercing in each ear and could only wear stud earrings. Staff men can wear hoop earrings.

At our current facility (Basic Foster Care Home) Girls can dye their hair a natural color, wear piercings in their ears, men and boys are not allowed to have piercings. Body piercings are not allowed although several children have gotten away with it (Mostly Belly Button Piercings)

Additionally Tattoos were not allowed at either facility, however again, many youth managed to get away with it.

Lady Incredible

Where I work the kids are only allowed to wear one pair of earrings and they have to be studs, no hoops, etc.. No body piercings are allowed for either gender.

As for hair coloring, if they come in with green hair for instance they can keep it but they can’t dye their hair while they are here.

Relief Parents


What do you think of relief parents?

What should a relief parent bring for the children the first day?
Kids music for the little ones? Games for the bigger ones?

Do kids of any age in a shelter participate in boy or girl scouts, school sports teams, church youth groups?


What do you think of relief parents?

I think they have an extremely difficult job. In most cases they have to try to carry out the wishes of the regular staff even at the expense of their own feelings. The youth are always trying to get over on them, especially in facilities were regular and relief staff don’t communicate well and they are always required to live in somebody Else’s house.

I very much respect relief staff and have no desire to be relief staff again (I was relief staff for almost a year). It just didn’t work for me, I have too many control issues. I have however known several people that prefer only to be relief staff. My first boss said that he preferred being relief because you weren’t responsible for all the regular appointments and stuff, you don’t have to be the heavy with the kids, and you get to do a lot of fun things with the kids.

What should a relief parent bring for the children the first day?
Kids music for the little ones? Games for the bigger ones?

I am not sure I would bring anything. I would try to find out from the regular staff as much as I could about the regular routine, try to stick as closely as possible to it, and use the first couple reliefs to really get to know the children. From there you can figure out things to do with them based upon their likes and dislikes. The best possible thing you can do as a new houseparent is observe and learn.

Do kids of any age in a shelter participate in boy or girl scouts, school sports teams, church youth groups?

I don’t know about the particular facility you will be employed with, but every facility I have ever worked at, the kids have been in outside activities. Even when I worked in a therapeutic group home, kids had jobs, where in choir, youth groups, etc.

Hope you find this helpful.


At our facility we do not have relief parents but work 7 days on and then 7 days off so both sets are the primary. We do have a “floater” couple who is usually the newbies but we seldom have full staff to use the “floaters” and they are put into their own cottage. I would find it difficult to be relief because you don’t have any space of your own. I suppose if you have no kids it would be easier but with us, we have our rooms full of kid stuff and when we go anywhere we end up bringing the whole house with us!

With the activities, I ditto what Michael said about the facility having control of that. With our kids, we need the states permission to get the kids involved as most of the activities need parental permission. Our kids are involved in some things but logistics tend to get a bit difficult. We have an awesome assistant who helps with that though.

I don’t think you will need to bring anything because they should have all of their own stuff there.

Outings With Kids


What kind of outings do you do with your kids? I am in need of some fresh ideas of what to do. We have approx. $50 a week to do something (for 11 people) so it needs to be cheap!

We did go strawberry picking last week which was a BLAST!

picnic at a local park. We have done this with both boys and girls and in the end they had a lot of fun.

Weekend bed time dessert run. we saw another houseparent do this. He had all his kids going to bed and out of the blue called a dessert run in their pjs and took them for ice cream thru a drive thru


Love the dessert idea, very cute!


Depending on which group we’re working with (the kids or the teens) we do the following activities:

-fishing either pier, bridge, surf or boat. Both groups like this. It’s inexpensive. (have you been to blue springs)?

-springs. I think you are in Florida, there are LOTS of springs to explore and if you don’t have an annual state park pass, it costs fewer than ten bucks to get into them. I got a Florida state park book and we started checking off each one as we visit.

-to state parks. there’s an annual state park pass. Both groups like this. We cook out, play volleyball or kick ball, go for hikes, exploring, sometimes we stay until dark and build a campfire and sing, share stories.

-local parks with swings, slides, etc. we drove around and found the best ones.

-sometimes I buy craft materials, age appropriate, and we do crafts at the park. the little kids love to make things out of inexpensive paper plates. the older one like to gather stones, leafs, etc to decorate candles when we make them.

-pet shops, the big ones…kids love to just look around and we don’t have to buy a thing


Ah, I’ll get back with you on more…gotta go wash the boat!