Consequences I need ideas for Consequences!!!


My wife and I are going into our third month of being houseparents for teenage girls. The girls that we have range from ages 14-18 and can be quite difficult. Here where we are we use a level system to hold them accountable for their actions. To give you an example level one girls are not allowed to have any of their own belongings and are required to wear uniforms on all outings, as well as many other consequences. Whereas the other levels (2-4) are allowed certain privileges. Our level ones have recently started to revolt and not care what level they and have no motivation to move up to the next level, and they feel like they can do what they want when they want to. I need some ideas or consequences in dealing with them. Anyone have any interesting things that work.


We use a similar level system it seems, but our level 1 does not seem to be quite a strict and we don’t have uniforms. This is coming from someone who doesn’t work where you are and I don’t know how much you can change things in your own home and what you have to run by your director and get approval for. I sounds as though level 1 seems very suffocating. My director (and I agree with him) feels that a kid has to have a light at the end of the tunnel. I understand that at level 2 you get privileges, but to a teenager (especially if they have ADD/ADHD) it’s hard to see how to get there. If you have no instant rewards for good behavior and they have to wait a week or 2 before moving up to the nest level, then is it really worth it to them? One thing I have learned is that even though they may still be on level 1, if they do something very well, then they need to be rewarded for that. For example, one of my boys got bumped down to level one a few weeks ago, and had no TV, computer, iPod, stereo, etc. However, one day, he had done very well at school and come home and did his homework and I let him play a game on the computer for 10 minutes. It was only 10 minutes, but it wet his tongue and made him want more. Therefore, the next day he worked even harder. However, if he were to slack off just a little, NO WAY.

I’m not in your home, so I don’t know what all is going on, but if a kid feels as though they can’t do anything right or even if they do they don’t get anything for it, then why do the right thing, you know? After all, it is kinda funny to see the hp get upset and frustrated – and I already have nothing, so what’s the big deal.

I would attempt to begin giving a little back and really rewarding the good behaviors (stay up 10 min later than the rest of the girls that night, 5 min of TV, change out of uniform for the night, etc.)

These are just suggestions, but again, I don’t know your campus, director, or how exactly things are done there. I may be way out in left field for you, but it sounds like they need to see a light at the end of the tunnel.


I totally agree with Seamus. It sounds like the girls need to get a little of something to keep them motivated and moving forward.

Hopefully your program and facility is flexible enough to find something that they are interested in achieving in the short term. As crazy as it sounds, some kids could care less about achieving a facilities’ pre-set goals. Especially if the kid never had any say in what it is they would like to achieve.

Personally I would be motivated to get to the next level to get all my stuff back, but for some kids they have a hard time actually seeing themselves achieving a goal beyond the end of the day, let alone next week. It can lead, for some, to a feeling of hopelessness. I think finding out what each individual girl would like to be rewarded with and setting short term goals for them to achieve may work.


I just want to say thanks for the information. We know why we are here and it is not to punish the girls, and sometimes you get caught up in do this. I am glad for the info and that fact that I have never thought about why they didn’t care but it makes sense seeing as how most of our girls do have add adhd. I will surely take this and run with it, as much as I can. We are in a really good program and they allow us to make a lot of the decisions about rules( of course we do have a set book of guidelines). Thanks again for the feedback.

“The Safest Place is in the Center of God’s Will”


Sometimes we have to do something to give the kids hope. If they dig themselves a hole it can be hard to get out of. We have to let them smell a little bit of success from time to time. We have to dangle the carrot in front of them sometimes so they want to go for it. Who knows when it will be the time that they turn their life around and continue to want to be on a higher level.


If you have one or some who are misbehaving find out what they like to do. When they are not on level have the others do what they like to do and do not allow them to participate. This might mean that one of the houseparents stay back. For example we had a girl who really liked this part and to go down trails we made sure that when she was not on level that we went to the park. Another idea is movies. You can have show a movie like on the weekend and have the ones who are not on level to set in another room etc.


I had two young men that did not ‘care’ about rising up thru the ranks. Life’s experiences for them had convinced them that it did no good to advance, because someone or something would always beat them back down. Nothing seemed to motivate them…UNTIL… we discovered their passion. Sometimes it is hard to see a child’s passion when they are conditioned to express nothing, but we were blessed. When we went the extra mile to provide an outlet for their passion (for one it was individual guitar lessons with a really good instructor), we found these two young men responding to us with real emotion (mostly positive). HOWEVER, we could not use these lessons as reward or consequences… that would have just shut the boys down again. For the one child – the lessons cost money, we worked with others to give him opportunities to earn his lessons. We had to use opportunities not connected to our house or regular chores, he worked for other people on the facility grounds. We kept the requirements very low, so that the boys could not fail. Within one month, the boys began to do better in school and at home, and we were able to build some relationship bonds that were healthy…it felt like a miracle.


You just can’t keep giving negative consequences to these kids. Are you changing or modifying the behavior just giving out consequences. If one of your Natural children was in trouble you could give very harsh and long consequences and it would change their behavior. With the children we care for we can’t keep piling it on. They have to have hope. If we take privileges away they usually can earn some back. These kids have been through so much, it makes me laugh when I hear someone say they are going to break them. Most of my guys have been beaten, some with lamp cords and who know what else. Yet we think we can break them by taking stuff from them. Some people are motivated by the positive and some by the negative, you have to know what will work for each child. We use a chip system, some will cry if we take a chip some do no care, yet will respond when they earn chips. We made a modified family teaching model with the chips. Family teaching is 4 to 1 ratio positive to negative we used Family teaching in a DJJ home with teens most gang members, I thought it worked well and they teach don’t pile it on, give them a chance to earn something back. You also need the teaching part, they need to be taught correct behavior and rewarded when the do it.

Our Rad daughter was giving us problems we used love and logic all she had was a mattress on the floor. She said you did everything you can do I’m still going to do what I want. F YOU and walked out the door and we did not see her for weeks. That taught me that you need not only consequence but give positive reinforcement and bait them back.


Every person I have ever known to live by the break-em philosophy is now doing something else for a living. Though the so called breaking of a child may work for the very few, it won’t work for the vast majority of children in placement. They have already been broken by their situation and have learned ways to cope and deal with it. They have to be taught that adults can be dependable, caring and respectful, that not every situation is bad.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a very hard thing to do. It’s hard to be caring a respectful when you are being cussed at, yelled at, spit on, or disrespected, but it has to be done. Our daughter that we raised in placement and that chose us as her parents, put us through test after test after test to see if we would stick around and continue to care. We did and now she calls us mom and dad. But even if she had never decided to make us her parents, but only learned to be a productive member of society and how to treat others, it is worth it.

Craig Bridges 

The other problem with the break them philosophy (control) is it is usually external and only works while when the kids are in the “break them” environment. It is a combination biblically of truth & grace. How does God deal with us? He tells us what or how we should do things, tells us the consequence of both obedience & disobedience, allows us to make a choice & experience the consequence of our choices. What I love is his blessings, mercy, & grace far outweigh the penalties. Also he is always there with open arms, willing to forgive & give us the support & love we need to get back on track.
We need negative consequences when raising our children but they should not be the focus. We should go out of our way to give grace, build relationships, find hot buttons (blessings) and have open arms. I don’t know about everyone else but I need Jesus because as the webmaster said it is hard when time and time again you are being disrespected, disobeyed and everything else. Thank you heavenly Father for your example on how to be a house parent.

Don’t believe everything you hear 

A friend of mine heard he was going to get a young lady from another home and he was pretty uptight about it because he had been told that she was a trouble maker who manipulated a lot. I knew the young lady and told him that I believed she was a great kid and that I would love to have her in my home. He rolled his eyes at me and said a very important staff person told him she was trouble.

Well, that was months ago and so far the young lady is one of his best kids earning the highest level possible by being mature and responsible. My friend had to admit I was correct and that he was happy about that.

So, don’t believe everything you hear. You never know how a child might be in your care no matter how they may have behaved or been perceived in another home.


Again Adam and I agree. There are going to be kids you don’t like – PERIOD!! Regardless of what they do, even if they were to walk on water, you are not going to like them and will have a very hard time seeing the good in them. Yet will be able to spot every single flaw.

On the other hand there will be children you will bond with that will defy explanation, and will be able to bring out the best in them.

Be your own judge. Just because a situation didn’t work for a child or for you in the past, try to focus on the present and always try to be fair even with the kids that rub you wrong. 

Right now, maybe for the FIRST time in 13 years I like every child in my house. There are some I feel closer to than others, but that honestly bothers me because I have some great kids and I would like to feel just as close to all of them as I do to others. Thankfully my wife seems to bond with those girls who seem distant or shy. I am much better with open kids who aren’t afraid to step up and be who they are. I thank God that my wife and I seem to be gifted completely differently in regard to reaching kids! Of course there are some we both equally click with, which is great too!


A lot of staff tend to cringe whenever a new kid is coming into the facility for the first time and they have a rap sheet or some adverse behaviors. Mention sexual issues about a incoming kid and you can hear a collective sigh.

I have one kid now that for whatever reason had a hard time in some of the houses before. He’s been a good kid for the most part, but not a week goes by that I don’t hear someone say they are glad they don’t have him, totally based off of behavior from a year ago.

To be honest I have had kids in the past that if they were to show up in the facility I would struggle with wiping the slate clean. I know it’s what we are called to do, but some history runs deep.

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.

A Valuable Lesson!!!

Most everyone knows that we have birth children to go with all our home children. Our son is about to turn 17 and this last year has been a trying experience. It is one thing when you have to deal with difficult behavior when you are caring for other people’s children, but it adds a whole new dimension when it is your own birth child. (Don’t misunderstand, it’s not get you placed in a group home bad behavior, but it is definitely stuff we hoped we wouldn’t have to deal with)

Anyway my wife takes things very personal sometimes and the other day she was asking me, why I thought he hated us and wanted to make things so difficult on us. I wasn’t sure how to answer it, and really didn’t think there was a good answer for her, but I started thinking about the many conversations we have had with him recently and remembered something he said. He told us something like, ” I know you think I don’t want to be around you at all, but I really just want to hang out with my friends.”

That got me to thinking about his overall behavior in general, and I think that statement can be applied to his entire life at the moment. It’s not that he don’t like us and wants to defy everything we say, it is that THE ONLY THING HE CARES ABOUT IS WHAT HE WANTS!

He doesn’t want to hurt us by hanging out with people we don’t approve of, our feelings are not even a consideration, because it is about what he wants. He doesn’t care that we think he should save some of his paycheck for the future, he only cares about what he can spend it on now. He doesn’t care that we think education is important and that you should put as much effort as you can into, he only cares about the work he doesn’t want to do.

The realization of this is very empowering. It allows you to recognize and deal with bad behavior without taking it personal, because it’s not about you. It’s totally about them; what they want and think is important. This same realization can apply to the work we do as houseparents. There always seems to be this one (or possibly two) kid(s) that seems to be out to get you or drive you nuts with their behavior. But if you realize it’s not about you, it should make it easier to deal with their behavior and to come up with reasonable expectations and consequences.

If only I can remember that the next time I’m dealing with my son, after he’s done something I am not real pleased with.

Being a Good Birth Parent Won’t Make You a Good Houseparent!

As, I believe, the successful parent of two birth children I have to say that being a successful parent does not insure that you will be a successful houseparent.

I have spoke with many people that were interviewing to be first time houseparents tell me how being successful as parents of birth children will help them to be great houseparents only to come to me about three months later and confess how wrong they were. That parenting other people’s children is very different from parenting your own.

Unless you have successfully parented birth children that have been abused and/or neglected, lived in extreme poverty, been raised in a family where crime was not only condoned but encouraged, or had behavioral disorders you are probably going to have to learn a whole new set of parenting skills.

Additionally, the children you care for will not have the same relationship with you that your birth children have. Their blood bond will not be with you but with the abusive, neglectful or dysfunctional family they are not currently living with yet in most cases will continue to love.

Not that your previous parenting skills will be worthless either, they will be very useful in other areas of household management like scheduling, working with schools, etc. What I am referring to is how you will need new skills to deal with the many new behaviors that you probably never had to deal with raising your birth children.

The only solution is training. Either through your facility or on your own, but being a good houseparent takes training. Most facilities provide initial training that is very important. Pay attention and participate. You will also want to attend any additional training that they provide and if they provide reimbursement for outside training I would take advantage of all that time would allow for.

If your facility does not provide training or only minimal training and you want to continue to stay there, you need to get the training on your own. There are several books I can recommend: No Such Thing As a Bad Kid!: Understanding and Responding to the Challenging behavior of Troubled Children and Youth — By: Charles D. Appelstein and Respecting Residential Work with Children -By: James R. Harris Jr., M.A. are two very good books to start with. There are also several others that I have read and reviewed on my site. Buy them from me or from somebody else, but please don’t fall into the I don’t need any extra training trap. There are also usually several opportunities to attend seminars in the community. You can find them through local colleges, schools and family service organizations.

If you are thinking about becoming a houseparent and want to get a head start on training you might want to sign up for foster parent training either through your local family services department or through a private agency. Before my wife and I became houseparents we were foster parents and the training we received during that certification process has been invaluable throughout our houseparenting career.

Training and experience will make you a good houseparent!!


My in-laws retired a few months ago and decided to become houseparents. They raised a great family that lives for the Lord, now they are going thru quite a change up in how these kids behave differently from their own! I’m calling them tonight to have them read this it will definitely help them feel much better. Thanks!!!

I agree with you about the training and experience but, I think it also takes some natural ability (talent) and also patience, and a good spiritual life.

A Trip to the Store!

Today we made a trip to that really big nationwide discount department store. That normally would be no big deal and is something that houseparents all over the country do on a regular basis; however we decided to take all the children with us while we did our shopping. The children in our cottage range in age from 4 to 11 so you can only imagine what it was like with their whole focus on trying to get us to buy stuff they wanted and visit the departments they find most enjoyable.

Thinking back to my early days of houseparenting is wasn’t any more fun to do the trip with teenagers. I remember walking into the store with our kids and the first words you hear over the PA system is something like, “All departments on zone defense” which meant, “Here come the group home kids, make sure they don’t shoplift.” The easy thing to do would be to just leave the kids at home with your spouse and avoid all the hassles of taking them to a public place. That is the choice we usually make, but I have to ask, “If you never take your kids out into public, how will they ever learn how to behave in public?”

Our kids weren’t perfect but they are one step closer to knowing that you can go to the store without getting everything you ask for, that you are expected to behave in public places, and that things don’t just come from the kitchen or supply room. In a few weeks we will recover from this trip and do it again so that they can learn even more.

We should all remember that the easiest way of doing things isn’t always the best way, especially when it deprives the children in our care an opportunity to learn.


That is awesome advice! The easy way is not always the best way.

Here is a little praise report about the whole grocery shopping with kids thing…

We have six teenage girls in our home. My husband and I do all the shopping for the facility we work at (there are only two bunkhouses to shop for right now though). We usually shop during the school day. Well, since school has been out, we have been taking the girls shopping with us every week.

The first week – nightmare!! Two girls got into a LOUD argument with each other, one girl was lost for a while, two girls run down the aisles screaming “mommy, daddy”, and one girl is found laying on her stomach on the ground trying to find spare change under the coke machines!!!! My husband was mortified – vowed to never step foot into Walmart with this group of Neanderthals again.

Well, he did not stick to his promise and we returned the next week. We wore bags over our heads so that we could not be recognized – but things went much better this go round.

In the following weeks, we began to divide the shopping list. Each girl is assigned a shopping partner, and they are given a portion of the list. The girls go and get the assigned items, and then we meet back at the front. I check their carts and we check out. Throughout the experience, we all communicate with walkie talkies.

I now love to shop with the girls. They make things sooo much easier on us. Sometimes, my husband and I will even sit in the snack bar for a “Walmart date” while the girls do the shopping! I am sad that school has started and we will have to go back to shopping without them.

Moral of the story – don’t take the easy way out with your kids. Put in the time and effort up front, then sit back and reap the rewards!!

When You’re off…..


When you’re off duty for respite how does your house run? The same, better or worse. We just took time off with new relief people and our kids ran our house, and not in a good way. Any tips on how you handle this?



I’ve dealt with this too. It makes it almost more stressful to go off-duty than staying on. In our situation, our off-duty apartment is attached to the cottage – so we’re always here.

We’ve made a cottage handbook, specifically for the Relief Houseparents, which includes our rules and practices as well as a handbook on the kids so the Relief knows what to expect from each child. This also includes things like daily cottage routines and generally-used consequences. On our very first meeting with the Relief we reviewed this handbook at length.

If the problems observed don’t pertain to the health and well being of the kids then I wait until our “changeover meeting” to discuss it with the relief Houseparents. Make a list with specifics and review them in your meeting. There may be a need for a “shadowing” period so the Relief can understand what you mean. All in all, it will depend on the attitude and receptiveness of the Relief. I would definitely be prepared to raise the issue with the campus administrator if problems persist. This is another good reason to document specific examples.

Also, I tell the kids that I will continue to hold them responsible for following the well-known rules of the cottage – even though I may be off-duty.




The guys know we hold them accountable, it just seems this time they went wild. I don’t know what it was. The notes from the people covering were not good, which I have taken up with my supervisor. I know I am a control freak, and that does not help, but the house was a wreck, the kids were horrible. Everyone on campus knew what my kids had done and that we were off. I think that coming back on was the most frustrated I had been. Our apartment attaches to the house, but we had made a quick trip out of town. It has been hard just trying to get them back on track.



Awesome tip with the cottage handbook Texpop!

If there has been serious problems with respite I have talked with the respite to find out what’s going on, (Maybe the kids are giving them an extra hard tim) try to resolve the issue and if that does not work, it’s time to take it up the chain with the supervisor for satisfaction.

I’m also a bit of a control freak so I’ve had to learn to just live with some stuff and recognize some people have different expectations. Just cause the cereal bowls ended up in the wrong cabinet does not mean I need to get ugly on the relief.

Kids (even your most trustworthy kid) will hustle any adult that is not with them full time. Kinda like substitute teacher day in school. A cottage handbook like Texpop is talking about should reduce much of the drama.

I use to really hate going on respite because it seemed like we had to start over from scratch every time we came back on. Anytime there is a flux in the schedule it sends a lot of kids into a tail spin. Unfortunately in this setting it is not possible for a facility to keep the same HP’s in the house 24- 7, 365 days a year without a break. So the house spinning up is going to be reality no matter what we do. The only thing we can do is try to minimize the spinning as much as possible. Set rules and very, well defined boundaries that are strictly followed by the respite help a great deal. If the respite is not willing to do that- It will be bad for everyone.

 I have only worked with one lady that was absolutely horrible at being respite. Kids allowance came up missing and groceries would just vanish. She did not last long. Most of the respite couples I worked with were awesome. Glad I don’t live that life!



Relief is a necessary evil of residential childcare, which by the way I am very much enjoying at the moment, and will always cause some disruption with the children and staff when it happens. I used to be really uptight about everything being perfect with the kids and relief staff but have come to realize it’s not going to be.

I do however very much agree with Texpop that holding the children responsible for their behavior whether or not you are there goes a long way in helping the situation. Our kids know that if they try to manipulate the relief staff and do things they are not supposed to we will give them consequences on top of whatever relief staff gave them.

It’s also much better when you have consistent relief staff. Our kids don’t try to get over on regular relief staff near as much as they do, when we have vacation relief staff covering the cottage. I think familiarity with the children is one of the top stabilizing factors with the children. When relief staff knows the children and what the rules are things seem to go better.

You also have to consider the frequency that there seems to be chaos. Even with good relief staff, fair and consistent rules, and great relationships between the kids and staff, there are going to be those times when the kids seem to just flip out and that’s when you hammer them when you get back. Our kids seem to do it about once a year. If it’s happening every relief then there is probably a problem with staff (either you or relief), or the program.



Our kids love testing relief. They will pull stuff that doesn’t even sound like them. It’s pretty sad. I just consistently tell them “we know what you did” and give consequences. I think it will eventually settle down when the relief has been here for awhile.



I know that everyone has complaints about relief – including myself – and how the house is messy when you come back and the kids are a struggle, but think about it from the kids perspective as well. When we are at the home, the kids feel safe, protected, and structured. Each of these is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the life that they have come from. Each of these kids have been abandoned, abused, left, ripped out of homes and thrown into new ones. They finally start letting their defenses down with us because we have provided a safe and structured home environment for them. They can learn to be the “responsible” kids that we see each day. Well, when we up and leave every month or two weeks or whatever our schedule is, it is just like when mom left or dad left or those foster parents they were with for two days that they were never able to trust and build a relationship with. OF COURSE all those old behaviors – that we don’t see anymore – start coming out again. It’s their way to cope – they are putting their defenses back up. This is especially true if the relief is inconsistent or constantly changing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT excusing the behavior AT ALL. We do give consequences when we come back for things that might have happened, but ‘s sometimes good to think of it from the kids perspective as well.



Well I guess I feel mostly for the kids, cause they are the ones that have multiple bosses. They are the ones that have to switch gears if there isn’t consistency. Have you ever worked in the business world and had two bosses who do things differently? I have…and it’s the pits!

 I believe the secret to a wholesome household…be it a regular family or a group family….is unity among those that run the house. It is rare. Just like a wife and husband are one in marriage and better present a united front to the children; houseparents….all of the houseparents…had better be married in purpose and understand each other and come up with a compromise/unified plan that works for the household. The main houseparents should have an outline of each child’s character traits and strengths and weaknesses and a plan for building/redeeming each child with progress reporting. All other houseparents should add to and maintain the outline/plan/progress. Part of the completion of any stay at the house should be an update to the plan and a meeting in the changeover to assure that the plan is still unified and on track. If that takes meeting in the office on the morning of the changeover, then so be it.

Too often, I saw no plan and no unity and no coordination going on. I saw a lot of turf protection and keeping of secrets, though. I saw kids that were being punished for bad behavior with no explanation of how they could repair the confidence of the houseparents. They weren’t given satisfactory encouragement when they demonstrated the type of behavior that would lead to their redemption. As a result, kids that already had little hope of being well thought of would despair quickly. I believe that a clear visible path to redemption with help and encouragement along the way is the only thing that will bring hope and results. In my opinion, duplication of punishment by houseparents just destroys credibility for the other houseparents.

I’ve seen what happens when kids have to make changeover under those circumstances…..after being full of life and joy, …..about an hour before the changeover, ….they would all go quietly into the living room and sit down and become silent. As you would go in to bid them goodbye, they would be as stiff as a board and not even respond. How could you not have compassion for them.



At times we hate to get off. we only ask to have off one weekend out of the month. As we like to stay on duty. and in our home. as that is what it is and every time we leave it is like leaving our home, bed, stuff… etc. The Kids will always try to play the houseparents for the weekend. Getting away with anything and everything. We have just gotten a family who fills in when we are away once a month we have started to trust and enjoy and fill better with leaving and knowing that the house will not be burned down when we get back. We still have a few days when we get back getting the kids back on track but things are getting better.



Sometimes I wish I had not even taken off because it takes DAYS to get the house back to “normal”. Please pray for our new respite; there fruit isn’t producing a good crop.



It’s pretty much a given fact that it’s going to happen. Sometimes the kids do things just to see how we react. Usually after a couple of days things return to normal and then you can start worrying about the next time your going to be off. I’ve worked with good relief and also with the bad. I’ve found that if you try not to make too big of a deal out of it the kids seem to do better. Try to find something good that the relief did and praise them for that. Don’t let the kids know your feelings or they will play them like a cheap banjo! Hang in there and try enjoy your time off. If you’re worrying while you’re gone then you’re not really getting the rest that you need. 



It really isn’t the kids, it’s the house. Everything is moved, including our stuff on the computer being deleted. Our ministry only allows Christian music, which our boys love & our respite is listening to 80’s heavy metal & even told our kids that’s what we had the radio on but, they knew better. 30 minutes after we leave the petty cash is spent on food that they, not the kids, like. They also live close by & I don’t think they even go to church. They have stated they would never be full time houseparents but are respite for 2 homes with 12 + days off a month. Please pray for all of us.

Suicide Watch


Have you ever had a kid in your care on “Suicide watch”? What preventive measures do you take? Any idea on the best way to talk with them? Any help would be appreciated.



In all the facilities that we have worked at, we did not do “Suicide watches.” If they threatened suicide or we suspected it was a possibility, they would be taken to the emergency room and evaluated by a mental health professional. If needed they were admitted and watched by the hospital or mental health facility.

If they were just manipulating they came back and in most cases never tried that again.

I am thankful for having administrators that are aggressive in dealing with that.



I’d have to agree with WM on how we handle suspected suicide “attempters” at our facility too. I HAVE had times when I needed to keep a close watch on kids because of other behavior issues. In these cases, we’d do an intensive room sweep and then remove the bedroom door (they could change cothes in the bathroom).

What kind of measures are you having to take? Is this normal at your facility? Is there training provided?



I don’t think it happens too often, it is just one of those where the ER does not think they need further psych eval, however, the facility is more cautious. I have wonderful support. We keep them line of sight AT ALL TIMES. We often times get “Night Coverage” so that we do not have to be awake all night. I think my facility has some of the best training out there, and luckily our supervisors are available by hand held radio. I have dealt with a lot of abused kids, but it seems that three times in the last three months I have had one with suicidal ideation. Our bedrooms don’t have doors, so that is not an issue. Almost everything is taken away during these times and we do a lot of talking with the resident. It just breaks my heart that this is the thought of a teenager.



The first facility we worked in was a much higher care facility. When/ if the kid made a suicide gesture or statement we would call the therapist or ambulance (Depending on how serious the attempt was). The therapist would make a decision on whether the kid needed to be placed back to the children’s psych ward (Where most came from to our facility).

IF the kid came back- Any objects that could cause harm where taken out, which meant more or less everything. Given enough time to think about it, you can kill yourself with pert near anything. Over night staff would keep watch on the kid.

I have never had to deal with a suicide attempt since I got married and my wife and I moved to another facility. Since then, suicide statements that kids have made would be reported, we would talk to the kid briefly but we also don’t make a big deal about it. Most of the time it is a negative attention seeking thing and the more emotional you get the more adventurous they get.

In the public


I just wanted to know if anyone else deals with their kids in the public, i.e., schools, etc.

Our program is more of a foster home-type setting. These kids go to public school (not a very good public school), are able to go to friend’s houses and spend the night, able to go on outings by themselves, etc. They have A LOT of freedoms. This proves very difficult in keeping outside influences from filtering in. Each day it seems like we have to remind them of their language and their attitude. Each day we argue with them about the privileges “regular” families have (like cell phones, etc.). It is a battle.

One of our kids absolutely does not want to be in this program so he is protesting by not eating anything in the home. He does not eat lunch at school and then does not eat breakfast and maybe only eats a few bites for supper because he does not want ANYTHING from our program. He protests about not being able to have his own money to carry around on him or have cell phones; definitely feels entitlement and thinks he’s better than the others in the program. I feel he needs humbled pretty bad–LOL. The other kids in the home do not like him because of his behaviors toward the houseparents and to peers. He has a bad choice of friends at school and brings home this bad attitude. He is 16 so, you know, he thinks he should have all the freedoms of an adult! LOL. It’s just so frustrating as a houseparent to have this many outside influences.

We will be dropping the bomb to him tonight and his privileges probably over the next week will be null due to his behavior. He does not want to sign forms to be in the program (which require his signature) AND last night we caught him throwing out clothes that our facility bought him (luckily we dug them out of the trash and saved them). Like I said, it will be like jail for him over the next week due to his behavior.

Do you guys have any similar problems?




We work in a residential foster care home and the children we have the most difficulty getting adapted to living in our home are the ones that come when they are older. For the majority of the older kids they have had little or no supervision prior to coming to live with us and find it very difficult adapting to the structure. On top of that they attract to the very same kind of kids at school, so they believe that all kids are just allowed to do whatever they please, to go where they wish, anytime they wish.

They don’t understand that in normal families, there is structure and boundaries, and have a hard time adapting to it. What makes it easier, is having a good sponsor program, where they can spend time with families in the community that are stable so they can see there are families that have structure and boundaries.

My personal feelings are that facilities that are more foster care than they are therapeutic need to make provisions for the kids to be able to earn money, be able to carry money, and use their money even on things like cell phones. In our facility all our older kids are allowed to have money, and once they are in high school can get prepaid cell phones provided they are responsible with them. I think foster care facilities need to provide for the normal things of life as much as possible to include things like Internet access, phones, outings, dates, school sports, etc.

As for your 16 year old, be patient. I think I would use some serious restrictions like you describe. He will eventually get hungry enough to eat, and will run out of other things to wear and start to settle in, or do something bad enough to be sent home or somewhere else or possibly run away, which result in the same thing. Either way it will get easier.

Kids Hurting Animals lying and other stuff


I haven’t posted in awhile but I am always looking at the forums so here is a couple of situations that I would appreciate some feedback on:

1)The new girl, seven years old, in our house threw our dog, a toy poodle, down tonight and now he won’t put any weight on his back left leg. Does anyone have any suggestions on what to do for a consequence? My wife almost went through the roof when it happened.  The new girl refuses to do what we ask of her. She was only here a week and was banned from petting, holding, walking or anything related to the dog because of the way she mistreated him. I can honestly say that she has been in time out and has lost just as many privileges than any other kid in our house, and she has only been here for a month and a half.

2) We have a girl in our house that about 80% of what she says is a lie. We catch her in lie, after lie, after lie. I know she is doing it for attention and she wants us to favor her more than the other girls. But it is getting to where we can’t believe anything she says anymore.

Any thoughts that you guys have I would appreciate. 



Best thing you can do in regards to the dog- don’t freak out. Be very calm when giving consequences and talking about the event with her. This may help to keep her from seeking negative attention.

Sounds like she has some very serious issues and needs therapy- now. Animal abuse is a very big red flag with adolescent behavior.

I have only had two kids that would try to harm our pets. One of them was trying to impress the other boys and the other was deeply disturbed. In any case, working and living in residential child care means you have to expect the worst at all times. I love animals, but I wouldn’t get overly attached to the dog if I were you. Your living in an environment where you may wake up one morning and find the poodle laying in the middle of a chalk outline and three kids standing around playing “CSI”.


2) We have a girl in our house that about 80% of what she says is a lie. We catch her in lie, after lie, after lie. I know she is doing it for attention and she wants us to favor her more than the other girls. But it is getting to where we can’t believe anything she says anymore.

Every fib you catch her on, tell her and give out a consequence. Every time you suspect she is lying, tell her and give a consequence. You don’t need concrete proof to give a child a response cost for suspecting they are lying. It is a tough behavior to correct, but eventually she will get tired of being accused of lying every time she opens her mouth and being given a consequence.

Resident Relationships: Same Sex Dating at Facility


Ok… I never have really had to deal head on with this one until a recent conversation with a co-worker.

How have you in the past dealt with same sex relationships with the teens?

If you have not dealt with this before, how would you?

If the facility supports the relationship the same as a hetero relationship how would you deal/ feel with the situation.



I know that it has been an issue at our facility in the past. Lucky for me, all we are having to deal with currently is keeping the boys and girls apart -and that’s hard enough!! You bring up a really good question. How would we handle it if two of our girls were after each other? They sleep in the same bedroom for crying out loud! I guess we would just have to discharge one or both of them. It would be impossible to keep them apart, and there is no way I could stand for that sort of activity going on in my house. But then again I am a new houseparent, maybe this is just my inexperience talking. However, I do know one thing for sure – I pray that I will never have to deal with this sort of situation!!!



I have seen this happen at two separate facilities I have worked at, one with girls the other with boys. In the first instance, the housemom in a girls cottage caught two girls in bed together naked. They claimed they were just sleeping, but it was obvious there was much more to it. They were both dropped to the lowest level without any privileges for several weeks. Both girls eventually left the program and when I last heard they were both involved in heterosexual relationships.

The second instance the houseparent caught two boys in a homosexual act. It was determined that one of the boys was a sexual predator, even though he was the smaller of the two. He was isolated from the remainder of the boys in a room that had an alarm system installed, so if he left his room at night the houseparents were alerted. A few weeks later he was sent to a residential treatment program for almost a year and returned to a separate facility. I think he was 14, the other boy was 15 at the time. The other boy was considered a victim and received no consequences that I know of. I personally think things were much more mutual, but it wasn’t in my cottage and I didn’t have a whole lot of say. I guess I also didn’t have all the facts, so what can I say.

I personally think no sexual encounter with youth should be condoned or allowed, whether they be same sex or opposite sex, there are just too many bad consequences that could happen.

I also don’t think same sex encounters with youth are as tragic as some may think they are. Fact is, most youth are a raging mess of hormones that express themselves in very strange ways. Even if youth try something while in placement, it doesn’t mean that’s who they will be as adults. In most cases, just giving consequences for whatever rule they broke is enough to deal with the situation. 



I agree with the webmaster…..most sexual encounters at this age are experimentation. I believe that we have to make sure that the kids have opportunities for normal social relationships with the opposite sex under guidance….otherwise….they are going to get desperate and try something. I have seen houseparents so afraid of the worst and too lazy to provide a normal social life, and the result was opposite or same sex experimentation. When kids feel hopeless they get desperate. When they do something wrong they need a clear path to redemption or they will find a path to perversion.

teenage girls


My husband and I are about to accept a position as full time houseparents for seven girls between the ages of 13-17. (Well, we haven’t officially accepted the position yet- but we are pretty sure that we are going to take it.) I have heard from several people that girls are much more difficult than boys. Girls are said to be more dramatic, emotional, etc. I was wondering if anyone has any advice or stories specific to dealing with the drama of teenage girls.



I worked in a co-ed facility for two years. My dealings with the females were very positive, and in general the girls were better behaved.

However the dynamics were much different. We had six boys and two girls in every house. Most of the time we were dealing with boy issues and the girls would tend to fly under the radar. They seemed to kind of enjoy the status of being the more “Mature” ones.

But when they had an issue, it was always more dramatic and way more volatile than the boys. Most boys I have worked with that become agressive will do so until a point is reached. The females I have worked with that become agressive go all out. They fight for keeps.

All that aside, I have really enjoyed working with the girls. Communication seemed to be easier with most of them and the relationships seemed more genuine than with alot of the boys.

I do feel more comfortable with the boys, but I definitly would work with girls in the future. 


My wife and I LOVE girls! Here is an answer I gave regarding girls and their “moodiness” that I think might help you.

I live and work with 13 teen girls and have for 14 years now. So, including my wife (and up until a year ago our daughter) it’s me and 14 (was 15) women. Can anyone else claim that kind of experience with females?

I LOVE girls (lol) I love their complexity, I love their minds, emotions, and moodiness. I just love the challenge. Now my daughter has me a bit depressed because she continues to reject Christ, but when we are together we get along, talk, joke, and just have a pretty solid relationship.

Some simple advice:

-Girls LOVE to talk. Do not deprive them of this. Don’t expect them to shut up and go play. That works with boys, not girls.

-Girls need an explanation, “because I said so” doesn’t go over well with females. There is a time for that, but when you can discuss the situation with a female you should.

-Girls need attention. Put the ball game on mute, go to their sporting events, spelling bees, recitals, etc. They love that.

-Girls need to see what a real Godly man is. Like my daughter they may chose to reject it, but they still need to see it, BADLY.

-Girls need a fatherly figure, but they also need a strong woman (mother), yet the woman CANNOT be domineering. Tough mix to find today, but it’s a must to raise a strong daughter who understands her role as a female.

Now, when dealing with moodiness…ready for this???

Call them on it!

Don’t be mean, sometimes you can even be a little funny about it, but call them on it. A girl who grows up with parents who excuse or ignore her moodiness makes a terrible woman. As the dad discuss their emotions and hormones with them, point out what’s bad and why along with what’s normal and why. Conversations like this is why a strong mother is also a must as I mentioned earlier.

If you need any other opinions let me know



My wife and I have cared for Teen Girls, Teen Boys, Little Kids, and Co-eds. She personally prefers Younger children or boys over girls. I however prefer Teen Girls.

They are more emotional and petty than the other groups, but most of that can be ignored or as Don’t Lie says call them on it.

Teen Girls are also more nurturing and helpful. It’s much easier to get them to help you around the house than the other groups and they are usually much cleaner.

One of the major down sides to teen girls is that they are, at least in my experience, much more likely to make accusations against staff than Boys. So, you have to be extra cautious about not putting yourself into questionable situations with girls. The male staff should never be left alone with one girl and should never go into the sleeping or changing areas without at least announcing themselves. I always had my wife check that everyone was dressed and appropriate before I ever entered their areas. (to make repairs, move furniture, etc.)

Don’t sweat it too bad, they’re not that bad.


You DO have to be careful of false accusations, but know this, in 14 years of working with girls (many of them sexually abused) I have never been falsely accused (thank God) of anything at all! Just be aware of it, sensitive to it, and SMART!

Mike is correct about them being cleaner and more willing to help around the house too. I think teen girls are the best kids to work with. 



How well does it work logistically with trying to always have another peer or houseparent with you while working an all girl house?

At my last facility we usually had three staff and at least one of the boys around, so I never had an issue with isolation. The one staff that I know of that was accused of doing something repeatedly found himself in rather awkward circumstances that I believe were more of his own making.

Just wondering how much different or on guard you would have to be in an all girl environment.



In an all girl facility….expect the woman of the couple to do most of the work. When the man takes a girl somewhere, you have to take two more girls along to always have more than one in the car. Most of the time kids have homework or tutoring to do and if you have a working girl that needs transportaion…or anyone else that needs transportation in the afternoon, the woman ends up doing it. If the man doesn’t cook, that means the woman has to cook, drive and do all the managing that requiers the houseparent to go into the girls’ halls and bedrooms. The man better learn to cook….that’s all I can say…..and I don’t like for my wife to do all the work. Also….when I’m in the house I run the house, and a lot of the girls aren’t used to the man doing that…so that can cause some issues….especially if they are used to houseparents where the woman runs things and the man sits on his royal and is scarcely more than a “teddy bear daddy.”



How well does it work logistically with trying to always have another peer or houseparent with you while working an all girl house?

 We worked all girls for almost two years and it was usually not difficult to not be alone. It was pretty easy to find a couple of girls that wanted to ride along or want to stay at the house. My wife did do most of the one on one and “glidenhi” is right “I did the cooking and most of the other household management stuff”

 I learned to cook when I was 16 and all of a sudden became the household manager of my family household because my parents divorced and my mom had to work.


I’ve taken girls on short trips alone. First of all I developed a very strong trust with my girls, and secondly, these trips are 5 minutes or less. I AM careful, but the way I look at is that if a girl lies about me, then I no longer want to do this.

Kids Diet Will only eat deep fried food


I am involved in the mother of all power struggles right now. I have a boy that REFUSES to eat anything that does not get deep fried or has sugar loaded into it. He has more or less sustained himself on whatever he can sneak when we are not looking.

Any suggestions?

He is six years old and obviously overweight. This kid will have a heart attack by the time he is twelve if we can’t break his poor eating habits. 



We had a kid that sounded similar to yours. I took him to the Dr. and told the Dr. that all he wanted was sugar. The Dr. chewed me out and said that the only reason he eats sugar is cause you give it to him. I told the Dr. that he would not eat anything else. She told me to take away the junk food and he would eat when he got hungry. I talked it over with administration and we decided to give it a try. It took a few days but he finally started eating regular food.



We deal with this with many of the children we work with and some of the things we do is. Lock the pantry. If it is OK with your administration, lock the pantry, or at the very least, take everything junky out and lock it up. This way the kids won’t sneak the junk food when you are sleeping, or in the other room dealing with another child. In doing so we don’t limit what the children eat. There is always fruit and vegetable sticks available.

We also have a rule that you must eat a protein and a vegetable with each meal, and we don’t count any type of white potato as a veggie. So French Fries don’t count. Sweet potatoes do count. If you don’t eat a protein and a veggie you can’t have seconds, desert, or anything sweet to drink (i.e. Koolaid, sweet tea, etc.)

We also have a rule that you get one thing that you don’t have to like. My daughter hates fish and has since birth. She is not required to eat fish when it is served and is still able to get desert, seconds etc. Knowing that we live in a children’s home and green beans are served at least 4 times a week, my son picked them. The children seem much more open to eating better foods when they have some say.

Finally we have free days. Those include cook-outs and holidays. They seem to accept the other eating rules when they get a chance to binge.

We have the best eaters on campus, and our new kids that were not eating veggies when they were in other cottages are now eating balanced meals without issues.



I really like the idea of letting the kid choose one thing they don’t like and not having to eat it. We have also started telling him he has to eat one vegetable or fruit with every meal, otherwise he can go hungry until the next meal, at witch time he has to eat a vegetable or fruit. So far he chose not to eat today. A little fasting is good for everyone and I figure even the most stubborn kid won’t go longer than three days.

Thanks for the advice; it definitely helps to get some second, third and fourth opinions.

Lying Compulsive Lying


Does anyone have any tips or recommendations for dealing with compulsive lying? I have a boy that is struggling with communicating honestly on any level. We just can’t seem to get him to progress past this level. He is an older teen and this behavior is in-grained very deeply.

Anyone with any strategies or advice please comment, I am way open and searching on this one. 



We have a young lady that is a somewhat compulsive liar. We just call her on it and give her consequences every time she lies. Other than that I don’t know what else to do. We have had discussion after discussion about how lying makes a situation worse, and we have had several examples with other children in our cottage. She has been able to see how telling the truth by other children has resulted in them not receiving additional consequences, and even receiving grace and how other children that have lied receive additional consequences, but she doesn’t seem to be able to associate any of it to her situation. 

I did receive this in an E-mail today. It is a link to the foster parent college. They are offering, along with many other courses, a course specifically for dealing with lying. I haven’t previewed the course and am unable to offer a review, but the cost is relatively inexpensive, and might be very productive. 



We work with a teen girl with the same issue. It seems to be an almost automatic response – lying. I agree with consistently giving consequences for each incidence – large or small. However the biggest impact has followed her recent profession of faith, when instructed that Jesus has nothing to do with lies. He is the way, the TRUTH…..this has been repeated for her to ponder as it is very important to her. I don’t know if it helps your situation, but I at least wanted to confirm the previous post on consistency of consequence.

Frustration (Taking Behaviors Personally)

Wow, what a week. I thought that I could not become anymore frustrated about some of the girls in my house, and then Friday arrived. My wife and I have been doing this for 3 months, and I was loving it until this week. I am feeling completely squashed by one of the girls, I will call her “Drama Queen”.

 Drama Queen and I have about the same personality, except for the fact that she does not care what she says or when she says it, and I am having a really hard time holding back. Yesterday it seemed as though I was put down so much by her that she just knew that it was getting to me, and it did about 8 o’clock. I let her have it and then felt totally terrible about how I reacted. I am really feeling frustrated about the situation and feel helpless. I have been spending time in God’s Word and trying to seek his guidance. Lately I feel like there is a wall up between me and God, and I know that it is me and my attitude. I just need a way to release the resentment.

They say that you cannot take what they say and do personally, but it is extremely hard for me because I am the person that feels I need everyone to like me. Monday we are planning on going home to see our families and I know that it will help to see some people whom I know love me and care about me “I cannot wait”. I know that there are many of you out there that have been doing this for quite some time, and if you can offer any advice I am all for it. 

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have said something stupid and/ or inappropriate to a kid. I remember one teen boy that told my wife he hoped our unborn daughter would die and fall out. The rest of my interaction with him looked more like a conversation between Tony Soprano and somebody he was getting ready to shoot. That was the last big blow up I had.

We work in a highly emotional environment. Most of these kids could not handle foster placement because of emotional and behavioral issues, so they get placed with us in group homes. In reality almost all group homes are “behavior Modification” facilities, whether they think they are or not. We try to teach and empower these kids to make better decisions and create healthy relationships.

My patience and reactions have gotten better over time. There’s a lot to be said for experience and the fact that after being called a B***h for the millionth time it actually starts to become hysterical and you find yourself teaching to the behaviors, not reacting out of anger or frustration. But it still happens- at least to me.

I think everyone has a certain boundary that is not to be crossed. When you have a 14 year old not only cross that line, but doing with a sneer and taunting you, it’s only natural to imagine you spanking them out by the wood pile. Just don’t do it.

All the rules and regulations that are in place are there because we are only human. The child care industry is in a much better place now than it was as little as 20 years ago when de-escalation at some places consisted of a leather belt or wooden paddle and a good swinging arm.

As for the wall between you and God- I find myself there often. I start feeling like that when I don’t have a solution as to how to deal with a kid or I feel like I’m making no difference at all. I pray, jump on the motorcycle for a few miles and go talk to some of the guys I trust here and unload on them. It helps- at least for me. 

It is one thing to be offended by a resident… is another to watch one undermine your credibility with the other residents and feel powerless. You may be running into a former houseparent’s neglect. For some it is easier to let a strong anti-leader run the house and reward them with special privileges in return for conditional allegiance. That results in losing credibility with the whole house anyway, and leaves a “lord of the flies” survival of the fittest…. game player mentality. That will work ….although pitifully at best…..for “keeping” kids, but it won’t work for redeeming them.

Take the kid aside and get real with them. If putting you down continues…just remember…you probably aren’t the only one being put down. Make her pay consequences for putting anybody down. Find out if you have offended her….if she has a legitimate beef, ask forgiveness and fix it. …..but don’t let it continue. You have to have control of the house…otherwise…the whole house suffers…and the children have no security under your leadership.

You ultimately have to have the support and the confidence of the director. Sometimes kids do better with one houseparent over another. Sometimes they do better in another type of setting. The director can make changes if they are needed. If they don’t want to be bothered when a destructive situation can’t be resolved at the house level….which should be rare…’s time to move on.