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