Stories of First Houseparenting Positions, What was it like and what did you take with you??

shansimons77
Ok well, my husband and I are taking on our first houseparent position and were wondering what it was like for you. Our facility is one where we are moving into a home in a normal neighborhood. We are the only Houseparents, no rotation. We have 5 1/2 days off straight a month for respite, but our girls pack a bag and go to a respite home and we don’t have to leave the house. As they put it, it’s “our house”. So we either can choose to stay there for the 5 1/2 days or visit family and friends, who aren’t too far away or they can come and stay with us.

Were you scared? Nervous? What kind of facility did you start working in? What did you take with you? What did you have to sell or store? How did the children react to you when you first started? Did you think you could make it after first starting?

Sorry we have so many questions, we’d just like to know others experiences even if they are nothing like our own will be.

Thanks and I can’t wait to hear some stories and experiences.


putkidsfirst

Ok, I’ll give it a try.

My wife and I began working as house parents at the age of twenty-three. We discovered that we would be full time relief’s meaning we would work seven days a week rotating between a boy’s home and a girl’s home. One week it was three at the girls and four at the boys, the next week the opposite four at the girls and three with the boys. That sounded great to us and we couldn’t wait to start!

We packed everything we owned (stored nothing) and headed off for our new career. We were nervous but very excited. We had no idea what to expect but were anxious to find out what this was all about. We both loved the idea of helping kids and would take some difficulty if it meant we would be serving others for a living.

We arrived on campus of the beautiful setting our first facility was built upon. It looks very much like a College campus and sits nuzzled at the foot of a mountain. This place is filled with a variety of children, most adjudicated but a few who are privately placed, or there because they had no other place to go (like the young lady we adopted after she graduated high school).

As we drove up the long pathway to our cottages we passed a scary looking young lady. She was very pale with pitch-black hair. She had a giant dragon tattoo on her back and a snake around each wrist. She had a wife-beater muscle shirt on with cut off jean shorts. I looked at my wife and asked her if we knew what we were getting into. She smiled and squeezed my hand. Do you know what happened though? We LOVED that girl! She was funny, pleasant, hard working, and respectful. Of course it helped that she was seventeen and we were only six years her senior! That sounds like trouble, but it helped us a lot. What’s funny about this part of my story is that just yesterday she made contact with me! I had not heard from her in a many years and now I have and find myself telling you the story of when I first saw her. She’s thirty now and that’s so odd! She and my wife and I are now in the same peer group. How crazy is that?

Our first day working with the girls was interesting. They were shocked to have house parents so young, but they instantly bonded with us. However, there was one young lady who was quiet. She hadn’t been bad but just seemed to keep to herself. At one point in the day I couldn’t find my wife. I was asking girls if they had seen her as I passed them. When I saw Amy (real name, and she wouldn’t mind me saying it) I asked if she had seen Mrs. Leavelle. She looked up at me and said, “I don’t know, it’s not my turn to watch her.” Angry, I stopped, looked at her and said “Amy, can we get one thing straight? If there is one thing I can’t stand it’s a smart a**.” She huffed off to her room. Now, I will tell you that I don’t recommend responding that way…EVER! I am not proud of it, but today it’s funny because we became very, very close to Amy and to this day are involved in her life and her two daughter’s lives as well. You never know whom you are going to get close to in this line of work. The girl who scares you one day, may be the girl you appreciate the next. The girl who angers you today, may make you feel great every day after that.

I would have a hard time supporting house parents today who would want to start at the age we started at, and yes I know that’s hypocritical. It just seems that my wife and I had a gift. Our kids responded very well to us. They respected us and did what we asked of them (for the most part). The best advice I can give is to go in to the job showing the kids you care about them. Yes, enforce the rules!!!! But please, remember that they are children, and in many instances damaged children, abused children, neglected children. Many will be angry and over emotional. Once they believe you care about them, the job gets much easier. Do you care? Do you care enough to be inconvenienced? Will you sacrifice your comfort for theirs? If your answer is YES then the biggest problem you will face (and trust me, it can be a BIG problem) are other staff members who will not like your attitude and think you’re trying too hard, or caring too much. The kids will be a joy and a blessing!

My prayers are with you!


shansimons77
Thank you for that story. You and your wife sound like my husband and I. Teenagers bond with us quickly and we are very involved with our huge youth group at church as counselors, so we have a lot of experience in that aspect. However, the youth in our group are not troubled like the children we’ll be servicing, so it’s not totally comparable.

We are 28 and 27 so we’ve had a lot of time just being married and being with one another. We’ve been together for almost 10 years and married for almost 6. I can’t imagine being houseparents at the age you started. I remember ourselves at that age and I know that we weren’t mature enough 5 years ago, plus we had only been married a few months when we turned 23! We are each others best friends and are so excited to start this adventure together.

We know we picked the right facility for us for our first time being houseparents. The Administration is very involved in every step, we’ve been dealing with the Executive Director the entire time. They have nothing to hide and have been very honest with us especially about the placement we will currently have in our home…very difficult, smokes, is sexually active etc. We also appreciate the fact that they are placing us in a 2 placement home first until a 4 placement opens up. That way we get used to being houseparents by gradually adding girls.

I appreciate all of your information and stories. I hope more people will post theirs as well…maybe then we’ll get to the 1000 post mark too!


webmaster

You can read about our early years on The Houseparent Network blog beginning with the following entry.

My First Day as a Houseparent


shansimons77
Thanks! I did read all of those articles on that part of the website. Very good insight. Some crazy stories too

I wish more houseparents would post on this website. I mean, isn’t that what it’s here for, to share experiences, joys and frustrations? That’s what I’m going to do more when we get into our houseparent role. I know houseparents are very busy, but come on everybody, share I would love to hear some stories that you all have.

I appreciate what has been shared already and can’t wait to hear more!

Secure your Network!!

Here is a funny story that has a point.

There once was an individual that worked at a children’s home. (NO, it’s not me) He decided we wanted to have a wireless network so he could work on his laptop anywhere in the house. He bought a router, plugged it in, and got everything hooked up and working. A knowledgeable person (Me), told him for months that he needed to secure his network to keep other people from using it, but of course he didn’t listen.

Anyway several people on campus and in the neighborhood have been using his Internet connection. In fact about a week ago, one our college kids came back for the weekend and brought her notebook computer with her. She and several other girls proceeded to access the Internet and view large quantities of inappropriate material. The housemom caught them and contacted administration. Needless to say, that individual came and asked me how to secure their network today.

Moral of the story is, if your going to have a wireless network make sure it is secure. Wireless devices are easy to get and can be used with any computer. A smart kid can get hold of a USB network device and use it to connect virtually any computer to your insecure wireless network without your knowledge, even the old donated desktop unit they use to play games on.

Securing a wireless network is real easy and is explained in the manual or quick-start guide you get with the router. Things to remember are:

  • Change the ssid. Anybody that knows anything about wireless routers, knows that the default ssid is “default”
  • Do not broadcast your ssid. Unless you own a business that offers wireless access, there is no reason to broadcast your ssid.
  • Encrypt your signal. The easiest way to keep somebody off your network is to require a key. This will also provide some protection to the personal data on your machine. There are so many insecure networks out there that a hacker will most likely leave your machine alone and move onto easier pickings if you require a key to log on.

Let’s not make it easy for our kids to get in trouble – secure that network!

Christmas Traditions

One thing I have noticed about many of the children we have worked with is that they don’t have many traditions, especially during Christmas and the holiday season. It is important to have roots and traditions and I believe that is one of the more important things we can do for the children we care for.

We have always allowed the children to help decorate the house for Christmas. In fact, we have two Christmas Trees. One formal tree that we must have for Open House and a second tree we have in the family room that only the children decorate. They place all the decorations and where they place them is where they stay, even if there is a huge blank spot on the tree. We may offer suggestions on how to decorate it, but we allow them to do it their way. Funny thing about this tradition is that our home teenagers have enjoyed it much more than our birth children that are now teens. I wonder if they have so many traditions that tradition has less meaning to them.

My favorite tradition is on Christmas Eve:

  • We have a light supper, and then go to candlelight Church service.
  • Then we come home and watch a goofy Christmas movie and have eggnog milkshakes. Past movies have included: “Christmas Vacation”, “Elf”, “The Santa Clause”
  • Finally, before opening presents we load into the van and drive around town looking for the gaudiest Christmas display we can find to give our imaginary “Griswold Award” Usually by the end of the evening we have a winner and several runner up displays.

I would love to hear about what others have for traditions and what their children think of them.

One of my Witty Kids

I was talking with one of my former residents today and I would like to share his wit with you.

He was the first child to join my cottage when I moved to my current facility. He was way behind in school, had several emotional and behavioral issues and most people wrote him off as not having any chance as an adult.

He has since proven everybody wrong. Although he didn’t finish high school, he did pass his GED test on his first try. He went on to study welding at the local Junior College and earned an associate degree. He now works as a welder, and probably makes more money than I do. He is looking for his own apartment so he can move out of the college cottage and recently purchased his first vehicle.

He was showing me his new (to him) Jeep and I noticed he had his named spelled backward on his license plate frame. I didn’t know that he and several of his buddies had come up with nicknames by spelling their real names backward. Anyway I was trying to be funny, and asked him if this was some sort of satanic thing, writing his name backward like that.

He then asked me if I thought he was satanic or something? I was still trying to be funny and said something like, “well I don’t know. You do wear some pretty strange clothes sometimes.” I was totally caught off guard by his response and never expected his quick wit.

He said, “That would be like me looking at somebody wearing a NASCAR shirt and assuming he was an ignorant redneck.” I looked down at the #48 Jimmie Johnson T-shirt I was wearing and simply said, Touché’

PR Staff

I have to share this story because I find it humorous and hopefully you will also.

I was visiting with the maintenance person over by the main office today and asking him what he was up to. He said he was working with one of our development people, creating props for pictures they were going to take this afternoon for some PR materials. He was building one of those signs that have boards cut with points and names of places on them pointing in different directions on a pole.

The development person was going to write the places on the boards. She saw the boards and was trying to figure out how to write the names on them when she got quite perplexed and said, “You cut them all the same direction.” He said, “No, if you want them to go the other direction, you flip them over and start writing from the pointy side.” When she realized her blunder, she got real embarrassed and we all laughed, including her.

It was extra special for me, because I was having kind of a crappy morning and it brightened my day.

BUSTED!

Launchpad

 We caught one of our boys sneaking a dip of snuff in the rest room the other night. Immediately he spit out what he had and went directly to the family couch and had a seat (He is familiar with the drill) while we tossed his room. We found a can in his room and finished up the search. We then went into my office to have a talk and discuss the ramifications of this new discovery.

A few minutes into our discussion, I noticed he was becoming very uncomfortable. Since this was not exactly the first time we had this little talk I figured something was going on. I then saw him swallow VERY hard. I knew then he had another dip in.

Instead of making him spit it out, I decided to have a little fun. I figured he had either a lot of courage to try and sneak a dip into my office or he just plum lost his mind. I started asking him how he was feeling and trying to get him to talk (Every question I asked caused him to swallow more tobacco juice in order to answer). After about ten minutes I noticed he was sweating and not looking very well. I then proceeded to go into how great men can overcome obstacles, the history of tobacco which somehow led into Valentine’s Day (?) and Nazi occupied France. This was a good twenty minute roll. By this time he was wiping tears out of his eyes.

He finally lost it when I grabbed my bible and asked him if he knew what Proverbs had to say on our discussion. He jumped for the trash can coughing and gagging.

He apologized, confessed and told me he had a dip in, and swore never to touch the stuff again (Which I doubt). Needless to say my yard should be looking good by the time he gets done raking next week. He is also very confused about France now.

Things Children Say!!

We live in Mississippi, just an hour away from the birthplace of Elvis, and only three hours from Graceland. His birthday was 4 days ago and we had several news stories about people throwing parties and such.

Our nine year old boy could NOT understand why they keep throwing birthday parties for somebody that is dead. Our six year old overheard the conversation and said, “Elvis ain’t dead, he just went home.” We all laughed.

Those that are “Men in Black” fans will get it.

Blood!!! Maundy Thursday

Launchpad

 We had service last night at the church on campus. One of the new boys who is seven became very interested in the communion part of the service. Being seven, as soon as he heard the communion cup was the blood of Christ he started getting real anxious. As we made our way up to the altar he started asking if he had to drink the blood.

Realizing he thought the cup was O negative hemoglobin, I tried to explain to him the best I could on our short walk to the altar that it was grape juice in the cup. After communion all he could talk about was how good the blood was. He then said Dracula probably just really liked grape juice and probably wasn’t that bad after all. We spent the remainder of the night trying to convince him he did not have grape juice in his veins.

Face Plant Why playing tag in a Cow pasture is not a good idea.

Launchpad

I took the boy’s camping Saturday night at the Lake on campus. At 10pm the boys wanted to play tag around the campsite, good idea I thought. About five minutes into it one of the boys tripped and landed face first into one of the biggest cow patties I have laid eyes on (No pun intended).

The kid hosed off his face before I was able to stop laughing and get the camera. I guess you had to be there….

Tried building Video Game Timer Posted as update in Tech Toys also

Launchpad 

Today was Play Station timer build project day. Took some of the boys and went to the hard ware store. Forgot directions I printed off last night. Spent next hour with pre-teen boys trying to find the right timer/ box/ components. The store clerk helping us was about to lose his mind. I came home, figured it’s a no brainer and left directions on desk.

After assembling what I thought to be a design achievement just below that of the space shuttle and much fan fare, I gathered the family around and turned on the timer. With a puff of ozone and the pop of a breaker, there was dead silence until one of the boys said very quietly, “Does this mean we can’t watch TV?”

Sometime this week I will try to salvage what’s left of my manhood and actually follow the directions!


Launchpad

Ok. Round two.

Not only will I build this thing, but I will do so and incorporate a remote control somehow. Maybe lights, I like lights.

If anyone else wants to get involved in a build off, let me know. We can let the board decide who wins.

Any takers?

Visitor from Brazil Really cool day.

Launchpad

We had a great experience today. A man from Brazil that operates a group home stopped by our cottage today to check out our program. He had a translator with him and had to explain to the kids that when they were talking with him they would have to wait for the translator to repeat what they were saying in Portuguese to our guest.

The kids did an awesome job. They gave him a tour of the house and told him about the program. They even had a family conference while he was here. We could not have been prouder.

Our guest did something next that made my whole day. We had a boy that was not doing well and was sitting in a chair taking a well deserved time out. Our guest walked over to him, bent down, shook his hand, smiled at him and said something in Portuguese. The kid smiled back and had a great evening afterwards. There was just something about watching a House Parent from another culture do a totally random kind act for a kid. Language was not a barrier at that moment. It was just one of those tear jerker moments for me.

My wife shocked everyone when she came out and started talking to our visitor in Portuguese. I NEVER knew she talked Portuguese. I asked her later about it and she said it is close to Spanish and picked it up while she was living with missionaries in Honduras. Our guest was very surprised and they both enjoyed talking back and forth. I’m starting to think I married some kind of Government operative. It was kind of like finding out after being married for a year your wife is an Astronaut.

Interesting day. Time to go finish my John Clancy novel now

Capatalisim in Action I got hustled by a 7 year old

Launchpad

 The local fly population in our cottage finally hit an all time high so I decided to declare a bounty on each flies head. .5 cents per dead fly. I figured a day, max, I would have no flies left in the house after a bunch of money grubbing elementary kids were set lose to collect their bounty.

Our house is not that bad, so after paying a dollar to each kid (20 flies X 7 kids) I knew I was being hustled. Just behind our cottage is the dairy farm for our campus. One of the kids would distract my wife and I (not a hard job) and one of the other kids would run to the back door and open it. I found out later they were taking a bowl of leftovers from the fridge and setting it by the door to draw some more in.

I have to admit I was impressed by the teamwork and fore thought they put into the plan.

 


JonNDeb

That’s pretty good… we have one boy we have to watch like a hawk because he will “Tom Sawyer” the younger boys into doing his chores or giving him toys, etc. For instance, one morning I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and I had left the dining room to get one of the toddlers up. I come back in and viola! He has multiple rolls on his plate. At my raised eyebrows, his protest was that “they gave them to me, honest”. The payment? One matchbox car per cinnamon roll…. of course the four and five year-old’s jumped at that!

NASCAR through the eyes of a 5 year old

You’ll probably have to be somewhat of a NASCAR fan to see the humor in this one, but we’ll give it a try. NASCAR is one of my worldly joys, my wife says I am obsessed but she is wrong quite often. Anyway we talk about it a lot and most of the kids in the cottage following in my footsteps to various degrees.

Our youngest child that is 5 is very creative in saying the names of some of the drivers for example:

  • She calls the driver of the #42 – Moya Toya
  • the #29 – Kevin Hartlin
  • and the #9 – Stacy Stain

What’s really funny is listening to her talk to my three year old grandson, who happens to be the 2nd largest NASCAR fan on campus helping her with her pronunciation, “Say – Kaayy SEEE (Kasey) Kahne” Which she will just before she says, Stacy Stain again.

Guess you had to be there.

Launchpads Bike Tour 07 I’m Back

It’s been a wild couple of weeks. Had some issues that I had to work through with a friend passing away and needed some me time to get re-focused and figure out where I was in terms of my own life.

SO- My wife headed to Upstate NY to visit her family with the baby and I took the old Honda out for a spin. By spin, I mean 1,500 miles. It started out to be a overnight camping trip and turned into me just riding everywhere and camping when I felt like it.

I had time to re-evaluate my own spiritual standing, and where I’m headed. The last five years has been a whirlwind and this was the time to refocus. After the first night my cell phone broke so I didn’t worry about talking to anyone or issues from work creeping in to the process.

I camped in the mountains and on the coast, I reflected on the past and how much that was binding me from moving forward and becoming what Christ really had in store for me. I also came to the realization that even without my bio family I am surrounded by family and friends that love, care and respect me. I had to take a week to understand that.

I guess the point is this- Take time for yourself. I was way overdue to get refocused on what I need to be doing. Every HP has a million things going on. Between school runs, paperwork, errands, house repair, bills, child behavior, staff meetings, church commitments when have you possibly had time to be you and really listen to what God is saying?

I thought a lot about this site and how many lives it impacts also. I have talked with many of you and have met many good friends. This has developed into a community. We have helped each other find employment in this ministry, compared notes and facilities and have helped others find good places. Together we have listened to gripes, moans and heartfelt moments. I am honored to be a part of this community.

What time is it?

We have a 9 yr old boy who – after asking what time it was – went to the Walmart Jewelry Dept and started looking at all the watches. After spending quite a bit of time looking for a watch, my wife asked him what exactly he was looking for. He said he wanted to buy one with the correct time on it.
-TexPop